The Muppets Most Wanted, may be entertaining fans in theaters everywhere, but Jim Henson’s creations have been a part of my world since the early years of Sesame Street.
A pair of my favorite Muppet creations were the furry, squid like Martians, who consulted their little “Earth Book” on everything from animal sounds to what a toaster does, all accompanied by their repetitive deadpanning of, “Yip, yip, yip, yip…” or “nope, nope” commentary. Their actual name is The Yip-Yips, for obvious reasons.
Here they are in their classic 1971 Sesame Street debut.
They might not be the most well known of Muppet family, but they are instantly recognizable. Plus, I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love them. Part of their appeal, in addition to the fact that they are just so darn cute, is they are a very simple design, easy to make, and easy to operate. Here’s how to welcome one into your home.
What you need:
Towel or washcloth (a cheap one; they are going to be mangled)
Chenille craft stems (aka pipe cleaners)
Table Tennis or Styrofoam balls
Two wooden dowels (length depends on size of puppet)
Step One: Trim the edges off the towel or cloth, and fold it in half. While folded, cut several long strips into both ends for the puppet “tentacles.”
Step Two: Fold the cut cloth in half once more, so all the tentacles hang down together. Hand or machine stitch along the edge. The sewn end will be the Martian’s top or, spine. The puppet should look like a windsock or lantern with fringe at this point.
Step Three: Use a glue gun to attach the “eyes”(the Styrofoam balls) to either side of the spine. Use craft paint or marker to draw a pupil for the classic Muppet “googly” eye.
Step Four: Take two long pipe cleaners wrap the ends together, so it resembles a V for the antennae. Poke a small Styrofoam ball on the other end of each and secure with a little craft glue. Add some glitter or paint to pretty-them-up a bit. Poke the twisted-together ends into the seam of the spine, right between the eyes. Tack it in place with a few simple stitches.
To finish, place a little glue at the tip of the two wooden dowels, and insert one in the very middle of the folded cloth, the other at the opposite end along the spine. This “two-stick” method (not the official term) is actually how the real Sesame Street puppets were operated. If using a small washcloth, chopsticks work fine for this small “finger puppet” size. Parents might also want to cover the ends of the dowels with some felt or duck tape for younger puppeteers.
Now bring your “Yip-Yip” to life, by just moving the dowel at the bottom of the mouth up and down, near and far, side-to-side, to make him shimmy, swing, hover, and jabber. Have fun and don’t forget to make some Martian-talk sound effects—at least until they get taken away for annoying the dog.
Bonus Tip: If you want to make one just for “display,” fold the cloth over a piece of floral wire in the first step, instead of using dowel. Manipulate him into whatever expression you want and hang it with fishing wire or thin twine in a corner, by a window or anywhere else you want to bring smiles.