This story, like many good stories, starts with an unexpected find. Christina texted me one day back at the end of May:

If your awesome partner ever asks if you need a hand puppet in your life and it’s a gosh danged Muppet, the answer is yes!

She found this sad-looking dude at the Goodwill, but he was definitely a step above the usual stuff that I, at least, typically find there.

Once she got home I began to get sense of what this guy was about. Nice felt, definitely some pen marks and someone had destroyed whatever had passed for hair on his head. Some of the seams on his nose were also starting to separate as well as some seams on his body. All of this seemed very fixable though. And what a character! He looks like a cousin of Fozzie Bear, minus the fur and the bear, but a very similar look.

While examining him, I found a label, and not some large conglomerate:

From a Google search, I found that “Dr. David Pannabecker is an internationally recognized puppet designer and instructor. He studied puppet design with Kermit Love, creator of Sesame Street Big Bird. David has taught puppet-making workshops all over the world”. Well! That explains the similarity and relationship to Muppets.

Some additional searching shows that you can get a Pannabecker puppet from Puppets Inc., which is based on his designs but built by that company. They go for $150-$200, usually.

My goal, then, was to see if I could repair this boy and get him back to ship shape!

The first step was to identify all the places I could clean up and that needed repair. A bit of Barge cement addressed the places where the seams were coming apart, though you do have to be careful not to stick things together that don’t belong together.

If you can’t see where I repaired the 1/2″ seam separation, then Good! I did my job pretty well.

After the basic repairs, I had to do something to help his hair. He did not look happy with his hair…

I did some research on ways to do puppet hair and settled on an approach. After a trip to the fabric store, I basically cut and (hand) sewed him a toupee, but I also folded the edges underneath and secured them with hot glue. Finally, I hand-stitched the new toupee to his noggin to secure it. The additional advantage of this approach over hot gluing it is that I can change it later if necessary by just cutting a few stitches.

He seemed much happier with a new head of hair!

Additionally, I built some custom hand rods that compress around his wrists and allow me to puppet his hands as needed and remove the rods when I don’t need them. This seemed a superior solution to trying to insert rods and secure them internally, which would have meant breaking his seams open again and I really didn’t want to do that if I could help it.

The final step was to address the tragic shirt he was wearing which just didn’t work for him, I felt. I told Christina what I pictured was a nice Hawaiian shirt, but for a two-year-old. Something that maybe had some elements of his hair color to bring it together. A couple of weeks later, she sent me to pick up a shirt that someone had offered up for free and it was PERFECT!

Now, do I need a Puppet/Muppet? Absolutely not. Am I happy that I have a puppet/muppet made by someone who trained with the folks who made Big Bird? Damn straight!

Finally, here he is, on his stand, surrounded by a few new friends.

I still haven’t settled on a name for him that really clicks. Let me know if you have any awesome ideas.

Categories: Make

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