Now that my foam was ready, it was time to turn a yard of colorful fleece into a puppet. I had my choice of aqua, periwinkle, sky blue, Kermit green, neon green, grassy green, electric pink, neon pink, light pink, yellows, oranges, reds. Every solid color of fleece that Joann Fabrics had was now in my house.
I nailed the puppet color combination down to three combination choices and left it up to my lovely family and friends to decide. The votes were in. The puppet was to be cyan blue and lime green with aqua hair. Perfect colors for an Earth Protector. I laid the cyan blue fleece out on my dining room table, which was now deemed my workstation and started constructing the body piece. I took my scissors and started cutting. If dull scissors were terrible for cutting foam, they were no match for fleece. I eventually got two pieces cut out.
It was time to come up against my nemesis-the sewing machine. I had never used a sewing machine before. The most experience I had with one was when I opened the box after Christmas and spent two hours trying to figure out what a bobbin was. Luckily, I had 20 yards of fabric left in case I messed this up. Who cares if the puppet ended up multi-colored! Actually, that’s not a bad idea.
I slid the fabric under the needle, put my foot on the presser foot and let it rip. I became one with the machine. My hands gliding in perfect harmony with the fabric. Once done, I pulled on the fabric, snipped the thread, and held the fleece in the air. It was holding together!
I took the body piece downstairs. But before I could cover the foam, I first had to cut out a space for the neck. The only way to do this was to use a razor blade. Side note, be sure to have a few bandaids standing by because if you are anything like me, you’ll need them.
My first try at cutting out a neck hold was awful. It was off center and uneven. I should have been more careful at the beginning, but eventually I kept trimming a bigger hole until it matched. Let’s just say this puppet will have more neck than shoulders, but that’s okay.
I then slid the fabric over the foam and used fabric tack to adhere it together. Other than a few dried glue marks, it looked good.
Next up was the head. I started cutting but I could barely get the scissors though. At that point, I had had enough. I dropped everything, downloaded a 50% coupon, got in my car, and went to my local Michaels craft store. When I was there, I searched for the sharpest scissors known to man. The ones I picked were so sharp in fact they came with a cover.
I got home, took the scissors in one hand and the fleece in the other. I cannot describe the pleasure of that first cut. It was like slicing through vegan cheesecake. So smooth.
After hand sewing the head piece, I was pleased. Not too many bumpy and wobbly bits. Another whiz of the sewing machine and the neck was attached. It looked more like a hooded shroud than a part of a puppet but I trusted that my dear puppet teacher, Adam Kreutinger would not lead me astray.
Next up, the mouth. Oh, the mouth. I didn’t think a piece of five inch oval fabric could give me so much trouble but it did. I had to redo it three times before it fit right. Ripping out the seams, resewing, ripping out the seams, resewing over and over again. Once I had it attached to the head, I realized I never made the mouth plate.
I journeyed to the basement to find a lid from a Tupperware container, as Adam suggested. I had Tupperware bins galore that were full of trains, trinkets, and trucks but no lids. Where were all the lids?? I finally found one buried underneath a stack of waffle blocks. Bingo! I got out my new scissors and started cutting. I opened my contact cement once again, but this time I was smart. I applied the adhesive in the basement and left the door open. Me vs Fumes... Me: 1 Fumes: 0.
Once everything was dry, it was time to slide the fabric over the foam. Instead of gently slipping it on like I hoped would happen, I had to forcibly stuff it over the foam. I pulled so hard I thought it might fall apart in my hands. It took a few minutes of finagling, but I eventually got it on.
And viola, it was now looking less like a warrior from the middle ages and more like a puppet. Lots of work left to do but I feel I’ve overcome the biggest hurdle! Let’s hope anyway.
“Progress, not perfection… progress, not perfection…” Taking deep breaths I repeated this mantra over and over in my head. I convinced myself, If I could get myself started, I would be fine. I had enough supplies to make ten puppets. I could afford to mess up. It was time to make mistakes, to make progress.
The ½” Seafoam green foam laid before me on the dining room table. I looked at it intensely, hoping a puppet would magically form. No such luck. I took a deep breath, grabbed the black permanent marker and starting tracing. Before I had a moment to think, I took my somewhat dull scissors and starting cutting. The jagged edges reminded me how unprepared I was for all of this.
I started with the head pattern. I knew if I could get this right, I could do anything. I cut out two equal head patterns. They reminded me of bumpy mushrooms that you would find growing near a mossy hill. I put on gloves and pried the contact cement open. A wall of astringent vapors came barreling out of the tin. I quickly opened the window to usher out the fumes. I didn’t want to pass out before I created my first piece.
I took my paintbrush and painted on the adhesive to the sides of the head pieces. It had to sit for fifteen minutes for the contact cement to work. So far, so good. I was feeling more confident, so I grabbed the body pattern. The instructions said, “foam-cut 2.” Easy Peasy. Two toast shapes, coming right up!
Ten minutes in, I thought I’d get a head start on assembling the head pieces. What could another five minutes do? Instructions were only a guide, right? Nope. Definitely not ready. The foam sides were slipping and sliding everywhere. I dropped the pieces and waited the extra five minutes.
I reached the fifteen minute mark. The contact cement was now tacky, exactly how it should be. I put my gloves back on in shame. Carefully following Adam Kreutinger’s YouTube video, I pressed both mushroom heads together. They were sticking! It looked like a head. Well, actually, it looked more like a helmet or suit of armor, than a head but I digress.
One after another I assembled the body, the nose, and cut out the hands. Instead of having one rectangular sheet of Seafoam green foam, I had the first pieces of my puppet. And I was proud, albeit a little smug.
I cleaned up my materials. The scrap foam went in a bag for later. I put away the scissors and markers. All I had to do was close up the contact cement and clean the brush. I took the screwdriver I used to open the can and started bashing it into the tin lid. No more fumes coming from you, sir. I grabbed the paint brush and tried to clean it off. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I got contact cement ALL over my hands. No amount of soap and water could get it off. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day trying to peel off adhesive off of my skin. Take it from me, DO NOT get contact cement on your hands.
Life has a funny way of bringing you back down to earth when you need it most.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode on felt sewing! In the meantime, enjoy some photographs and videos from our day of foam fun!
Say you want to make a puppet but you don't know how. What do you do? Scour YouTube!
I wish I could hug each person who took the time to record themselves going step by step in the puppet making process. I wouldn't be able to do it without them.
A HUGE shout-out goes to Adam Kreutinger. He is one of a kind. Not only does he have a fantastic YouTube Channel, but he offers free puppet patterns on his website.
Here are a few photos of the patterns I downloaded and had printed. Adam suggests adhering the patterns to craft paper to make them more durable. I didn't have craft paper so instead; I attached them to paper bags with a spray adhesive. It worked well!
Without these, I wouldn't have a clue where to start! Adam, if you're out there reading this, THANK YOU!
If you're interested in puppet making, I highly recommend Adam as a resource. He also has a podcast called Puppet Tears that I have been thoroughly enjoying!
Now onto cutting the foam!
Through my research, I’ve learned that puppet (muppet) making is not environmentally friendly. The best materials to make a durable, high-quality puppet are made of felt, foam, industrial adhesives, etc. While I searched for more sustainable options, I could not find something that was equally durable and would work well for making my puppet. This left me feeling very conflicted.
Given The Solutionary School’s mission is to create a more just and humane world for people, animals, and the environment, I was unsure how to move forward with this project. The materials that I would have to use could do harm. The chemicals and plastics could pollute waterways and reduce air quality. I also knew that the products, especially the adhesives and glues, were most likely tested on animals. I wasn’t sure where the products were sourced and if they were created by people that had an employer that treated them with equity and dignity. There were many potential repercussions and harm I could do by buying these materials.
I was lost. What should I do? Then I remembered Zoe Weil’s philosophy of “Most Good Least Harm.” Instead of either/or thinking, I asked myself, what is the most good and least harm I can do in this situation?
That’s when I decided to move forward with creating the puppet. The most good I can do is to bring this puppet into the community and teach children about social justice issues, about empathy, and compassion, especially towards ourselves.
Watch my video to hear more about how I applied the MOGO principle to puppet making.
What do you do when it's a rainy Friday afternoon? Play outside with your puppet of course!
I don't think it's possible not to have fun when you have a puppet on your hand. They turn any gray sky day into a day filled with wonder and light!
In today's video, I stop in to say hello and update everyone on the progress of our puppet making. I also introduce a childhood friend!
James Power is a wonderfully creative six-year-old who loves helping his mom design projects.
James is a passionate Earth Protector and advocate for being kind to animals, the Earth, and his fellow neighbors.
He is the inspiration for many of the workshops and activities that we do here at The Solutionary School.
In his spare time, James loves playing with his trains, digging in the garden, playing soccer, cuddling with his dog Bradley, playing video games, and going for adventure walks in the forest.
Favorite Book: Snowflake Day! (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood)
Favorite Author: Eric Carle
Currently Reading: Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems
Most Inspired By: Gramma
Favorite Place to Visit: Going on the plane to Granddad's house.
Favorite Time of the Day: Spending time with my family.
Founder & Creative Director
Abby Power founded The Solutionary School in 2019 when she discovered that play can be an inlet to creating a more compassionate world.
Through workshops, classes, and presentations, Abby engages with groups of all ages to create social change.
She is on a mission to help rewild the hearts and minds of those around her to reignite love and respect for all that call our living world home.
She is certified in plant-based nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and pursuing a Master of Arts in Humane Education through Valparaiso University and The Institute for Humane Education.
Abby currently resides in Ashland, Massachusetts with her husband and six-year-old son. When she's not trying to save the world, you may find her either gardening, writing to her pen pal in Germany or dancing down the street encouraging others to also live a life that’s filled with joy.
Favorite Book: The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola
Favorite Author: Roald Dahl
Currently Reading: Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane
Most Inspired By: Mister Rogers & Sesame Street
Favorite Place to Visit: Colligan Wood in Dungarvan, Ireland
Favorite Time of the Day: Early morning when everyone is still asleep and all that echos through the sky is birdsong.
To learn more about Abby, you can visit her website at: www.abbypower.com