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How-To: Pop-Up Puppets

Maker News

CRAFT Summer Camp
By Andrew Lewis
When I was very young, I had a pop-up puppet toy that I would play with all the time. I only remembered the toy recently, while I was trying to figure out what to do with a stack of old machine wool cones. Not only are these fun for playtime, they’re quite a good way to present a small gift (like a ring or a cinema ticket) to someone.
The puppet I’ve made here is a clown, but I have been seriously considering making Star Wars and Harry Potter pop-up puppets. This is a great project for the kids to make, because they can choose their favorite characters.



An empty wool cone
A thin dowel, roughly 18″ long
Sculpey or Fimo modeling clay
A wooden bead
, to fit onto the end of the dowel
Fabric, for the puppet’s clothes
Felt, for the puppet’s hands
Fake fur, for the puppet’s hair
A piece of ribbon
Acrylic paint
Craft glue
Double-sided sticky tape
A needle and thread
Small paint brushes

Note: Wool cones can be found at yarn stores where yarns are sold by the cone. You can also get them online from Yarnia.


Step 1: Shape the modeling clay to make your puppet’s head. The head will sit on one end of the dowel, so remember to make a hole in the bottom of the head to accept the dowel. Bake the puppet head or allow it to air dry, following the package directions for your clay.
Step 2: Paint the puppet head with acrylic paint. You will probably need to use more than one coat of your base color in order to cover the clay completely. Be as creepy or cutesy as you like with your design. I will let you decide which term best describes my efforts.
Step 3: Decorate the wool cone with paint or craft paper. You can opt for a simple color or something more fancy. Using a Harry Potter puppet as an example, you could paint the cone to look like the top of Gryffindor Tower.
Step 4: When the paint is dry on your puppet head, glue on some fake fur for hair and hold it in place while the glue dries. Trim the hair with scissors to make it look right. Also take this opportunity to glue the dowel into the bottom of the head.
Step 5: Take your fabric and cut out a costume (including hands) for your puppet. A simple T-shaped front and back is nice and easy. The width of the bottom of each piece should be the same as half of the circumference of the cone, plus a small allowance for the seam. The bottom of the puppet clothes will sit on the wide end of the cone, so the bottom of the completed clothes should be the same size as the cone. The height of the clothes should be almost the same as the height of the cone. Remember to leave a little gap at the neck of the costume to push the dowel through.
Step 6: Stitch the costume to the bottom of the hair on the puppet head, and gather up any space in the neck. You don’t want the dowel to be visible, so adding a little ruff to the neck of the puppet can help hide it if the costume fits too loosely.
Step 7: Apply a ring of double-sided tape around the wide end of the wool cone, poke the dowel up through the cone, and attach the fabric to the double sided tape.
Step 8: Apply another ring of tape where the fabric attaches to the cone, and use this to stick a ring of ribbon around the joint. This is an optional step, but it looks much neater than ragged fabric.
Step 9: Glue the wooden bead to the end of the dowel. This bead not only gives the dowel a nice finish, it will prevent it from slipping inside the cone and being lost.
Step 10: If you like, you can fix a small gift to the puppet’s hands (use whatever fixing makes most sense), and push the puppet into the cone. The puppet can be popped out and pulled in using the dowel.

About the Author:
Andrew Lewis is a journalist, a maker, victophile, and founder of the blog.

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