Sunday, May 22, 2011

Something I did for the Library . . .

Turning a Stuffed Animal into a Specialty Puppet

First, let me tell you that I have been carrying my copy of Bark George (OPL Link) by Jules Feiffer in the car for months.

The reason?
     I've known for a long time that I wanted to figure a way to 'do' Bark George in a story or laptime.

The problem:
     How do I work out the mechanics of it? Is it going to be an Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly style of telling? You've seen the varieties, small animals and a swallowing old lady; big cardboard lady with a hole cut out for her stomach that you drop the animals into; a dress you wear and you get to act as the old lady and your 'belly' grows.

As good as these sound, they just weren't feeling right for George. George has to be 'hiding' the animals from the beginning and the vet takes them out.

Well - I'm telling you all - head on over to your local Goodwill or second-hand store. Find a LARGE stuffed dog with a likely mouth. You'll know it when you see it. It might take a few months, but when it happens, you'll know it!

 Let me introduce you all to GEORGE!

Click on pictures to open up a larger, close up view
 He has the perfect deep mouth I needed, it's almost already a puppet, and he's fairly large. The only drawback, he's not the same breed as found in Feiffer's book. Beggars can't be choosers.

To help this page load faster, I have inserted a page break. If you want to see how I made George the stuffed animal into George the specialty puppet . . . read on . . .

 First: WASH him

Put him in the quick wash cycle with detergent and lots of fabric softener. Do NOT dry. If you do a dryer, use the air-only cycle. It won't dry him completely, and you will need to keep fluffing and turning him for a few days to get him completely dry... or, since you are going to open him up anyway, open him up and let's get started . . .

 I found a likely place to cut through a few stitches to open him up. I chose the top of his back where there was a seam.

Survey your stuffed animal, think of how you plan on holding him when he's done. THEN start cutting.
There was a stain left from a big red bow. Yes, George used to be a Georgette. I will put a collar on George when we are done to cover this up.

Here you see the exposed stuffing.

Time to pull out all the stuffing. Air it out to dry and let's continue with our work.

George had a very good mouth.

Deep and Wide.

I was very lucky.

Cut into that seam there in the back of the mouth and open it up.

The bigger the better, it's hard to swallow a cow if you only have a little throat.

Sew a bag. A big bag. A bag that reaches all the way to George's tail!

The best option would be to use some SLICK stretchy material. I only had cotton, but it worked with a little extra effort.

(note: Do not use cotton! ;) I have to change this in George.)

You should probably use BLACK fabric and BLACK thread.
I also sewed a casement, so that I could gather the mouth of the bag. You can use whatever you like, just know that you need the opening of the bag to fit the opening of your soon-to-be puppet.

I only had white thread. White thread shows from inside George's mouth.

One large Sharpie marker and a few minutes later... it's black thread now.

I colored the thread AFTER sewing. NOT before ;)

Here you see the bag as I have stuffed it's back end into the mouth opening.

I'm very visual, I had to make sure I had it right side out from the inside of George.

I used some curling ribbon I had on hand to do the gathering. It does not have to be permanent, you need to gather it only long enough to sew it.
The bag is sewn in the mouth opening. It's all puckered and gathered in there, but since George's mouth was fairly big and deep to begin with, you can't tell.

Tack the end of the bag to George's tail region. That way you don't pull it inside out when you pull the swallowed animals out of him.

Here you see the bag pulled up and through his back.

Now add the stuffing back in. The key here is to stuff him LOOSELY.
You are going to need room for the swallowed animals later.

Here he is again!

See. You can't even tell. He still looks like a stuffed dog. Not a puppet!

You can play with what animals George has swallowed. Use what you have and what fits.

Key: Put that last animal in first. Keep them in order.

It's probably good to get to know them by feel as well.


We aren't done yet!!!

George is still open in the back. 

I still want him to be a puppet with a workable mouth!

How do you do that when you already have a bag attached to the mouth. A bag that will be filled with hidden animals no less!

I've got a solution.

But you will have to click to THIS POST to see it ;)

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