FREE MOUTH PUPPETS

Puppets are not the first thing that most people think of when they are considering back-to-school supplies, but they can be very useful educational tools. In addition to helping children learn the basics of reading and writing, they can be used by teacher or student to tell stories or review material. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to make a simple mouth puppet out of old clothes and other recycled materials. The first step is to download the pattern (Puppet Pattern 1 of 2, Puppet Pattern 2 of 2) and cut out all the pieces. Then you will need to gather the clothing that you want to use. I recommend knit fabrics like t-shirt material since they do not fray at the edges. Because the t-shirt is really too thin to be used by itself, I do recommend that a thicker material be used as a backing. I used an old pale pink t-shirt for the “skin” a darker pink t-shirt for the mouth, and a fleece jacket which had a broken zipper as my backing. Any skin-toned t-shirt will work for the puppet itself, and pinks, reds, or even black will work for the mouth. The next step was to cut out the pieces from my fabric. The head, nose, ears, arms and body are cut from the “skin” fabric. Additional head and body pieces are cut from the backing. The ears, nose and arms do not require backing. Only the mouth is cut from the other color fabric. The pattern also has a stabilizer piece which is to be cut from any color craft foam that you have on hand. It will not be seen. To begin forming the head, stack the fabric pieces together with the “skin” to the inside and the backing to the outside. Stitch along all the throat, face, and back-of-head seams as demonstrated in the photo. Do not stitch down the two “v” shapes going into the head. Additionally, stack and stitch the outside of the ears and turn them right side out. My photo shows one ear stitched and the lower ear stitched and turned so that you can see what they look like at both steps. Next, the face needs to be re-folded to allow the edges along the top of the head to line up. Insert the ears in between the “skin” portion of the head on either side, with the raw edges even and the base of the ears all the way to the bottom of the openings. Pin these in place. In my photo, the ears are under the gold-headed pins. Match the center seams together as well, pin them in place, then stitch the seam closed. Next comes the mouth. To make the mouth stiff enough to open and close, the fabric must be backed. I found the plastic from an empty milk container to be the perfect blend of stiffness and flexibility. Other plastics may do just as well. After you have cut a piece from the plastic to match the fabric mouth piece, they must be glued together. I used spray adhesive, but contact cement may also work if you blow-dry the applied glue for thirty seconds or so until the glue becomes tacky. With the fabric and the plastic glued together, fold the piece in half along the fold line to form the mouth piece. This step is the trickiest one of the whole project, so work slowly and carefully. Turning the head right-side-out, slide the mouth board into the head and position it about where it needs to be. Hot glue is the best thing that I found for attaching the mouth, so while your gun is heating up, you have time to look at the mouth piece and the opening in the head for the mouth to be inserted. The head piece should have enough fabric to glue along the edges of the mouth. Beginning with the corners of the mouth glue the head to the mouth piece at the fold on each side. The overlap along most of the mouth should be somewhere around ¼ inch, though that measurement does fluctuate some as it goes around the mouth and is slightly less than that at the corners. After the corners are glued down, attached the top and bottom center seams to the mouth making sure that they line up! After those four points are glued down, then glue the rest of the mouth in to position, easing the remaining fabric to fit the mouth piece. The next step is easier. Leaving the ends open, stitch around the arm pieces, turn them right-side-out and stuff them with fiberfill. I used the stuffing from an old pillow that had matted together inside. After washing the pillow, I opened it up and pulled the fibers apart wherever I could, then used this to stuff the arms. While you have the stuffing out, you should also stuff the nose. Using a needle and thread, hand-stitch around the outside edge of the nose and gather the fabric together around some more of the fiberfill. Set the arms aside for the time being and hand stitch the nose to the front of the face about ¾ of an inch above the mouth and along the center seam. Now for the face! For eyes, cut two circles of fabric from a scrap of old knit fabric and glue them onto the face wherever you would like them to be. You may want to experiment with the placement some before you glue them down. Each puppet looks a little different according to the variations made in the size and placement of the features. For pupils, sew on matching buttons. I used black, but you may prefer blue, brown or even green. For hair, I use yarn. For greater versatility, I sewed a two-and-a-half inch strip of the hook section of Velcro onto the top of the head, beginning just to the front of where the seams form a cross, and going along the seam down the back. Later I sewed several different lengths, styles, and colors of hair to the same-sized lengths of the loop section of Velcro. This way I can easily change the age or gender of the puppet to meet the needs of the moment. If you do not care to be able to change the hair around, you can sew it directly to the head, however, you may want to wait to do this until the puppet is complete. At this point, you need to lay aside the head for awhile and work on the body. Stack the body pieces together with the “skin” sections to the inside and stitch the shoulder seams together on both sides. Then you need to add the arms. Each arm must be pinned to the inside with the thumb pointing up and the whole arm angled downward toward the belly section of the puppet. Sew the arms into place as you sew the side seams of the puppet body. You will want to reinforce the arm seams since children will likely be tugging on them! I also turned under a small hem on the bottom of the body to make a neat edge, but this was a personal choice. With clothes on the puppet, the bottom edge should not really be seen. Now for the final steps! With right sides together and matching side seams and centers, pin the head inside the body of the puppet and sew it in place. When you turn the puppet right-side-out, you are nearly done. The final step before adding the hair is to add the stabilizer. This is used to give the head the proper shape and keep it from collapsing. The stabilizer should be cut from a piece of craft foam for best results, but if that is not available I suggest another piece of milk jug plastic. The photo shows where the stabilizer (mine is made from black craft foam) should be once it has been inserted into the head. All that I did to mine was to slide it up into place. It is not fastened down in any way and I can replace it with ease if it wears out. With the addition of hair, the puppet is complete. These two photos of my puppet show the difference that changing only the hair can make. The same puppet is in both photos; only the hair has been changed. Though I have not attempted to make clothes for the puppet in this article, clothes will also help define the character that you desire your puppet to have. You can either design some for yourself or look for store-bought clothes made for dolls or preemies. (I hope to design my own clothes for my puppet from more old clothing.) This means that by making only a few of the basic puppets, you can create a whole cast of different characters by changing the “accessories”. When I looked at my puppet, I was reminded of Paul’s address to the Athenians in Acts 17, where he introduces them to the “Unknown God.” In the beginning of verse twenty-eight he states, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being…”. It is an awesome thought to ponder that all of us on this earth, whether we belong to Christ or not, are sustained by the will and power of God! Without Him, we are like my puppets without my hand to activate and invigorate them–completely powerless. Christ Himself told us of our dependence on Him in John 15:5. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” May you be challenged, as I was, to seek to abide in Christ, that His empowering Spirit may direct our words and actions to follow His will and bring Him glory.

 

 

Update 4/13/14 – This is the photo that Sue Tichava  (see comments) sent to me of the puppets that she made from this pattern. She added her own personal touch by giving them embroidered eyes and made their uniforms from a school uniform used by the school that she is donating them to. Thank you to Sue for sharing this photo with us. The puppets look great!

image13-17-15 This photo and comment was sent in by Sara Taylor:

Hello!
Just wanted to thank you for the great pattern on your blog. My daughter has been pestering me to make her a puppet since someone visited her school with a grey cat puppet named Eddie. She loves this one!

Thank you, Sara, for sending in the photo of your puppet. You did a wonderful job of turning the puppet into a cat!  -Sharon White

Update 6/15  – This photo was sent in by Yadi Truji of the puppet that she made off of this pattern.  Thank you, Yadi, for sending in photo of your work. The addition of legs is wonderful and the outfit is beautiful. -Sharon White

 

Update 7/24/15 – The photo at right was sent in by Heidi Hauben . See her comment and my reply below.

 

1-18-16  20151211_110207Jarrod Mendiola  sent me this picture of the puppet he had made back in December. (I am sorry it has take me so long to get the photo posted, Jarrod! Please forgive me.)  I think you did a great job, especially since it is your first puppet ever! Thanks for your patience and for sending me your photo. My daughter and I love the Polo shirt.

IMG_0316

 

 

1-18-16 – The picture at right is of  “Brother Blunder”, Janna Mauldin Heiner’s puppet that she made to help her teach music to a children’s class.  (See her comments below.) Thank you for the picture, Janna! I love the tie!

 

image1

Update 2/23/16  This picture was sent in by Bonnie. She made a puppet to represent each member of her grandchildren’s family, along with a door theater curtain to hide behind while using them.  Thank you, Bonnie, for sending in a photo. I know your grandchildren will love using them!

Update 4/5/16  –  This photo was sent to me by Maria Isabel Leite (see comment below) who works for a pediatric dentist office in Portugal. She made her puppets to help their young patients understand their time in the office, so her puppets have teeth! Isn’t the doctor adorable?

 

 

Update 12/30/16  -The three photos above were sent to me by Sandra de Roubaix. She found a way to enlarge the pattern and make it into various wild animals. See the comment section for details. Beautiful job, Sandra! Thanks for sharing with us.

blog puppets

Update 7/14/17 – This cast of puppets was created and sent in by Rachel Pears. Great job making so many different characters from one basic pattern!

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64 Responses to FREE MOUTH PUPPETS

  1. Sue Tichava says:

    I am using your wonderful puppet pattern and would like to know how you want the pattern credited. I am making four puppets for a school in San Francisco to be used during lower school assemblies. The puppets are dressed in the school uniform and they are adorable! Thank you. Sue Tichava

    • I am so glad that you were able to make use of this pattern! To credit the pattern, just use Sharon White and the blog name. Thank you for asking! If you can send a photo of your puppets to shadyswing@gmail.com, I will try to get it attached to this posting. (I am a better crafter than blogger!)

  2. Lori says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

  3. chris says:

    Just used this pattern for a time filler while I am working on a commissioned piece.

    Thanks for the enjoyment.

  4. Bubbles says:

    Thank you so much!!!!
    It was such a great easy project to do on my own!!!!
    Awesome…this was just what I was looking for!

  5. Bonnie says:

    I had a group of third and fourth graders make these puppets. We used one layer of felt instead of the fabric, and cut the “body” section out of colored felt to be the clothing. They are so proud of their puppets and are presenting a puppet show of “The Good Samaritan” for our spring recital. Thanks for this pattern!

    • That is awesome! I did not know that the pattern was simple enough to be done by that age group, so I am grateful for the information. I hope the recital is a blessing to all involved!

  6. Yadi says:

    Thank you very much. ..

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this great idea! This pattern is very good!

  8. Pingback: Free Hand Puppets From Around the Web | The Tucson Puppet Lady

  9. Georgiann says:

    I just wanted to thank you for this pattern — I used it for David and Goliath puppets. You can see the results on my blog : http://oldsweetsong.blogspot.com/2015/07/david-and-goliath-go-to-dominican.html

  10. James says:

    hi, I love this pattern! Thank you!! I made a few friends! I was curiouse if you had a tutorial on how you made a little yarn puppet wigs ?

    • For the puppet I made here, I used a sewing machine to stitch strands of yarn to a piece of Velcro. I understand that it is possible to crochet a wig for puppets and dolls, though I do not have a tutorial for that.

  11. Heidi Hauben says:

    Thank you for the pattern !
    I made some puppets… almost a whole family… i’m not ready yet, but you can see the pictures on my FB… i made a dad, mom, grandmom, little boy en girl…
    They are made for a friend of mine who works with children with problems….

    • Heidi, You did an excellent job on these! I am sure the children will love them. Thank you for sharing this photo of your work. I love the addition of the legs and clothes.

      Heidi’s photo can be viewed in the photos attached to the end of the article.

  12. Desere Mayo says:

    I just want to thank you for putting this on here. I am about to start a kids ministry with puppets and I was glad that you do this for Gods glory. We have to reach our kids better than the world and puppets will help. If you have any tips let me know. I am an artist do doing this is a new ability for me. 🙂 I have a hard time with getting like rectanglaur heads and getting the right size for my hand and lol putting something where I don’t have to feel the stuff at the top of the head and bottom of the mouth. Can you help me please. Thank you and keep making more until we reach all the kids around the world.

    God bless you.
    Desere Mayo
    (Ps I text fast so hopefully you understand what I said lol)

  13. Do you stitch all four of the head together? So its backing,skin,skin,backing? Also I’m confused on how to refold the head with the ears. Any help would be awesome.

    • If I understand the step you have questions about, you do need to sew the top of the head together stacked as you described with the ears turned right-side-out and inserted between the two skin layers. The raw edges of the ears should line up with the raw edges of the head.

  14. The fold line where the mouth is isn’t exactly in the middle. Which side is the bottom of the mouth the bigger side or smaller side?

  15. Janna Mauldin Heiner says:

    Is this sized for adults, or for children? The images look like a child is modeling it. I have a fairly large hand for a woman and I’ll be the one using the puppet in my children’s music classes on Sundays.

    • This pattern should fit most adult hands. So far, I have not had anyone tell me that it was too small for them, so I think you will be ok. 🙂

      • Janna Mauldin Heiner says:

        Thanks! I did make it and it did need a little adjusting at the neck, but it works! Great pattern and thanks for your generosity in sharing it! I will upsize it 10-15% if I do another, but this guy is ready to help my little singing classes learn their songs every Sunday! (He just cannot get the words right. They are going to have to correct him. And help him, a LOT!)

      • I am so glad! What a great thought to use him to help teach music. 🙂 Thank you for sharing that idea.

  16. Janna Mauldin Heiner says:

    Oh my word, Sharon. They loved it. The littlest class (3-4 year olds) never learned a song so quickly or sang so well. Or giggled so much at Brother Blunder’s silly mistakes! Thanks again for your generosity. I linked to you on the FB page of other Sunday music teachers like me (10,000 of us….) You may see some hits.

    • Thank you so much for the update and the link, Janna! I wish I could have been there to see it. 🙂 If you will send me a picture of your puppet (shadyswing@gmail.com), I will try to attach it to the bottom of my article.

  17. Bonnie says:

    This pattern is very easy to use and exceeded my expection. I made a door theatre for my grandchildren and sent sock puppets but the puppets I created with this pattern turned out so professional and just excellent . I made the puppets to look like each member of my son’ family – 4 children and the mom and dad. I made clothes for the puppets from scrapes of fabric from material I had made clothes for my grand children. I will send pictures to shadyswing@ gmail.com
    Thanks for sharing the pattern!

    • You are welcome! I am so glad that you found this pattern easy to use. I am looking forward to seeing your pictures and will post them at the bottom of the article with the other photos that I have received.

  18. Auburn says:

    What do you think the measurements of fabric would be in yards? My team and I need to make the entire cast of Wuthering Heights for a school project.

    • I am not sure because I used old clothing to make mine. Probably the best thing to do is download the pattern, make several copies, cut the pieces out, and lay them out on a yard of fabric to see about how many you can get from a single yard. You should be able to tell at that point how many yards of fabric you will need. Remember that the mouth piece (the part that shows when the mouth is open) should be cut from a different color than the rest of the pieces and that the stabilizer piece is cut from craft foam and not fabric. I hope this helps. 🙂

  19. I am from Portugal
    I want to thank you for sharing your puppet pattern.
    I’ve made three puppet for a role-play for a pedodontist, so I had to include teeth, of course.
    The puppets are: the dentist, the child and her mother.
    I hope you will enjoy it.
    Now, please tell me how I can send you the photos.

    • No one has ever told me they have made my puppet with teeth before. I am looking forward to seeing your photos! Just send them to shadyswing at gmail.com and I will do my best to add them to the end of the column.

  20. Anne Lowery says:

    I love the pattern, but what are the dimensions? I am trying to help the seniors to be entertained, hope I can make one or 6. Anne

  21. Pingback: Free Mouth Puppets | Plushie Patterns

  22. Love your puppet tutorial! You’ve been featured at http://www.plushiepatterns.com! We love your tutorial. Feel free to submit any plushie or doll tutorials to be featured again.

  23. Sandra de Roubaix says:

    Hi.
    I absolutely love these puppets and much simpler to make than other similar puppets. I am involved with various groups of rural children who live near the Kruger Park. They love puppets. I was approached by the Save the Elephants group yesterday to make puppets for their mobile library and they specifically asked for muppet -type puppets that represent our animals.
    Will post pics!
    I will post pics

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the pattern. I am excited to make one to use teaching preschool this year/

  25. Maree says:

    You are a life saver! I need to make a puppet in a day and this is just perfect. Thank you!

  26. Jeff Double says:

    I am late figuring out what to make for my child and 5 nieces and nephews for Christmas! How long do each of these take for an average sewer? Also do you think they could be made of felt? Omg so excited to try this!

    • Hi Jeff,
      I don’t think this would take you too long to do since you don’t need them before Christmas.It helps to break the project down into small steps and do that step six times rather than to complete each puppet and start again. They can be made of felt, though it is not as durable and the corners of the mouths might need to be reinforced. I think you can do this!

  27. Kay says:

    Average piece of paper? Would that be an A4 or A3? And do you have a pattern for legs?

    • Hi Kay. The pattern should print on two standard 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets of paper. My puppet does not have legs so the legs you see in some of the photos were added by my readers. Thanks for writing.

  28. sandra de roubaix says:

    Hi
    I am grateful that I could discover the principles for making these puppets from your blog.I started with your pattern to use at my winter school for disadvantaged rural kids and also for rural teacher training.Then my friend, who is a volunteer for Global March for Elephants and Rhino, asked me to make animals for their mobile library puppet show to educate kids living near the Kruger Park through the medium of a puppet show( I live next to the fence of Kruger and wild animals are part of our existence 🙂
    It took quite a bit of thinking, but I found that doubling your size and using the basic pattern, I could adapt it. I made elephant, rhino, lion, zebra, badger, giraffe, snake, a boy and a girl, a poacher and a frog- and our own Miss Piggy, Miss Warthog
    Thanks for the kickstart!

  29. Megan says:

    Thank you for the puppet pattern. It was my first one and the directions were really straight forward. My 4-year-old will love this!

  30. Rachelle says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I was so excited to find your post on pintrest. I am preparing some materials to take with me to Uganda in a couple weeks to teach leaders about childrens ministry and introduce them to puppet ministry. Is it okay with you if I include your pattern in a notebook I’m compiling? I will be making some puppets with adult leaders while in Uganda.

    I hope it is okay with you if I use your pattern and site you as my source.

    To God be the Glory!

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