Saturday, November 7, 2009

ASL /Homeschool Puppet

I was looking up puppets for a Little House project and I spent some time admiring professional puppets.  They look like so much fun! We have a few at home that we play with, and they are great for story telling and role playing. And as I was web browsing I saw some puppets that were two handed-one for the mouth movements and the other fit into a shirt sleeve that was on the body of the puppet and into a gloved hand. It really helps to animate the the puppet.
So my gears started working and with the puppets I had seen, including a puppet on Dr Wonders Workshop, and the desire to add a new activity to our ASL learning I came up with Paws. You don't need a working mouth for an ASL puppet, but two working hands!

He is an over sized 20" stuffed animal that I bought at the thrift store, a size 6X boys long sleeve jersey shirt and a pair of fleece gloves. (You could use stretchy gloves from the dollar store as well) All those supplies cost me a whopping $3!

Here are the directions....

1 large cuddly stuffed animal of choice (make sure there is a forehead and a mouth area and a chin area on the head, sounds crazy, but trust me! Round headed animals are the easiest)
1 long sleeved shirt that fits the animal (don't worry about extra long arms or length, just have a pleasant fit around the body and neck. Make sure that you can fit your forearms into the sleeves and your hands past the cuffs.)
1 pair of fleece, nylon or stretch knit gloves. (Thick heavy gloves or chenille gloves don't work because you can't shape signs with your fingers well enough)

Tools Needed
stitch ripper 

a strong all purpose thread in the color of the shirt and the animal

hand needle
sewing machine


Prepare the Bear (or other stuffed animal like our lion):Carefully with your stitch ripper, remove the arms of your animal and then with your needle, whip stitch the body closed. (I know, a sad thing to do.  That's why we didn't pick a toy from our own toy boxes) Set aside and pick up the shirt.

 Armholes: Carefully cut the back seam of the shirt arm that runs from the shoulder to the under arm along the seam. Roll and pin the now cut and open area into a hem and sew all around with your sewing machine.

Hands: Sew the gloves by hand to the inside cuff of the shirt. Stretch the gloves and cuff with your non sewing hand inside of them as you sew the two together around and along the shirts natural hem. This way you know you have enough stretch to get your hands through

Shortening and lining the shirt: Now here comes the tricky to explain part.... the shirt will probably be way to long for the puppet, but you are going to use the extra length to create a liner so that you don't have stray fur or color popping out of the arm openings as you use your puppet.

- From the shirt bottom, fold the shirt up inside itself until the bottom hem at the side seam reaches the shoulder seam right by the neckline. With your needle and matching thread tack the shoulder/neck seam and bottom hem together. Repeat for second side.

- Lay the shirt flat on a table inside right, and with the bottom hem still tucked up inside,  even up the fold around the bottom and pin all the way around

- Sew around the shirt 1 inch up from the fold edge. This makes the shirt look like it's hemmed.

5. Place the shirt on the puppet. With a needle and thread tack the shirt (at the same place you tacked the shirt at the neck) to the top of  where you whip stitched the arm holes together. This would be the shoulder of the puppet. Do this on both side so that the shirt won't be removed. The remaining tucked up shirt fabric is just left alone, unless you find there is too much bulk, then you could tack it in various discreet places to the puppet.

6. Now have fun! Go to Paws To Tell You or SigningSavvy  to learn some ASL alphabet and favorite words (manners like "please" and "thank-you" are good preschool signs to start with)
Place an arm down each sleeve and place the puppet in your lap. Keep your elbows tight to your side as you move the arms of your puppet. (or it will look like a puppet gone out of control with dislocated joints!)


  1. This looks like just the thing for me as I am trying to create a signing puppet for a Hands and Voices puppet workshop we are having in September. Thanks for the idea and detailed directions.

  2. Send me pictures when you do and I will post them up!