Ruth in Progress

When I debuted my Louis CK finger puppet a few years ago I shared some of the behind the scenes process I go through in defining a puppet design in felt. With the release of my news designs this year, I thought it would be fun to share a bit more of how I settled on the look of my new Ruth Bader Ginsburg puppet.

I decided to try making a RBG puppet after the photo of her hugging Obama made the rounds post-State of the Union. Clearly she’d been in the news before then, and were I better about being ahead of the curve on the cultural Zeitgeist I would’ve thought of her as a puppet months before. At least I caught on eventually : )

Any design process starts with an idea, and though there are a million amazing people I could attempt to turn into finger puppets on any given day, the particulars of creating a puppet mean that not just anybody will work well 4″ tall and in felt. A subject has to have a distinctive look– hair, clothing, expression, etc. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg diagnosed with pancreatic cancerClearly Ruth is a lady with a look all her own. Pulled back hair, oversized glasses, serious expression. Not to mention those elaborate lace collars over the black judges robe– those are the thing of a puppet-maker’s dreams.

So after the idea stage, and the let’s-think-this-through stage comes the sketching stage. I’m not really much a sketcher, to be honest. Getting things down on paper helps, but only to a point. A sketch can capture the details that I want to be sure to include, but I find that it’s important that I try sewing a new design pretty quickly. I refined my drawing to Ruth a few times, along with some of the other new puppets I was considering, and then got to work.

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My first attempts at sewing a new puppet tend to be a lot like sketches. Sometimes I get lucky and a design kind of flows out nearly complete, but more often I’ll do a few versions, revising details and adding and subtracting elements until I get something that feels right.

With the RBG puppet, I did four revisions on her face before I was happy with how she came together. Each of those four is pictured below. In the first round, I had the long, narrow face, but her forehead was too square, and her glasses weren’t exaggerated enough. The second attempt you can see I liked more, because I finished the entire puppet. Sometimes it’s not until the very end that I can really step back and see what’s working, and what’s not. In this case, the face was a little too wide and the glasses still weren’t right. Her expression was also a bit too blank. 

The third version finally felt like it was coming together. The eyebrows added the sternness I was looking for, and finally the glasses are right– rounded frames, and bigger. You can see I only did one cheekbone because I knew that I liked where it was going and didn’t need to do any more. Bu the face was still a bit broader than I would’ve liked, so I started over one more time and finally got it. Final Ruth: narrow face, slanted eyebrows, giant, rounded glasses, angular cheekbones, and now the filled out robe, lace collar, earrings and taller hair. Voila!

Of course there will always be variation when I’m actually making a full batch of puppets. Some will be thinner, some a little thicker. Some will have taller hair, some shorter, some bigger collars, some bigger glasses. But having that first version that I’m happy with gives me something to work off of from then on.

It’s a process that I’ve refined over the last nearly 10 years (sheesh!) and it works well for me. It really is like drawing tiny little caricatures with thread and scissors every single time. Luckily, it gets easier after the hundreth or so ; )

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.48.04 PMNotorious puppet RBG is available in my shop now! Perfect for all the important rulings you need to make in your life.


Mad Men’s End, and What Draper Wore

I started re-watching Mad Men last week. A few months ago I thought that it would be fun (slash obsessive) to rewatch the whole series in anticipation of the finale in a few weeks. Even with my binge-watching tendencies, I know I will not be making it through 7 1/2 seasons over the next two weeks. That said, it’s been fun to go back to the start and see just how different the show was– back when Joan played dumb and Peggy was mousy, Pete tried to get on Don’s good side and Betty bit her tongue, back when we used to think Don Draper might not be such a terrible guy. Don’t worry, that last one went away quick.


In the GQ interview with Jon Hamm that came out recently (and is worth a read. Gotta love a guy who loves his dog), there was a link to a slideshow of everything Don Draper has ever worn on the series.Don

Though my personal favorite may be this outfit, if you’re a fanatic and weirdo like you, looking through the photos is nearly as good as rewatching the series itself. Heck, maybe I’ll just look through at 491 of the pictures in anticipation of the end. That’ll make Don’s final grey suit all the sweeter.


I was thinking the other day that I don’t think I have ever worn out the knees of a single pair of pants I’ve owned. When I was younger, holes in your jeans was a thing (I’m looking at you, Joey Lawrence). My mom was not about to buy me the kind that came pre-ripped, and the knees were just never an area I seemed to wear out. That said, in the three short years my child has been on the planet (only two of those walking, mind you), I can’t count the number of pants he’s worn the knees out on. It’s amazing how hard he is on his pants, and between the climbing onto counters, impromptu break dance parties and sidewalk trips that happen on a daily basis, it’s no wonder.12577787064_01c0719e01_zOver the weekend I decided to tackle two pairs of Henry’s pants that had recently developed holes in the knees. One thing about the damage he does to his clothes, till now he’s generally grown too fast to make it worthwhile to fix them– by the time he’s worn them through, he’s just about on to the next size anyway. But of the two pants that had been the latest casualties, both still fit relatively well and one of them I’ve formed a bit of an attachment to.

Last winter I bought Henry what at the time was a ridiculously long pair of 2T cords in my favorite mustard yellow. They were one of the first items of clothing he could talk about specifically (“I wear my yellow pant, Mama?”) and he’s worn them weekly or more for over a year. He loves them, I love them, so when the knew split last week I decided to try to see what could be done to save them.

When I was a kid, I remember my mom patching my pants with the stiff patch kits they sell at the grocery store. They came in a stock of four or five rounded plasticy rectangles in colors that were supposed to inconspicuous against your pants but never quite were. I remember they always felt sticky and stiff, and after being fixed the pants were never really the same.

There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest on mending pants, and one that caught my eye recently was a Japanese sashiko technique. Instead of trying to hide the repair, sashiko embroidery is meant to be both functional and interesting, embracing the mended portion as something that can add to the garment instead of trying to hide it.

I tried my hand on Henry’s two pant legs, adding stitching little crosses to the knees, reinforced by a layer of felt underneath (I’m all about the felt, no surprise). Overall it was a little tough to get the stitches started, and extra difficult because the legs of the pants are so narrow, but once it got going the sewing went quickly. And the results are pretty substantial as far as patches go, but still flexible enough for Henry to wear without much trouble, I think.

We’ll see how they hold up over the long run. And if it goes well, there are plenty of other pants on the verge of losing their knees to perfect the technique soon enough.

Magazine Covers, Improved

When I was in middle school, obsessively paging through magazines was considered a legit pastime, only trumped by drawing over the women pictured on the glossy pages. I distinctly remember markering-over the girls in the Delia’s catalog (oh how I loved circa 1996 Delia’s), tattooing and adding mustaches to the models I didn’t like, and adding elaborate backgrounds for the ones I did.

Designer Ana Strumpf has taken a decidedly more grown up approach to my magazine-decorating habit in her Re.Cover series. Check out some of her colorized and improved images–

via Honestly WTF.


Lend a Hand

I’m calling it– hands are the new “it” motif. Eyes had their minute, sure, but I think that hands as muse are about to have their design moment. Don’t believe me? Check out these artistic odes to those things at the ends of your wrists–

Thumbs Up print by Strawberry Moth

Petra Börner via It’s Nice That

Vintage image via RawDraw.Favorite

Inky Hands by Rachel Crew

Epigenetics by Matt Forsythe

“Can We Get Pizza Anyway”: Philippa Rice’s “Soppy”

Since 2013, illustrator Philippa Rice has been chronicling her relationship with her boyfriend, Luke in a sweet series of web comics, and the drawings were recently released as the book, Soppy. Rather than the dramatic gestures that usually characterize how we talk about love in pop culture, Soppy is full of weird, funny, everyday moments. Reading it, I kept thinking “Hey, we do that, too!” and suddenly the things that I thought were singular quirks to just my relationship seemed almost universal. Maybe none of us are as weird as we’d like to think ; )

New Designs: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Broad City

I’m so excited to announce the release of two brand new finger puppet designs that went live in my shop today! My collection had been sorely lacking in the lady department, so I’m excited to debut three badass women– Notorious RBG herself, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

Broad City Finger Puppets Ruth Bader Ginsburg Finger PuppetBringing together a Supreme Court Justice and two barely-employed potheads is a bit of an unusual combination, perhaps, but few public figures have gotten my little feminist heart more excited that these three women in the past year. Ruth for her straight talk and courage (not to mention that whole “not 100% sober” thing at the State of the Union thing). And Abbi and Ilana, well, because they are brave and ridiculous and completely hilarious. If there were three women who most deserved to join the ranks of my puppet collection, these are definitely them.Broad City Finger Puppets Ruth Bader Ginsburg Finger Puppets

RBG and Abbie & Ilana are available in my shop now!