Scripture Puppets (with pattern!)

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I love pook a looz plush toys, and used that style as my inspiration when I designed my scriptural character puppets.  The simplicity of the wide-set, simple oval eyes, the lack of or minimal other facial features, all give the faces a charm that makes me smile.  Pook a looz are slightly melancholy, but in a sweet and vague way that is just enchanting!  That was exactly the feeling I was hoping to capture, and felt was lovely and appropriate for scriptural figures.

 Since my purpose in making the puppets was to teach the song "Nephi's Courage", and the song has specific characters in the lyrics, I made Nephi, Laban, Laman & Lemuel, and a boat to teach the first two verses. My kids are already requesting the rest of Lehi's family (at least)! And it is pretty obvious that if I wanted to, Laman or Lemuel could double as Noah, and the boat could be an ark - opening up the possibility of Bible story play as well.
Really, though I've never missed scripture puppets in my life - never sat around thinking, "oh man! If only I had some handpuppets of scriptural characters!" I have found already so many family and church uses for these fun guys that I'm so glad now that I have them!

Materials & Pattern
Now, if you're like me, when an idea strikes, I want to get going, not go shopping, so I used materials on hand.   I'm not sure that if I were BUYING supplies that I'd chose the same exact colors or fabrics, so don't feel restricted by what I chose - go crazy!  I love the way my turned out, and I'm just so glad that I don't ever throw anything away, but a whole craft/fabric store of options would be too much fun!

Start off with either fleece or felt - maybe about 3/8 of a yard.  I used fleece remnants (again, because I had it - also because it's soft).  Why fleece or felt?  They don't fray and you can sew them leaving the seams exposed rather than having to edge finish and turn inside out.  Faster, easier.  It is a definite look to leave the seams around the edges with the top stitching rather than hidden seams - but I like it for the "ancient" puppets.  You could turn the seams for a more finished look.

The body is cut from the main color, head and hands from whatever flesh color you like.  For bearded characters I worked out a beard shape, which I cut out of fleece of varying fancy furry styles or plain fleece in hair tones.  Trims and chording make belts, headbands, whatever clothing decor your creativity can come up with. The last bit you'll need is a head scarf, in two pieces, out of a remnant of fleece, felt or a non-fraying knit. Trims, ribbon and rick-rack make excellent headbands.

You'll also need some polyester fiberfill and black embroidery floss.

print pattern sheets on 8 1/2 x 11
The shape of the body may seem a little strange, but really it's not.  Just think that the puppet's head is stuffed, and the fingers need somewhere to go to support the head, and suddenly the shape of the body makes perfect sense.

A diagram of the pieces,
1- Attach the hands to the body.  This one IS done right sides together (I know I said earlier that it's all done with top-stitching, but this is an exception.  Hands are put on right sides together).

Sword made out of 1/2 inch silver ribbon,
simply cut to shape and top-stitched
2- Tack any trims or decorations to the body (if it's something like a waistband, that will get caught into the side seams when the body sections are sewn together, tacking in place is all that is necessary.  If it is something that does NOT get caught in the side seams - such as Laban's sword - sew down permanently rather than simply tacking).

3- Once the hands are attached and the body is accessorized as you'd like it, sew all around the body, wrong sides together, leaving the bottom open, taking the smallest seam allowance you feel comfortable with.

Set the body aside for now.

4- Sew the head pieces together, wrong sides together, leaving the bottom (neck) open.  (Optionally, if you'd like to embroider the eyes on before sewing the front of the head to the back of the head, you can do that.  I like to wait until after the beard is on and the head is stuffed so that my eye placement ends up exactly where I want it to be.  But if it's easier to put the eyes on the separate face piece, now is the time!)

5- If the character has a beard, pin it in place and sew around on the same stitching line as around the head, from dot at cheek, around the top of the head to dot at other cheek.  Sew across the top (lip) of the beard by hand with a running stitch, so as not to go through both layers of the head - it should just end up tacked to the face, not the back of the head.

6- Stuff the head and attach to body by hand using a running stitch.  I just left the raw edges and let my running stitch show, as I had done with the machine sewn parts - but feel free to turn the edges under and slip stitch for a neater, cleaner look.

7- For the head scarf, attach headband to the front (half moon shaped) section.  Then sew the two pieces together - this time right sides together - and turn right side out.  Hand stitch in place by "stitching in the ditch" - in other words working your stitches through the seam of the scarf and attaching to the top of the puppet's head.  I tried just tacking the head scarf on in two spots, but it was QUICKLY dismantled by little hands - so I recommend stitching all the way along the top of the scarf.

8- Finally the face.  I like to leave the face till last to make sure the eyes don't end up too high or too low relative to the scarf or the beard or whatever - since those shift around in sewing and nothing ever ends up perfectly where you plan it.  The charm of the pook-a-looz is the simplicity of features.  Just eyes, or eyes and a distinguishing feature that adds expression.  Mark where the eyes should go with a pencil, then, using all strands of black embroidery thread, add eyes using a satin stitch - starting at the top of the eye, increasing length of the stitch, then decreasing at the bottom of the eye to make an oblong shape.  Laban is "wicked," so he gets evil eyebrows and a shady mustache.
Details like Laban's brass plates are added on at the very end.  I made my "plates" out of craft foam, laced with beading wire and painted with pseudo-Egyptian characters.

The Boat
Since the second verse of the song has a boat - I designed a simple boat that the kids could use as a visual/ puppet show prop.  Then it was my daughter, Lily's idea that I actually make the boat double as puppet storage!  Clever girl!  The boat base is craft foam.  Then I simply topped it with a layer of batting and brown fleece - machine quilting in windows.  Another piece of fleece becomes the hull of the boat - sewn top-stitches in bright yellow give some "planks," before it is top-stitched on as well and the whole thing zig-zagged around to seal the edges which were fuzzy white from the batting (not boat-like at all).

So those are my first scripture puppets! I can't wait to try some female characters!  And I'm SURE my kids will have ideas for other favorite scripture stories they want to enact - so off we go back to the scrap box!  Send me your ideas and pics if you try these - especially if you do get some women done.  I'd love to see them!!

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