I have to start by giving credit to Larissa @ Just Another Day in Paradise, who created some AMAZING Old McDonald farm animal felt puppets with detailed patterns, instructions, and pictures. I am obsessed with these puppets even though they are a bit tedious to cut out and sew. Also, they have been a super hit with Elise and her cousins who also got a set this fall. Please take the time to check out Larissa’s post…and then read on for my own creations, the zoo animal collection!
Here are all 8 of the finished zoo animal puppets: penguin, panda bear, monkey, fox, elephant, hippo, peacock, and lion. Hopefully the pictures will give you some incentive to make it to the end of the cutting and sewing process for these cuties.
Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate – It is a little more advanced primarily because of the intricate sewing around the felt pieces and the tricky tension.
Time: 3 to 4 hours (an afternoon or an evening of work)
Here are the PDFs of the pattern pieces for all 8 animals. Print patterns on a 8-1/2″ x 11″ paper. All seam allowances are 1/8″ (or as close to the edge as possible, since you won’t have to worry about fraying). All of the patterns are labeled with how many of each piece to cut out, for which animals, and in what colors.
Felt in the following colors:
Larissa does a great job in her post with the basic “how to” of putting an animal together, so I won’t repeat. The short recap of her instructions is:
Pattern & Sewing Tips
- The puppet body piece from Larissa’s pattern is big enough for achild’s hand, but not really wide enough for an adult hand (if you want to play with the puppets too!) So, I have added about 1/2″ to 3/4″ on each edge of the body to give more room for an adult hand. In the picture you can see my hand traced onto Larissa’s pattern, and then how I cut it out slightly larger than the pattern to accommodate. My pattern pieces take this into account, making the finished puppets slightly larger.
- Sewing on the eyes, paws, and toes are probably the worst part of the sewing since they get bunched up and are hard to position correctly for sewing. I found that using a dab of craft glue and giving it time to dry (while I sewed the other puppets) helped set the piece into place for sewing. The craft glue was also critical for the feathers of the peacock (see below for details).
- There is no pattern piece for the eyes because they are just small ovals – cut out two for each animal.
- When you sew the front and back puppet bodies together, I have found it helpful to move my needle position all the way to the left, to help keep my seam allowance very narrow. Additionally, this will help your foot move over the puppet edge despite the bulk of fabric that can be tucked inside the puppet from overhang pieces (see special note section below).
- Changing the thread colors really adds time to this project, so I tried to create a workflow of sewing as much as I could with each color before changing it. Here it goes:
- Glue feathers together for peacock tail, toenails onto puppet front for elephant and hippo, paws on elephant, and eyes to each face/puppet piece.
- Gray: sew the trunk and tail on the elephant.
- White: sew toenails and tusks on the elephant, face and belly on penguin, teeth on hippo, belly and face and inside of ears on fox.
- Light blue: sew face on peacock.
- Orange: sew beak on peacock, beak and feet on penguin, tail and ears on fox, belly and nose and paws on lion.
- Yellow: sew tail on lion.
- Tan: sew face, inside of ears, and belly on monkey
- Brown: sew tail and nose and ears and smile onto monkey, sew mane and end of tail on lion.
- Light purple: sew tail, toenails, inside of ears, and nose on hippo.
- Black: sew tail and eyes on penguin, sew penguin body pieces together (penguin complete), sew eyes on elephant, eyes on hippo, eyes on monkey, eyes on peacock, eyes and nose and whiskers on fox, eyes and nose and whiskers on lion, eye patches and ears and nose and body stripe on panda.
- Dark purple: sew ears and nostrils of hippo, sew hippo body pieces together (hippo complete), sew tail feathers of peacock
- Light Green: sew belly and tail piece on peacock.
- White: sew tail tip on fox, eyes on panda, sew panda body pieces together (panda complete).
- Gray: sew elephant body pieces together, sew elephant ears to outside of elephant face (elephant complete).
- Orange: sew fox body pieces together (fox complete).
- Brown: sew monkey body pieces together (monkey complete).
- Yellow: sew body pieces of lion together, sew ears onto lion mane (lion complete).
- Dark blue: sew body of peacock together (peacock complete).
Monkey and Panda: These are probably the two easiest puppets to sew because there is nothing “special” about them – just follow Larissa’s instructions for sewing the pieces onto the front and back of the body, sew the body pieces together and flip. I didn’t have tan thread to sew the monkey’s face and body pieces so I just used brown… I think tan would have looked a little better. Live and learn 😉 I also think adding another black dot for the panda’s eye inside of the white would make it look less “hollow.”
Penguin: The penguin’s feet (front) and tail (back) hang over the edge a bit. For the tail, it isn’t an issue because the bottom edge of the puppet is open. For the feet, make sure to leave about 1/3″ between your sewing on the feet and the edge of the puppet (to allow for seam allowance). You will basically be tucking the overhang of the feet into the puppet when you sew the body pieces together to avoid them getting sewn into the side seams. It may help to pin them in before you start sewing the side seams. This same strategy is used for the next couple puppets.
Here is what the inside of the penguin looks like before I sewed the body pieces together. Note that the feet are carefully sewn, avoiding the edge.
Hippo: There is a very slight overhang of the nose, so using the same strategy as the penguin (above) make sure to leave at least 1/3″ allowance between your sewing on the nose and the edge of the puppet body. Again, use caution when sewing the puppet body pieces together.
Fox: The white face pieces hang over the edge of the fox’s face. Follow instructions for penguin and hippo above to avoid sewing those overhang edges into the side seam of the puppet.
Elephant: Unlike the other animals, the ears are not sewn at all (not even the two ear pieces together) until after the body pieces are sewn together and turned. Then, lay the ears on the side of the elephants face with one piece in front and the other in back. Match up the outside edges of the ear and sew around the entire ear – the seam where the ear meets the face will have 4 layers of felt (the two pieces of the body sandwiched between the two ear pieces).
Lion: The front and back mane pieces are sewn to each puppet body piece before sewing the body pieces together and turning. The front mane is attached with a seam just around the lion’s face (inside edge of the mane). The mane on the backside is a circle that is about 1/3″ to 1/2″ inside the edge of the puppet. When you are ready to sew the body pieces together tuck the mane into the puppet – it can be helpful to pin the edges in toward the center of the face. Then, sew the body pieces together, carefully avoiding sewing the mane into the seam. When you flip the finished puppet so right sides are facing out, the mane should be free flowing and not “caught” in the seam of the puppet. The final step is to sew the two yellow ears on top top of the head & mane.
Peacock: The peacock has a bit of an extra step in putting the tail together before attaching.
Start with a line of craft glue around the tail semi-circle and add the feathers around the circle. The picture in the top right with the full feathers covering the semicircle is outward facing.
Next add another round of glue to the backside of the semicircle, and add the yellow feathers. All the feathers, starting with the yellow are glued to the inside of the tail (this will be inward facing). After the yellow, add another round of glue, and the blue feathers.
Add another round of glue and the dark purple feathers and finally glue the light purple feathers.
After allowing time for the glue to dry (see recommended work flow above), sew the feathers using 8 “spokes” starting at the center edge (light green feathers) and working to the outside edge with light purple feathers.
Your tail is now ready to be attached to the backside puppet body. I aligned the bottom of the feather piece with the bottom of the peacock arms. Then sewed across the bottom of the green tail and in two semicircles around the feathers. As with many of the other puppets, the trick is to make sure you do not sew within 1/3″-1/2″ of the edge of the puppet body to ensure that the tail doesn’t get caught in the seam of the puppet body pieces. Again, before you sew the body, pin the feathers in toward the center of the body to keep them from getting caught. sew the body pieces together, turn right side out and unpin. Fingers crossed that your feathers are all “free” and not caught in the seam.
Ok, those are all the tips and tricks I have up my sleeve for this project! These puppets mostly require a lot of patience… focus on the happy customer that is awaiting your finished product.