Friday, 5 February 2016

Finger Puppets

I've been trawling the internet for patterns or templates for felt animal finger puppets, but hadn't really found what I wanted. So I decided I'd make my own, and share them. It will take me a while to add all the finished finger puppets, so I'll blog about them a few at a time as they are made. Here are the first few, made for Easter:

A requirement for me is that the finished finger puppet should be recognisable as what it is supposed to be! I hope the ones above can be recognised as an Easter bunny, a chick, and a lamb. Here is my current wish list of some of the animals I'd like to make. I may add others if these go well.

Bear, Bee, Bird, Butterfly, Cat, Chick, Cow, Crocodile, Dog, Duck, Elephant, Frog, Giraffe, Hen, Hippo, Kangaroo, Ladybird, Lamb,  Lion, Monkey, Mouse, Octopus, Owl, Peacock, Penguin,  Pig, Polar Bear, Rabbit, Reindeer, Baby Seal, Tiger, Whale.

I chose animals my grand-daughters would be familiar with, either through personal experience, or through their favourite story books and toys.

I've got three main template shapes, plus some special templates. To find out more about the templates, and making finger puppets in general, read on.

My  three basic shapes have been used as the basis for many templates.  They will work for many animals, and will also work for other things too, like Father Christmases, or angels, or Punch and Judy, or characters from fairy stories, children's films and TV characters,  or toy favourites. You could use them for pretty much anything.

I don't plan to make sets with one puppet to fit each individual finger. I figure that if a puppet will fit a middle finger, it will pretty much fit all the others too. That's one reason I haven't made any of the templates too long, as you may have noticed that your little finger is smaller than the middle one! It will just fit on my thumb, too, though it is tight. So my measurements all assume any puppet will fit my middle finger.

Here are my three main shapes. I'll tell you later how you can use them. The main thing is that they need to be wider than you would think, because of the need to have a seam each side. So you need to measure around the finger's fattest point, halve this measurement, and then add a seam allowance to each side. My measurements below all include seam allowance.

1) A straight sided, dome-topped shape - like a cut-off finger from a pair of rubber gloves.

The measurements to take are: 

  • the circumference of the middle knuckle
  • the finger tip to the middle of that knuckle.
The width of this template is half the circumference plus 1/4", and the height is the second measurement plus about 3/8". I started the curve for the top about 2/3rds of the way up the height, and just rounded off the top. It's more likely to be symmetrical if you fold it in half, and draw half, cut it out, then unfold it. 

I can tell you that on mine, the width is 1 1/2"and the height is 2 3/8". The curve for the top starts at about 1 3/4" from the bottom edge. However, it's better to measure for yourself and then add back the seam allowance, than to use my exact measurements. Everyone's fingers are different. In particular, if you want to make these for a child, you'd need to go a bit smaller. However, don't go too tiny or you won't have enough room to manoeuvre and make seams. You can always have the child use two fingers to a puppet rather than one.

2) A more bulbous / rounded / oval sort of shape, like a chopped off egg, which works better for some animals with a roundy profile, like a hippo or pig.

I create this template by drawing an oval on my computer which was about 5/8th the width to the length. I then chopped it off so the base was once again my "half knuckle circumference plus 1/4". The end result was a shape that was just over 50% taller than the width. The alternative is to start from the first straight template and bulge the sides out.

3) A 'keyhole' or 'enlarged head' shape. It consists of a straight column with a squashed circle shape on top, like a fat lollipop, or a stretched cottage loaf. This one works out slightly longer than the straight version. The base measurement is the same. The straight sides are about the same as the base (in other words the bottom is more or less a square). Then my top is a circle, or squashed circle, that overlaps the square. You could draw round a small circular object, like the base of a sherry glass; or draw a circle on your computer, and squash it if you wish.

This shape, with an enlarged head, makes quite a nice cat, or teddy bear, or mouse, especially with built in arms / paws (see below). 

You can also make hybrids, such as the ones below which combine an enlarged head with bulging sides. The two templates below are formed using the bottom of my template 2 above, topped with the top of the third template. I thought one of these might do for a baby seal or a penguin.

You can also make hybrid shapes with more sloping sides (with or without an enlarged head). Just be careful if you slope the sides in, you don't make the pattern too tight where you've narrowed it. The top knuckle of your finger is a bit smaller than the middle knuckle, but not that much smaller. Mine is only about 1/4" smaller in circumference. But sloping sides enable you to give more narrowing to the neck of something which has a long thin neck, like a giraffe or swan for instance. You can't make them completely in scale but you can give an idea that they are a different shape from a tiger or a penguin.
 A variation of any of these could be made with integral arms, angled straight, or up or down. For example, with the straight sided version, here is a modified version with built-in arms. You could add built-in arms to any of the three basic designs.

The body measurements are the same as before. The arm length I've used is about half the body width, and the breadth of the arms is about 80% of their length. But you could use whatever size you wanted really, as they don't have to accommodate a finger. You could also angle them up or down.
For example:

See which you prefer. You could use them largely interchangeably.

Of course, it is also possible to add arms, wings, tails, feet etc after you've made the body, by gluing or sewing pieces on afterwards. (And even heads.) The advantage of making them integral with the body pieces is that you can just stitch (or glue) all round the whole shape, and you're done. 

Finger puppets consist of, at minimum, a front body piece and a back body piece. Most are cut out of felt. (Or at least, that's my preferred material.) Before you attach the front and back together, you need to think through what else you want to do to them. It is almost always easier to add your embellishments to the front layer before attaching it to the back. (For example, eyes, beaks, muzzle, whiskers, ears, etc.) These may be embroidered on, or made of small pieces of felt glued on, or you could add plastic animal eyes. If children are to play with them, embroidery is best, and if I do glue bits of felt on, to hold them in place, I over-sew them as well to avoid the bits coming off later.  If you have separate arms or wings, or large ears, you may prefer to trap these between the front and back layers before you stitch them together.

Finishing the bottom hem is optional. Felt doesn't fray like woven fabrics, so it isn't strictly necessary. However, it does strengthen the lower edge, and can give a nicer finish than just the raw edge. It is also best to do this before attaching the front to the back.

They can be attached together:

  • with a thin line of fabric glue (but don't use ordinary glue, it doesn't dry clear like fabric glue, and it can also stain the felt; and don't let it spread into the middle, or you may not have a finger hole left).
  • by hand stitching, preferably with a small button hole stitch, or over-stitching.
  • by machine stitching. You can use a straight stitch about 1/8" in from the edge, or a small zigzag (I use width 2 and stitch length 1), which I think gives a nice finish.
In later blogs, I'll give more details about making specific finger puppets, including the Easter ones in the picture above.

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