Weird Kid Store - Mascot and Puppet Supplies

Esther? No, not your auntie...I'm talking about foam!

Esther foam has to be one of my favorite foams to carve - mainly due to its ability to be rigid enough to hold up to carving and rasping while remaining soft and flexible.

For this reason I love to use it to make mascot feet, puppet bodies, and puppet limbs.

As you can see in the first image below the foam is soft enough that i can press my thumb into it and it fully recovers.  In the second and third image you can see how precise it can be cut through using an olfa knife.  The final image shows a mascot foot that has been carved out of esther foam.

Esther foam can be easily glued using 3M Foamfast 74 glue.  Simply spray both surfaces with a light coat of glue, let stand until tacky and press together.  For best resuts, I recommend glueing the pieces together and letting the pieces dry overnight to let the glue dry out really well.  If you try to carve through the glue spots too early you'll find that it "gums" up your blade. 

 

 

Now get building!

Foam Fast 74 Glue...I'm Stuck on You!

Glue is such an important part of building mascots and puppets and the kind of spray glue is crucial to your success.  I struggled for a long time using 3M Super 77 mainly because it was easy to find and I really liked it's strength and the fact that it's basically clear however, I can't stand the misting!

As you may or may not know this type of spray glue loves to mist.  Since most of the time we only want glue in a very specific spot, this can be very troublesome.  Not to mention that it sort of gets on everything and can be a pain to clean up.

And thats where my love affair with 3M Foam Fast 74 begins.  This glue has the same (if not better) adhesion quailities and you can really control the volume and direction of the spray!

Check out the image below to see how I've been able to control both the amount of glue that comes out of the can and get a very specific edge.  The first image shows a thin stream of glue that comes out when the nozzle (seen in the center image) is set to "L" for Low while the final image shows the wider spray of glue that comes out when set to "H" for a higher volume.  Note that even though the volume is higher I still maintain a specific edge.... that's what I call true glue love!

As I mentioned in my previous post "Upholstery Foam....is for sitting", this foam works great for adhering foams, fabrics, and some rubbers.  The only word of caution I would give is that if you are going to be putting white fabric over top of your final product this bright orange glue might show through. You can get around this by using the clear version of this glue which (although a bit more smelly) works just as well.

It's also important when you are using any type of adhesive to make sure and read (and follow) the warnings on the can regarding proper ventalation and consult the manufacturer's website regarding safety information for the product.

Now get building!

Upholstery foam...is for sitting.

While upholstery foam is great for sofas, chairs and headboards, it's my opinion that it should NEVER be used for mascots and puppets.

The main issue I have with using this foam for building mascots and puppets is that it's an opened cell foam product. Opened cell basically means that it easily absorbs moisture, for example from breathing or perspiration. That can become problematic and unpleasant, especially if more than one person has to wear the costume or use the puppet. In addition, trapped moisture is a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of fungus and bacteria.

Closed cell foam is really the only way to go when making the base for a mascot head in my opinion.  E.V.A. foam (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) is a non-toxic closed cell foam.  What that really means to the mascot builder (and performer) is that it won't absorb water and you can easily wipe it clean! Once you have the base shape of your head built, you can block up areas on the outside of the head using either ESTHER foam or ETHA foam to carve details and features.

For puppet building, RETICULATED foam is the best!  The main reason is that the pores are so big which allows for flexibility and breathability.  Flexibility is obvious but breathability is what I really like.  This means your hand isn't going to get as sweaty as it would using upholstery foam and when your puppet is ultimately due for a cleaning you can easily wash it and the foam will dry out completely.

All of the foams mentioned here can also be glued together using Foamfast 74 which is such a great non-misting glue......and let me tell you, (as a guy with hairy arms) non misting is a dream come true. :)

Now get building!

Ahead of the Curve

When you first start using a curved needle, it might feel a bit like driving on the other side of the road at first, but once you get used to it....there will be no turning back!

If you've ever tried to hand sew something in a crevice or keep two pieces of fabric flat while hand sewing with a regular straight needle you know it's a pain.  You either end up with much bigger stitches then you want, or you have to pull the fabric so far away from what you're sewing that it never looks quite like you imagined.

Curved needle to the rescue!  

With a curved needle you can easily get the tip of the needle in hard to reach spots and make a tiny stitch while keeping the fabric flat.

The series of pictures below shows how I keep an ear positioned on a mascot head, dig into one side of the fabric, do a gentle little twist with my wrist to make a small stitch, exit the fabric and continue with my ladder stitch to secure the ear to the head all while keeping the ear in the position that I want with my left hand.

 

Now all I have to to is pick the antron fleece to disguise the seams, and this ear is ready to hear...well....you know what I mean. ;)

Now get building!

Burfab (a.k.a. Veltrex) is the New Black!

Burfab or Veltrex is a great fabric to use when you want something to have a smooth almost suede-like finish.  I also think it looks a lot like flocking (but much less dangerous to work with).

The only down side of Burfab is that it's next to impossible to hide your seams.  I recommend trying to place your seams in spots that will later be hidden by something else going on your mascot/puppet (e.g. under the arms of glasses or moustache), or in a more natural spot like a laugh line or forehead brow line.

Once you have the Burfab pattern figured out, machine sewn together, and glued over your shape it might look rather...well...sloppy!  Don't worry!  Here's my favorite part!  STEAMING!

As you can see in the image below, this mascot shoe looked pretty rough (on the left) when it was first covered in black Burfab.  But after the magic of a bit of steam it looks smooth and hugs the shape beautifully!


Once the Burfab is steamed smooth, all you have to do is go over it with a sticky lint roller and it will look incredible!

Now get building!

Hiding Seams with Antron Fleece

The first time I saw Antron fleece I thought it looked too pilly and worn.....I was working as a Flintstones character at the time and the costumes that year had be re-designed.  I was not impressed. Where they had previously been covered with fleshtone faux fur, they were replaced with Antron. Since that introduction all those years ago, it has now become one of my favorite fabrics and I absolutely love it for mascots and puppets!

Why you ask? I will tell you.

Antron fleece is stretchy, VERY easy to work with, accepts dye incredibly well (I like to use RIT brand dye), and hides seams beautifully!  Hiding seams (as you know) is a must have in the mascot and puppet world.

To hide the seams you're best off to hand sew them closed using either a ladder or baseball stitch, however you can still hide machined seams with a bit more work.

Once you have your seams sewn together you can pick the seams out using a needle (which in my opinion takes forever) or you can fold a small piece of Velcro (hook side) and gently move it back and forth in the seam to lift the fabric and fill the seam in.  

In this image of a hog ear you can see the seam along the edge is almost gone just from the hand sewing but not quite.  In the middle image I have a small piece of 2" wide Velcro (The hook side) that I've folded in half and I'm just gently working the hook into the seam and lifting the fleece to fill it in.  You can rub the lifted fleece afterwards to blend it in even more.  As you can see in the final image, the seam is gone!

Antron Fleece Seam

You can also use a piece of the hook side Velcro to refresh Antron if it starts to look too pilly or matted.

Now get building!

Mascot and Puppet Supplies

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