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How to Make Soft Toys - Hand Puppets, Finger Puppets, & Rag Dolls

Updated on August 12, 2013
Hand Puppets - Mary Had a Little Lamb
Hand Puppets - Mary Had a Little Lamb | Source

How to Make Hand Puppets

Simple characters from a popular child's nursery rhyme is a great way to start off showing your child how to act out simple scenes with hand puppets. Mary Had a Little Lamb is the basis for these two puppets.

The pattern for Mary can be used for other nursery characters by changing the clothing and facial expressions.

The lamb pattern can be simply converted to a number of animals and is designed to be operated with all five fingers if liked. (Place your longest finger in the head, thumb and little finger in bottom legs, and remaining fingers in top legs.)

You Will Need:

  • Ruler - Paper - Pencil
  • Needle - Thread - Scissors
  • 3/8 Yard 36 inches fur fabric makes two lambs (the above one has a curly pile)
  • Scaps of pink and black felt for ears, eyes, nose and feet
  • Ribbon for around the neck of the lamb
  • 1/4 Yard of 36 inch wide skin colored stockinette or cotton for the doll
  • 1/4 Yard of 36 inch wide patterned fabric for the doll's dress
  • Shirring elastic and ribbon
  • Scraps of felt for features
  • Thick wool (about 1/2 oz.) for hair

Figure 1 - Main Pieces for Doll & Lamb

Each Square = 1 Inch
Each Square = 1 Inch | Source

How to Make a Doll Hand Puppet

Make the Head & Features

Cut out two complete body pieces plus one extra head piece.

Placing right sides of complete pieces together and head piece on top, seam around outside leaving bottom open.

Turn up hem at bottom and machine all round.

Turn body right side out and insert stuffing (kapok, foam or any scraps may be used) between face and extra head piece.

Sew up to enclose stuffing but do not stitch through back piece - your middle fingers will go in the space between the stuffed portion and the back of the head.

Taking 14 inch strands of wool, add hair, commencing at the front, approximately 1½ inches down from the top of the head.

Secure hair with ribbons, trimming ends of hair and ribbon.

Pin eyes in position and embroider nose and mouth.

Over stitch eye pieces with small stitches.

Figure 2 - Dress Pattern for Doll Hand Puppet

Measurements in Inches
Measurements in Inches | Source

Make the Dress

Cut two pieces as shown in Figure 2.

Placing right sides together, seam along underarm line and down side seams, and hem base and sleeve edges.

Seam along top, leaving opening as shown.

Add shirring elastic along dotted lines.

Turn right side out and trim as desired.

For the beret, cut two circles 5 inches across and cut one of these in half. Hem the two halves down the straight sides. Then, placing halves on top of whole circle, right sides together, seam round outside of circles. Turn right side out and add pom-pom.

To make pom-pom, cut two circles of card 1½ inches across and remove a circle ½ inch across from the center of each. Placing the two circles of card together, wind wool round and round, taking it through center and over outer edge continuously.

When the whole ring is well covered, insert point of of scissors between outer edges of card and cut wool all round.

Taking a piece of wool round cutting line, pull tight and secure firmly. Your cut pieces of wool are thereby tied together at the center.

Ease card off each side, and wool will then spring into a ball shape.

Add pom-pom to center of hat.

To make Mary's lunch box, cover two insides of two matchboxes with brown self-adhesive plastic. Add 'handles' in the same plastic and an initial in a contrasting color.

How to Make a Lamb Hand Puppet

Make the Body

Cut two complete body pieces as shown plus two shaded areas and one gusset piece.

The arrows indicate the direction of the fur when cutting out.

Before cutting your material, ensure that you are cutting one left and one right of body and front pieces.

You should also cut two fur circles 2½ inches across for the ears and two pink felt circles of the same size.

Cut five black felt circles, 1 inch across, for paws and nose; four black felt strips 3½ inches by ¾ inch for paws; and two circles 3/8 inches across for eyes.

Placing right sides of front pieces together, seam down straight edge.

Right sides together, place main body pieces on the section already sewn and seam along front from base to neck, then seam two main pieces together from neck to nose.

Right sides together, pin gusset in place with blunt end to nose. You will find that the gusset ends halfway down the back seam.

Stitch gusset in place and continue seam down the two main pieces to base of animal.

Hem around the bottom edge and turn right side out.

To make ears, place felt on fur, right sides together, and seam three-quarters of the way round the circle.

Turn right side out.

Turn raw edges inward, gathering felt to shape ear, and sew ears in position.

Over stitch eyes and nose in place.

Make up each paw by sewing a straight piece of felt round a circle of felt.

Join short sides of strip where they meet, making thimble shape. Place 'thimbles' on paws and over stitch in position.

Insert stuffing in head (kapok, foam or any scraps may be used), loosely enough to allow the insertion of a finger.

Cut two triangles of any material with sides 2½ inches long.

Seam triangle down two sides and, with your finger, push into head.

Over sew base of triangle 'finger stall' to inside of neck.

You will then find that you can insert your finger into the head.

Finger Puppets
Finger Puppets | Source
Lion Puppet Pieces
Lion Puppet Pieces | Source

How to Make Finger Puppets

Finger puppets are really simple to make, and children should easily be able to tackle them. All that is needed are scraps of felt and a few bright ideas.

The main point to remember, is the puppets should really stand no more than four or five inches tall, and be narrow enough in the body to take one or two fingers comfortably.

The policeman and the soldier consist of appropriate colored felts, stitched into two cylinders, one to represent trousers and another for the jacket, with lines of stitching to outline the sleeves and rounds of pink felt added in the sleeve ends for hands.

To make the head, two ovals of pink felt and two hat shapes are sewn together to produce a flat head which is then sewn to the top of the body.

The little girl is made by sewing two flat body outlines together, and the features for all three puppets are drawn on with colored felt-tip pens.

All sorts of figures could be made along the same lines, witches, sailors, spacemen, cowboys, Indians and firemen, etc., all distinguished mainly by their different shaped headgear and appropriate colored felts.

The cat is simply two pieces of black felt sewn together with ears included in the seam and eyes made from green felt with sequins, and nose and whiskers are embroidered on.

The lion is a little different in that the body is made from a cylinder of felt cut obliquely at one end (see illustration).

The face, a circle of orange felt and the mane, a wider circle of brown felt snipped at the edges, are then sewn on top of one another to the slanting end of the body tube.

The felt ears, eye circles, nose and tail are then added.

More elaborate puppets could be made by stuffing heads and arms to give a more three-dimensional effect.

As for details, they can be as intricate as your patience allows.

Use strands of yarn to make hair, glue-stiffened string for whiskers, sequins, buttons or beads are good for eyes, small pieces of braid can be used for collars and cuffs, real fasteners for an Indian head-dress, and details like pockets, mustaches, noses and mouths can always be embroidered on.

Rag Dolls
Rag Dolls | Source

How to Make Rag Dolls

Rag dolls are a favorite with children. They are soft, easy, cheap to make and washable, if stuffed with one of the materials suggested.

You Will Need:

  • ½ Yard pink cotton fabric 26 inches wide
  • Small pieces of felt and fabric for clothes
  • Narrow lace for girl's blouse
  • Embroidery threads and needle for stitching features
  • Yarn for hair
  • About half a dozen small snap fasteners
  • Foam chips, cut-up rags, or nylons for stuffing
  • A short length of thin elastic
  • Scissors - Sewing thread - Pencil
  • 1 Inch squared paper

Figure 1 - Pattern Pieces for Body & Boots

Each Square = 1 Inch - For one body cut two of piece 1 (place fold as indicated) and four of piece 2 in pink fabric. In felt cut four of piece 3 and two of piece 4.
Each Square = 1 Inch - For one body cut two of piece 1 (place fold as indicated) and four of piece 2 in pink fabric. In felt cut four of piece 3 and two of piece 4. | Source

Make the Bodies

Draw up the pattern pieces in Figure 1 to full size and cut out two sets.

Make up two basic figures in pink fabric and give them felt boots (Figure 1) to match their clothes.

To make one body, sew together the leg pieces in pairs, leaving open at the top. Sew together the two body pieces, leaving open at base and top of head.

Turn legs and body right side out, then overhand stitch the legs firmly to the body.

Stuff through the top of the head, pushing the stuffing well down into legs and arms, and close the head gap with overhand stitching.

Sew across the tops of the legs and arms to give the limbs added flexibility.

To make the boots, sew together the shoe upper pieces and around the curve and down the back. Sew in the soles to the bottom of the shoe upper and slip completed boots on feet.

Stitch yarn loops over the heads for hair and embroider on the features.

Figure 2 - Pattern Pieces for the Clothes

Figure 2 - Each Square = 1 Inch
Figure 2 - Each Square = 1 Inch | Source
Figure 3a & Figure 3b - Making the Shirt
Figure 3a & Figure 3b - Making the Shirt | Source
Figure 4 - Making a Leg Piece
Figure 4 - Making a Leg Piece | Source

Make the Boy's Clothes

Draw up pattern pieces 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (Figure 2) to full size on 1 inch squared paper and use them to cut in fabric; one of pieces 1 and 5, and two of pieces 2 (one reversed), 3 and 4.

Note: The edges on pieces 1, 3 and 4 should be placed on a fold before cutting.

To make the shirt, sew the two shirt fronts to the shirt back (right sides facing) along shoulders and sides, leaving open armholes and center front (see Figure 3a).

Sew each sleeve (right sides facing) to make a cylinder (see Figure 3b).

Turn shirt and sleeves right sides out and sew the sleeves into the armholes.

Turn over a small hem down the center front edges and bottom and finish the neck and wrists with bias binding or small strips of fabric sewn on to make cuffs and collar.

Stitch on snap fasteners to secure the shirt front.

To make the dungarees, sew each leg piece into a cylinder (see Figure 4) and join the cylinders by sewing them together along the line A-B-C (see Figure 4).

Hem the waist and the end of each leg.

Turn over a small hem all around the bib outline, stitch the bib to the waist of the dungarees, cross over the straps and stitch them to the back of the waist.

Dress your doll.

Figure 5 - Inserting the Sleeve

Figure 5a - Figure 5b - Figure 5c - Inserting the Sleeve
Figure 5a - Figure 5b - Figure 5c - Inserting the Sleeve | Source
Figure 6 - Attaching the Waistband
Figure 6 - Attaching the Waistband | Source

Make the Girl's Clothes

Draw up the blouse pattern pieces 6, 7, and 8 to size and cut in fabric; one of piece 6, and two of pieces 7 (one reversed) and 8. Place piece 6 along a fold.

Stitch the fronts to the back as for the shirt.

On each sleeve piece sew up a hem along the long straight side.

This hem should be deep enough to take a narrow length of elastic.

Now sew the short sides on each sleeve together and baste around the curved edge (see Figure 5a).

Pull the basting thread to gather the top of the sleeve (see Figure 5b), then sew each sleeve into the armhole, securing the gathers.

Thread thin elastic through the hems to gather the sleeve bottoms, making puff sleeves (see Figure 5c).

Hem center front, next and bottom edges and trim sleeves and neck edge with lace.

To make the skirt, cut two strips of fabric, one 20 inches by 5 inches and one 10 inches by 3 inches for the waistband.

On the large strip sew together the 5 inch sides along half their length and hem under each edge for the rest of the length.

This make the waist opening.

Fold the waistband in half lengthwise (right sides facing) and sew across each end.

Turn right side out.

Baste and gather the skirt top, then sew on the waistband (see Figure 6).

Secure the waistband with snap fasteners.

Dress the doll and make up a scarf length in matching fabric.

This concludes the instructions for hand puppets, finger puppets and rag dolls.

Until next time,

Happy Crafting!

© 2013 Dawn


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    • SavannahEve profile image

      Suzi Rayve 

      6 years ago from California

      This is AWESOME! Thank you for this hub! What a wonderful idea and one I will definitely use. Voted up!


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