Life is funny when you’re a professional “crafter.” After painting a couple of nursery name sets as baby shower gifts, a friend from church asked if I would paint letters for her son and daughter as a custom order! I’ve never thought of myself as a painter, even though I love to dabble, so it’s flattering and exciting to have someone pay me to do it. I have thought of myself as a draw-er (is that a word, other than one of a “chest of …?”) so I sketch the layout of the design on the letters to give me a little more confidence when painting. It’s kind of like paint by number. I lucked out with these kids in particular, besides the fact that they’re both precious, because the girl is in love with all things Disney princess, and the boy is a superhero buff! I get the best of both worlds; one set will be pink and sparkly with Disney fairytale characters and pink organza ribbon, and the other will be black and superhero colors (and hopefully glow-in-the-dark paint) with emblems and old-school onomatopoeia bubbles like “bam!” and “pow!” It’s a challenge, but I’m so up to it.
Meanwhile, I was asked by another friend to help with our new children’s ministry, which is going to include regularly featured puppets and skits with zany characters. Right up my alley. We brainstormed, going down the list of lesson topics that our children’s minister smartly listed from A-Z. So far, we’ve come up with ideas for a time machine, a few characters and puppets, and what props and costumes we’ll need to use over and over again. I really feel like this is God’s answer to so many prayers to involve the congregation with what the kids are doing, and really get the kids excited about learning what the Bible has to teach! I was so excited that I stayed up until 2 o’clock in the morning working on my first project, a snake puppet:
- Tom and Mr. Snake meet for the first time.
Now, we don’t have any kids yet, but we have lots of nieces and nephews, kids of friends, and, let’s face it, we’re just big kids, too. Every kid that saw the puppet, or saw pictures of the puppet got so excited! Puppets are relatively easy to make, and there are so many different ways to make them. Mr. Snake is made from a shirt sleeve, cardboard, felt, and google eyes, but you can make puppets from socks or paper, and make them little enough to fit on fingers or big enough to fit on both hands. I encourage you to try it out, even host a puppet workshop with your kids and their friends, because it’s so much fun, and can be catered to any skill level. First, I’ll attempt to give you the step-by-step for Mr. Snake, then I’ll share some helpful links with tutorials on other kinds of puppets so you can find your favorite flavor.
How To Make Mr. Snake
What you’ll need:
A sock or long sleeve made from stretchy material (stripes or solids are snake-y, but you can go with any pattern you like)
Two google eyes
Your preferred glue (hot, tacky, E6000 …)
How to make it:
1. Cut off the end of your sock, or cut off the desired length of the sleeve. I used a shirt a friend gave me that suffered a DIY project gone wrong. Oops.
2. Fold the edges of the end you just cut inward, as if you’re going to hem the raw edge. Use an iron to press the edges if you’d like help keeping things even. I folded my edge inward about 1/2 inch.
3. Fold your piece of cardboard in half. Place your hand on the fold so that your thumb is on the bottom, and your other four fingers are on top, sandwiching the folded piece in your hand. With a pencil, trace an oval about 1/4 inch out around your four fingers on top. This will create the mouth of your puppet.
4. Keeping the cardboard folded, cut out the oval shape.
5. Unfold the cardboard (which should look kind of like a giant hot dog now) or open the mouth, and place it on your black felt. Cut out the felt in the shape of the cardboard mouth, and repeat to create two identical felt ovals.
6. Glue the felt to each side of your cardboard. This will be the black inside of the snake’s mouth, and will give you a nice, soft but easy-to-grip surface on the inside of the puppet.
7. Once the glue dries, take your sleeve or sock and begin stretching the folded end over the edge of your felt-covered cardboard, keeping the oval unfolded (or the mouth open.) This is the tricky part. I stretched the fabric over the mouth so that the folded edge lay flat on the cardboard, creating a 1/2 inch border around the oval. Then I lifted up the fabric in small sections and glued them down to the felt-covered cardboard mouth. Once you’ve glued all the way around the fabric opening, you’ve made the snake’s mouth!
8. Once the glue has dried, slip your hand inside the puppet and fold the cardboard mouth in half with your hand. Open and close your hand a few times to open and close the mouth, and re-establish the fold in the cardboard.
9. Cut a long tongue with a forked end from your red felt and glue it to the bottom half of the mouth.
10. Cut two fang shapes from your white felt and glue them to the top half of the mouth.
11. Cut two nostrils from your leftover black felt. Set them aside.
12. Place your google eyes on top of your yellow felt, and cut around them, leaving a border of at least 1/4 inch. Glue the eyes onto the yellow circles.
13. You can stop here if you want, glue the eyes and nostrils to the top of the snake’s head and be done. The result will be a cool sock-puppet snake. If you’d like to add more dimension to the snake’s head, read on.
I’m not going to number these steps, because I’ll have a hard time explaining exactly what I did to creat the snake’s head. I’m going to try! Take a look at a house slipper, and you’ll see where I got the idea. I cut a half-circle the length of the top of the mouth from cardboard and cut two triangular notches (like darts in a blouse) on the rounded side. I carefully curved the shape by folding it like the bill of a baseball cap. Then I pulled the edges of each notch toward each other, overlapping them and gluing them down. Once they were glued, each notch created the space for the nostrils of the snake. I turned the puppet inside out, gluing my new cardboard snout to the top half of the mouth piece. While the glue was drying, I created a brow by tracing the yellow eyes on the cardboard, about 1/4 inch apart, then drew a brow shape on top of the eyes. I drew several tabs around the edges of the brow shape, and cut the whole shape out. I folded the tabs back to create a kind of easel for the eyes to stand on, then glued those tabs to the snout. I turned the puppet right side out, then glued the yellow eyes and black nostrils onto the fabric on top of the new head structure.
If you’re having a hard time making heads or tails of my snake tutorial, and I don’t blame you if you are, here are some other puppet tutorial links:
Have a picture of a puppet you’ve made? Share in the comments below!
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