You Can Do It!

"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain one once we grow up."  Pablo Picasso

You can do this, too! Really! All you need is a paper and pencil start.  I like to fold mine in quarters to get a feel for the final size.  Coming up with the design is the hardest part for me, but is also the funnest when it comes out like I imagined. Transfer your design onto cardstock for sturdy tracing.  Make a backup just in case!!

Next comes the felt. I find it cheapest to buy it by the yard, usually a third of a yard for about 40 puppets. Time this when your fabric store has it on sale and you may get 1/3 yard for $1-2!  Trims and decorations are usually more expensive. I like to cruise the clearance bins and remnants stashs for bits and pieces. Sometimes the creativity flows backwards this way-- finding the trim leads to the creation (the jellyfish!)...  Cruising clearance piles has become harder though. In Boise there were at 5 fabric/craft stores within 15 minutes of our home. Here in Virginia, there is only one!  How's a crafter supposed to find her bargains?

Choose a comfortable wet ink type pen to trace your pattern onto the felt fabric.  Find one that "runs" right out of the felt if you get water on it. That way you can rinse out the ink before you sew... This is important on light fabrics. I'm still disappointed with my chicks because the ink I used was water proof and you can see the black outlines from the front... Grr!  The picture here is my favorite kind. I'm sad to report that it is my last one, and I haven't found more yet...

For dark colored felt, you'll need a different kind of pen to make your tracings show up without bugging out your eyes. I've tried so many things-- chalk, crayons, etc.  The best to date is the relatively new silver sharpies. Shows up on black and writes wet like a regular pen. However, they make your template wet around the edges, the ink "stinks," and the pens run out of ink quickly. Luckily, OfficeMax runs "buy two, get one free" specials on these!

The key to cutting out your patterns is having the right tool.  It took me awhile to find this gem... I love this scissors so much.  Found it at Target. There is NO hand/finger fatigue, totally the most comfortable scissors I've tried to do puppets with. It's super sharp and easy to manuever.  Can I say any more about it? I go NUTS when I misplace it. Which happens more than I like to admit as I stay up too late and drag my projects everywhere...


Real sewing people use pins to hold pieces in place, but I like to glue the main body pieces together using Aleene's tacky glue.  This stuff dries fast and clear and holds tightly.  Also, when you make a mistake, you can rinse this glue right out.  Not to mention that pins at the crack of dawn will inevitably lead to pricks and pain!  I find it at fabric/craft stores and buy the BIG bottle with a store coupon..

Sewing machines.... Don't be intimidated!  I still don't know how to sew either, but the machines are really simple these days, and what you can't figure out from the instruction manual you can google. 

I started with this cute mini rex-- ran on batteries!  It was perfect until it broke. But, if you are just starting, a portable machine might still be a good option.  For one, it's cheap if you find you don't like this project as much as you predicted.  Bonus, it fits in a desk drawer! You can pick one of these up for as little as $15 at discount places like Tuesday Morning/ebay, or certainly for $20 at Target, even Walgreens!

I eventually got a $99 Singer from Target.  This machine is ok, but I'd trade it in a heartbeat for an old White that a friend let me borrow.  I can't adjust the pressure of the pressure foot, which makes it difficult to keep the layers and stiches straight when there are more than two layers involved. Rats!

If you are making a large number of puppets at once, save time and thread by not cutting thread between puppets. You'll get a "garland" of puppets that can be easily gathered up and taken to a different room/long road trip for trimming at your convenience.

I like to use fabric paint for decorating and especially for eyes.  Google eyes don't stay on long. Given that most of my puppets go to homes with small children, I don't want to introduce extra choking hazards! 

The kids seem to like all things that sparkle, and these paints come in a million sparkly colors.  Test the colors first-- they may look different when dry, especially the sparkly ones.  It takes a long time for these paints to dry (overnight), but if a puppet gets accidentally laundered, the paints will hold up (phew!).  You can rinse it out when you make a mistake, but you must rinse IMMEDIATELY. Watch for sales on these at your local craft store, or expect to pay about $1.30 for a small bottle.

That's all my advice. Now get out there and get crafting! :)

PS.  In case you are thinking that you have to be a finger puppet nut to do this, check out Mrs. Goff's Pre-K Tales and  Alvin, the very sad dragonShe found an ingenious way to incorporate the dragons into her fairy tail unit, and they were easy enough that she made them for her whole class!  Her kids even wrote a book about it!


  1. I am a first grade teacher in Fairfax, Virginia. I love finger puppets and use them a lot with my class. They are great for retelling stories or reciting poetry. I noticed that you are in Williamsburg, Va. Do you ever sell your puppets or teach classes about puppet making? Your work is inspiring!

    1. Thnk you for your kind words, Beth! I would love to make some for you... hadn't thought about teaching a class. Will look into that!!