Costume making for Punch & Judy Puppets

A good puppet costume needs to be:

As long as your forearm so that you can reach into the hanging puppet and position your fingers in the head and arms.

Wide enough at the puppetís chest so that your fingers can fit into the arms, but not too wide that the finger movements are hidden by the costume in performance.

Wide enough at the hem to allow for the costume can be turned over the puppetís head to protect it when packed away. If your Punch is to have practical legs (moveable) you will also need to be able to fit two hands into the costume.

Steps for making a basic glove

1.Trace the costume pattern onto a larger piece of thin paper. Extend the lines so that the overall length is 45cm and the half width at the new extended hem is 180cm.

Cut out the pattern following the cut out line as indicated.



2. The material used should be heavy and hard wearing cotton such as gaberdine or drill.

Start with a piece 400mm wide by 500mm long and fold the cloth into half and then half again so that when you cut out the pattern you will end up with two symmetrical shapes. Align the centre line of the pattern along the folded edge and pin it to the cloth. Cut out the shapes.

3. Repeat this same process using the material for the lining. This material should be lighter - a polished cotton gives the puppet a good feel and slips on and off with ease.

4. Sew the lining above the arms and down the sides. Be sure to back stich at the start and end of each sew. When sewing try to maintain the correct distance from the materialís edge ( As indicated on the pattern).

5. Cut out and sew the stiffening material in place on the arms of the costume. This should be the stiffest available as it gives the arms more body and better expression. Be sure to sew these onto the inner side of the costume.

6. Hem the top of the collar and the bottom edge of the costume to stop fraying. (Refer to the dotted line on the pattern.)

Before sewing up the costume you will need to cut out a waistcoat and jacket if the puppet you are making has one. (See the section on jackets & waistcoats.)

7. Lay out the costume so that it is inside out. (You should be able to see the arm stiffening.) Pin together so the pieces donít move.

8. Sew the pieces as with the lining. Turn the costume inside out.

9. Position the lining inside the costume. (Do not turn the lining inside out.) The lining is hand sewn (tacked) to the top of the costume collar and at the cuffs of each sleeve. (Be sure not to twist the sleaves of the lining. Check that the seems are aligned and that the lining sits neatly in the glove.)

10. The hem of the costume is about 10mm. Fold the costume and lining over together and pin it before machine sewing.

When the costume is complete you will cut a slit in this hem at the back of the costume. A soft copper or aluminium wire is threaded around the hem to keep the opening of the glove apart. Be sure the wire is inserted within the lining and it will not catch on the seams as it is threaded through. Twist the wire together. Using strong thread, sew up the slit and attach a 25mm ring to the wire. Sew this thread many times through the ring to that it is strongly attached. The puppet is hung from this ring, as your hand is thrust into the glove this can be a possible weak spot.

11. The collar is turned over in the same way. A piece of normal wire will be threaded through and twisted to attach the head of the puppet. This twisted bit is folded down so as not to catch on anything. Be sure the wire sits in the groove carved into the neck of the puppet.

12. The sleeves are turned over and hemmed at the correct distance. (This measurement is defined by the length of your middle finger and should be done with the glove on your hand.) On some of the puppets lace can be sewn on for decorative effect. The hands are positioned, glued and sewn in so there is no danger of them falling out during a performance.

Jackets & Waistcoats.

On my puppets I make a jacket for Judy in a different material. I make this as a completely separate layer. I use the same pattern but make it just slightly larger. When the glove is complete I fit it as you would a normal jacket.

Alternatively you could construct it as part of the glove. This would involve cutting the jacket a below the arms, and the cutting the upper part of the costume off and sewing the two pieces together before sewing the front and back of the costume together.

Jack Ketch and the Doctor are given waistcoats. These are made after cutting out and before sewing together the costume. I use the same pattern as the glove but cut much shorter and cut out V-necks. I hem the bottom and neckline before positioning the waistcoat over the front of the glove. I then sew it on around the same line as I attach the stiffening (refer to pattern).

For coats I make three pieces for the costume instead of two. The third has a shorter collar and is a little shorter in length for the Doctor. I hem the bottom and collar of this piece before sewing the three pieces together.

When I turn the costume inside out I cut lengthways down the centre of the outer piece to reveal the waistcoat and hem the two sides.

The edge is hemmed and a short collar is made that fits around the two front panels and the back of the neck. This I pin and fit carefully before hand sewing into position.

The costume for Ketch is different from the others in that it is shorter, the coat is the same length as the glove and it does not have a copper wire threaded through the hem. The ring is sewn to the inside of the glove a little higher up than the hem. All of this is so that when he hangs outside the booth the glove looks like a coat and the ring cannot be seen. I also add a pair of legs that dangle down in a comically disproportionate fashion. These are made similar to Punchís, but with out the holes for the fingers to operate them.

I finish off by hand sewing in a shirt and collar, adding a scarf for Ketch and a cravat for the Doctor; who also gets a gold watch chain to make him look a bit more important.



Practical legs for Punch.

Before the two halves of the costume are sewn together I cut two slits in the front piece wide enough to easily fit two fingers. I stitch these around the edge so they donít fray. I match these on the lining piece. The costume lining are sewn together around the slits after the lining is sewn in place.

During a performance you will need to be able to easily bring your left hand up into the costume and poke your fingers through these to make the legs kick.

This may mean that the width of Punchís costume at the hem may need to be wider than the other puppets. Never make Punchís costume first. Make another puppetís and experiment to see if some adjustment is required.

The legs have short cardboard tubes attached for the fingers to fit into.

I make trouser legs as tubes of material. The top is sewn around the finger holes and the other is attached to the top of the wooden legs.

Punchís hat

There are a few ways to produce a Punch hat. This is but one.

The main body of the hat is cut from two pieces of material according to the pattern and is sewn together and hemmed at the bottom. The hat is turned inside out. You will need to check that you have managed to sew neat curves at this stage as you may need to make corrections in order to get a nice looking hat. Also, you will need to fit the hat on your Punchís head to see that it is a good fit.

Next you cut out the brim for the back and front. Again fold a piece of material in half and cut out according to the pattern Hem the top and bottom.

Fit and pin the two pieces into position on the hat. Pin together the front and back brims so that you will know where to sew them together. Take the brim off the hat and sew the two pieces together. This should give you a circle of material that fits exactly around the hat.

Sew some braid around the brim of the hat and then sew the brim to the hat. After this I sew by hand a larger more decorative braid around the hat. Stuff the hat so that it maintains its shape. The hat is attached to the head using six gold furniture tacks. These hold the hat firmly, can be easily removed if necessary and have a decorative effect.

I have found it almost impossible to find a decent tassel and so I always make my own using thicker thread. A good tassel adds to the movement and colour as Punch flits about. Some Punches have gold badges or ornaments sewn to the front of their hats.



The rest of the costume

Punch usually needs a sort of apron to cover the spot where his legs are attached to the glove. This can be the same cloth as used for the body or it can be a different colour. It is usually trimmed with braid. The piece should be slightly wider than the width of the glove just above the legs. This means it can be sewn on with a bit of a gather around the waist. The bottom of the apron may need to be stitched down to the legs so that it doesnít stay up after the legs have been used. Alternatively this can be incorporated into a jacket, as you will notice in the Cruikshank illustration of Picciniís Punch.

For Punchís ruff I use white silk, which I sew into a long tube turned inside out. I join the two ends to form a ring. This I sew gathered up around the top of the costume. It is a good idea to first thread the wire used to attach the head and then sew the ruff so that it sits above the wire. This way the twist at the back can be hidden under the ruff.

It is nice to have lots of decorative features on Punchís costume; embroidery around the hem, braid down the front or frog clasps, lace on the cuffs and bottom of the trousers. This all adds to the colour and effect. There is a lot more time spent on a Punch than other puppets.


The beadle can have either a tricorn or bicorn. I use a beadle in preference to a policeman because I like to do a historic show.

A piece of felt is steamed until thoroughly soaked and then stretched over the head of the puppet. It is temporarily pinned down. This is then painted with PVA and a second piece steamed, stretched and pinned over it. These are allowed to dry. While this is happening I cut a circle out of a piece of paper which fits perfectly over the head at the point where I want the hat to sit. I check that the width of the brim is correct for the type of hat. This is used as a pattern to cut out two pieces of felt. The inner circle is cut about a quarter of an inch smaller.

When the hat is dry enough to hold its shape I take it off the puppet head and trim it at the same point I measured the circle. I wet the pieces felt for the brim and fit one over the hat. I push it down flat on the table. I paint this with glue and fit the other piece over it. I then let it dry a little. At the point where it is still flexible but holds its shape I bend the brim to form the hat. You can use a few stitches to hold the brim up.

After the hat has dried I sew on gold millinerís braid around the brim and a gold badge. I use a crown of the sort worn by soldiers on their uniforms.

A mobcap is simply a circle of fabric cut and hemmed. Then I sew a loose thread around just a bit in from the perimeter to form a brim of sorts. This is placed over Judyís head and the thread drawn together and sewn to fit.

This is tacked onto her head and the tacks covered by a ribbon, which can be glued in place.