Thursday, April 25, 2019

Our New Project's Progress Goes BORK BORK BORK

I've been keeping our latest build a secret the last few weeks because I didn't know if it would work, and honestly it sort of doesn't?

 
 Still, I'm going to show you anyway, because John and I put a lot of time in and mostly had a blast learning an entirely different skill set. (There's also some frustration since we built it three times and it's still not quite right, but that's to be expected, right?)

Besides - and this is the important part - LOOK WHAT WE DID:


Herpity hoo, my friends. HERPITY HOO.

 (That's, uh, supposed to be the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. Here's hoping you already knew that.)

I didn't have the patience to set up a nice backdrop or do any editing, so you're getting straight-off-the-phone snapshots:



I'll have a full build log up later, so you can see how John and I did everything from scratch, from sculpting a head shape to templates & pattern-making. (We followed Adam Kreutinger's tutorials, which I HIGHLY recommend.) We also quite stubbornly did it on the cheap, custom-dying $5 fleece rather than paying $40 for the fabric you're supposed to use, then harvesting the fur/hair from an unlikely - but cheap! - place. 

We even made the bow tie and hat from scratch.


 

That said, our dear Chef is still very much a work in progress. So much so, that we may start all over again... again.


That back seam isn't quite finished.

Considering he's our first puppet ever, though, I'm quite proud. John and I learned so much about foam and patterning and fun new stitches to hide seams. We also watched a lot of Swedish Chef videos together, which somehow only get funnier the more you watch them. And it probably goes without saying that we've been singing the Bork Bork song to each other for weeks now.

 Bork! Bork! Bork!


Getting the look right has been the hardest part, partly because the Swedish Chef has changed a lot over the years. If you take a look at my reference sheet, you'll see at least 3-4 very different puppets: 


 Ours is mostly modeled off Chef's most current style, which has redder hair and looks like this:


 I'm struggling to style the hair, since his mustache especially flops down/all over as soon as he moves, but both hair spray and watered down glue make it look stiff and clumpy. Anyone have a solution for that?

 His nose is almost completely wrong - the shape just isn't right - but I made it all myself and I love it:


And while I'm pointing out flaws, John is pretty much beside himself trying to smooth out the lumpy lips
 
 That's where having a giant mustache is helpful.

So now that you've seen our nearly-completed Swedish Chef puppet, I'm sure you're thinking: That's cool, Jen, but what the heck are you gonna do with it? That's where I need your help.

Our original idea was another Junk Lady-esque illusion cosplay. We'd have Chef behind a small kitchen counter (i.e. a rolling cart), then a curtain/false wall behind him to hide me. I would wear crazy chef pants, so my legs would look like his legs, and I'd puppet his head and one arm.

That idea, however, is not going to work.

Puppeting Chef is surprisingly hard; his mouth doesn't open easily and within a few minutes my hand is pooped out. Beyond that, I can't puppet anything directly in front of my body; it has to be off to one side or up high.

We thought we had a solution for both issues when John put on his Mad Scientist cap and built THIS contraption to operate the mouth:


... but that doesn't quite work, either. I mean, it works, but not for this puppet; the mouth isn't sitting right and there's too much friction operating the spring lever.


Plus, to be honest, our original cosplay idea doesn't feel clever enough. I'd like something a little more creative than hiding myself with a literal curtain.

So now we're stalled out, unsure what to do next. We can either scrap the whole cosplay plan, or come up with a new housing/backdrop for Chef - ideally one that doesn't require him to talk much, ha. I can still have him dance around, and we can make pose-able hands and arms I can move, too, but we need a way to hide ME in a funny/theme appropriate way.

 So help me brainstorm, hive-mind: what could Swedish Chef be sitting in/on, or carrying, or next to? Even if you don't know how we could do it, throw out some ideas! So far John's best one is to have Chef sticking out of a giant cake, which I'm kind of loving for biased reasons. (Our original plan was to have the small cake from the Caken Smoosher skit on the counter in front of him:


We love this one so much, we have custom art of it in our game room. Hee!

For what it's worth, I don't consider this project a waste at all, even if nothing more comes of it. I had fun, I learned stuff, and I got to build something new with John. Plus I'll get to show you guys some of what we learned, so you can try your own puppet-building, too!

Now, lay those ideas on me in the comments! Please?

*****

Oh, but first, let's announce some winners from my last post!

The winner of the Mario Princesses is Rabidbun
The winner of the Star Wars Doodlez is Susan Anderson
And the winner of Belle is Jessica Layman

Congrats, you three, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!

******

If you believe the world needs more ridiculous projects like this, and would like to help me and John continue to make them, then you can support us directly through Paypal! Every little bit helps us keep doing what we're doing, so thanks for being here and cheering us on.


83 comments:

  1. What if you were "disguised" as some Muppet food he was preparing? You know kind of a la vintahe Epcot Food Rocks?

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    1. Ooooh, I could be a giant broccoli in sunglasses singing "Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit!" BEST DISNEY MASHUP EVER

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    2. You need to wear a pair of lobster costumes (in walking cooking pots)

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    3. Mother always taught me 'never eat singing fruit.' Hiding as food was my first thought too!

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    4. You could be "head cheese"... :O

      Didn't the Muppets have singing lettuce or cabbage for a skit?

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  2. How about a giant stock pot or a big, tipping-over cake?

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    1. Yes! Giant pot! Spray paint a trash can and Jen can ride inside!

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    2. That's just what I was thinking

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    3. Yes, this is what I was thinking too! A giant stock pot with lobster puppets smiling and leaning over the edge like it's a hot tub. I feel like there was an episode with lobster?

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  3. First, I saw NONE of the “flaws” you pointed out. Second, HE LOOKS AMAZING!!

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  4. A fridge full of those lovely singing vegetables?

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  5. Yes stock pot, that you can see through, with maybe lobster hat peaking out on top.

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  6. I doubt it would work, but I immediately thought you should be Big Bird next to the Swedish Chef from the Muppets Family Christmas Special where they are all at Fozzy Bear's Mother's house. There was a scene with Big Bird and The Chef in the kitchen that was funny and sweet. My favorite Christmas Special.

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    1. This is everything. Immediately what I thought of as well. Mr Gobbler Goobler Toooorkey!

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    2. Ha! That's exactly what I immediately thought of too!

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  7. Him being chased/eaten/attacked by the chickens getting their final vengeance? Him being carried in a giant stock pot by yourself, or Gordon Ramsey, or Sweetums?

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    1. Sweetums was John's first thought, too! That's another big build for Sweetums' head, but it's a super fun idea. Hm....

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  8. You need something like Bruno the trash man, who helps Oscar the Grouch be mobile.

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    1. Bruno was my first thought as well. Then I thought instead of Bruno,it could be a giant lobster carrying a stockpot with the Swedish chef in pot.

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  9. My first thought was Food Truck because those are all the rage these days. Build a truck around him, have him at the counter in the side of the truck. This would give you more room to possibly have a better mouth moving apparatus as well as hide you.

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    1. And then they could paint Cookie Monster and Gonger on the back! Muppet Show and Sesame Street cross-over :D

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  10. He's amazing!! I'm pretty sure the Chef was originally performed by both Jim and Frank working together, so I wouldn't feel bad if you can't do it solo. :) Maybe you can make a costume big enough for both you and John to get inside! :D

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  11. That's a tough one.. My first idea would just be to build a kitchen counter around him as well, because that is just what fits with the character the most. Instead of doing a simple curtain, you could maybe actually build some lightweight closets/ a fridge, filled with glued-on ingredients, to hide yourself in? Kind of make it a full-on kitchen build?

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  12. Moving the mouth of the puppet is normally done by using a complete hand. The thumb goes in the lower lip because a piece of cardboard supports the tongue and allows the movement of the whole lip with just one finger. All the other fingers are needed to move the upper lip in a way that allows you all typical mimics.
    So if you want to play it you need four levers. To set them in motion I would use an Arduino and some motors combined with joysticks. It is a very complex multi-way movement you do with your fingers.

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  13. Others have said a big stock pot, which is what I first thought of. Maybe stacked with other pots and a colander (to see through).

    Otherwise having him come out of a big cake is a good idea! Can't think of any solution for the mouth. The actual puppet looks like it's not a thick layer of foam there or his chin is actually hollow to make it easier to maneuver the mouth. *shrug* I don't know. The Chef you made looks amazing though! :D

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  14. Food Cart for the backdrop, very on-trend. And kudos for the awesome first time puppet! We fell down the puppetmaking rabbit hole some time ago and even for a skilled seamstress it is a whole new skillset. And puppeteering takes muscles I am pretty sure I don't have, hard work!

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  15. A giant pile of popcorn? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UmUX68KtE&t=13s

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  16. I would suggest faux kitchen cabinets behind you! Foam core so they’re lightweight and easy to work with! The food truck idea is wonderful, too!

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  17. My favourite clip is when he makes chocolate moose/mousse. You could still have the counter but hide yourself as the "mousse" for the chcolchoc moussee.
    https://youtu.be/yAbWQFM4G24

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    1. This is what I thought of, too. Chocolate Moose is one of my favorite skits and all you'd need to do is arm your muppet with a wooden spoon of fake chocolate. Any error in the moose build and you can disguise them with more "chocolate!"

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    2. This was my first thought too!

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    3. Another vote for shocolatt moooose!

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  18. This is outstanding! I've always wanted to make my own Muppet (especially as I now have a daughter obsessed with Sesame Street like her mummy), so I'll be keeping an eye on your tips and tricks.

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  19. A cake with naked mohawk babies riding carrots. So meta.

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  20. Replies
    1. We originally thought it would be funny to have him in an IKEA employee apron, or a "Sponsored by IKEA" banner, but having him pop out of a box is even funnier. Maybe with some custom assembly instructions using their famous pictograms? :D

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  21. Ahh I was waiting for this post! I saw your instagram stories and I knew you were making some kind of puppet/muppet! I was actually debating sending you Adam's tutorials too, but I had a feeling you probably already saw them!

    Very fun fact for you, but apparently the Swedish Chef got married at some point! I found out because the Disney Store Swedish Chef plush has a wedding ring sewn onto it. I'm not sure how canonical this is but I love knowing that the Swedish Chef found someone.

    Huge kudos to you guys for trying this out, even if it's not perfect I think you guys did an amazing job! Trying to draft a sewing pattern can be a pain in the butt (Ask me how I know ha ha).

    As for something the Swedish Chef could be inside, the only thing I can think of is a giant pot/cauldron, maybe with some muppetty Veggies around the bottom as though they've managed to turn the tables on the Swedish Chef? I've used EVA foam for a few costumes now and it's great for making lightweight props for costumes.

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    1. Oooh, my mind is going to all kinds of funny twisted places with the Veggie's Revenge!

      I've been noticing Chef wears a wedding ring in his skits, so I have to wonder if the original puppeteer just never thought to take his off - and as a result canonically the Swedish Chef is married!

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    2. It'd be fascinating to know if that's what happened! Someone forgot to take their ring off and they decided to roll with it. Maybe one day we'll get to meet the Chef's spouse (Do you think he catered his own wedding?)

      Also someone mentioned Sweetums earlier in the comments and I have to say I now really hope you guys do Sweetums some day! Except, maybe it's better you don't because if you do a tutorial I'm going to have to fight off the urge to try and make my own costume (I'm already routinely having to convince myself I don't have room to make myself a Junk Lady!)

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  22. Could you sit under the counter on a roller board and puppet overhead? That way you could honestly throw food around haphazardly because you won't see!

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    1. I'm a big fan of John having to push me around in some wheeled apparatus! And throwing food: SO MUCH YES. Hee!

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    2. I was thinking something along these lines too - a rollerboard or wheelchair, you could be inside the puppets chest, peeking through a buttonhole or something, a counter/desktop across your front. That doesn't fix the mouth movement though...unless you had a whole in the back of his head and John used his hand to make it talk while you used your hands/arms to throw food around.

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    3. Ooh, same general idea but you could make him inside a giant tablet/iPad front, in a contained kitchen like he was doing a YouTube cooking show?

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  23. Hm... I wonder if there is a little too much space between the eyebrows and mustache? It looks like the actual chef has a little more scrunchy face. Maybe just fluff the eyebrows a bit?

    And oh my word, puppet lips are the worst! I used to make puppets years ago, and the mouths are the hardest part for sure.

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    1. That's a good point! I can bring the eyebrows down a little by adding more hair; I need to fill them out more anyway. Thank you!

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  24. All I'm seeing is my childhood and perfection and just mercy...I love his so much!

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  25. As someone who went puppet MAD about 10 years ago I understand very well about your hand wearing out. I tried to do a puppet for a set that was only about five minutes long and thought my whole arm was going to literally fall off.
    My initial thought with the Chef was that you could somehow incorporate him into Cake Wrecks. Like little video segments. Because, I mean don't you have all the time and talent to devote to awesome little sketches?
    But maybe that would get into copyright infringement. . .ugh, didn't think about that. . .

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  26. I don't have any grand ideas about how to house the chef-- but *I* think he looks fantastic as is! I am super impressed!

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  27. I do love the idea of you as a giant cake he's trying to decorate. He could be trying to stick sugar roses on you... this one is huge and crazy, ut maybe not too hard to make... https://www.avantgarb.com/not-your-average-costume-rental-indianapoli/cake-costume/

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  28. I worked with muppet-type puppets for years, and yes, your hand and arm can wear out pretty quickly. The trick is to only move your thumb up and down while holding the rest of your hand flat with your fingers together so that only the lower jaw moves, rather than opening your entire hand in opposite directions (something we called 'flipping the lid'). Also, it is less stressful on your arm to hold it straight up from the shoulder so that your arm is right next to your ear, as opposed to holding the puppet extended out in front of your body. Rather than operating a mouth with a lever from the inside of the puppet, some puppets have mouths that are moved by a fishing line attached to the lower jaw and pulled through the chest, so you pull down on the line to open the mouth. However, that still is not the most ideal situation as it is not invisible, and is usually for smaller-mouthed puppets. Nowadays, the same effect is often achieved using robotics (so John would have to really tap into the mad scientist persona).

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  29. You're way, way, WAY to hard on yourself. That is EPIC for someone who's never done a puppet before. Well, heck, it's epic even if you have. It just straight up looks professional :)

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  30. I'm thinking the counter idea is still good, with an oven behind him, so you can be looking out through the "black glass" oven door. Then, have something on the counter (like a naked-mohawk-baby carrot cake!) so that it makes sense that he's off to one side.

    For your hand getting tired, it's a natural motion to close a puppet's mouth, but we don't have a lot of strong muscles for opening it. So perhaps that's what's making your hand so tired? So maybe add a spring assist inside that's pulling the puppet's mouth slightly open, and then you can use your stronger grip strength for closing it? An apparatus for working his mouth will never be as expressive as you can be with your hand unless you can go full animatronic.

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  31. To keep the mustache from flopping, try extra hold hair gel! If you get it worked in, when it dries, it forms a “cast.” Try a sample size of a higher end product like Ouidad; it’ll look more natural than if you use Dippity Do. And he looks FAB!

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  32. A rolling Muppet theatre! You could even have 2 small Statler and Waldorf puppets/images/whatever in your "balcony" - You can have curtains to keep you hid, shelves for the necessary con items.

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  33. Totally NOT in the Muppet theme, but this is what popped into my head...
    via GIPHY

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  34. He's awesome! My favorite Swedish Chef sketch is with the lobster banditos, so something with a pot of lobsters would be a win for me.

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    1. That's my favourite one too! Jen could be a lobster bandito with a pistol to the back of Swedish Chef. Lol... Free the lobsters!

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  35. If you will remake him again, why not make a mask instead of a puppet, wear the shirt & be him.?Then the props around you will be easier to manage and wear?

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  36. The chef was originally a two-person effort, with Henson operating the head and Oz the hands. They always worked with the puppets over their heads, and Henson was tall and had long arms—a big help. Maybe you could do a modified two-person version, with Jen operating the hands and John doing the mouth? If you controlled the mouth from the back of the head instead of from underneath that would make it less complicated. Or, what if the two of you cosplay as Muppeteers by just dressing in black, and then work the chef and his props overhead the way Henson and Oz did? Here's a link with a couple of images of how Henson and Oz worked the chef, and an awesome gun-totting lobster. https://jimhenson-themuppetmaster.tumblr.com/post/173336953852/jim-henson-with-the-swedish-chef-jim-usually-does

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  37. You need to be the pot rack in back of him. Hang pots on a peg board?

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  38. Like other people have mentioned, I was thinking a giant stock pot would be amazing!

    As for the hair, what about styling cream or wax? It's great for real hair, because it keeps it in place but still gives it a dry look. Would that work?

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  39. I wonder if texturing spray for hair would work, the living proof brand makes one (lp full volume blast) that has some good hold to it and it's available in a smaller can as, for less commitment. I intentional didn't say cheap, he seems like the kinna guy who wouldn't skimp on hair care. A fan of all things muppets, swedish chef in particular but epbot above all. Thanks for always giving me something to look forward to!

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  40. Ern-de borgda Cakuh recka.
    As much as I loved the Chocolate moose the idea of a Swedish Chef cake wreck is completely exciting

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  41. I love all the suggestions so far, especially the Muppet Family Christmas Turkey idea.

    Since I haven't seen it mentioned here yet, I want to tell you I also appreciate the extra Calvin and Hobbes reference.

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  42. Tried to read the comments, didn't see this idea: what if the chef is taller than you, like maybe a backpack, and you're in front, head covered by a cake-hat?

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  43. "I had fun, I learned stuff, and I got to build something new with John" This says it all. I also create stuff, just so I can learn new skills. People always ask me how did you figure that out? Practice, luck and 10,000 'fails'. Thanks for passing on hints and tips. Keep inspiring and having FUN!

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  44. I was in a puppet program in my church for a few years and learned a lot about puppetry (so much that I wanted to BE a puppeteer when I grew up). Anyways, you have to seriously train your arm and hand for doing puppet work for more than 30 seconds or so, especially if you extend your arm all the way in the air like you see the Jim Henson folks doing. However, its not especially rigorous. I had to sit with my puppet arm in the air with a heavy pillow on it while I watched TV to strengthen the arm. Then you have to practice the mouth movement where you hold your hand horizontal to the ground and only use your thumb to work the mouth, since you don't want to have a floppy head.

    Sigh...I love puppets to much. This is the first thing you've done that's tugged so completely at my heartstrings.

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  45. Okay, so here's what I'm thinking: we go sideways.

    Imagine the Chef pushing a kitchen island stove/counter. On one side of it is a biig stock pot, in which one's head and shoulders are concealed. Your right hand reaches through the Chef's torso to be his right hand. Your left manipulates the head (supported so your hand doesn't get tired).
    Bonus: stock pot can have some thick rubbery tentacles sticking out, providing space between the lid and the pot, through which the occupant can see.

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  46. What did you use for his hair? Maybe watch a Mozekyto video on their doll hair. That's how I learned to use yarn for hair and I've been in love with it ever since. Once it's all brushed out it can be manipulated a bit just by small twisting and what not to stick almost any way you want it to.

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  47. Re:the moustache issue.

    Have you tried starch?

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  48. For the lips, smaller stitches and clip the curves really well on the inside (in a vvv shape), as close as possible to the seam without cutting the stitches. The Chef was always my mom's favorite character! I would love to see him as a cosplay.

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  49. For what it's worth, on minute examination with you pointing out the "imperfections" and comparing to the reference, yes, I can see what you're pointing out, BUT: At a glance, he is instantly recognizable, and I can't imagine anyone arguing that point. I know you're not really "Eh, close enough" people, but I really do think if you took this guy out exactly as is, no one would really notice any of those details; they'd just see the Swedish Chef. (Obviously, the practical issues still need solving, but I'm just saying there's really no need to beat yourself up about his appearance.)

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  50. Muppet food truck! You could have a lot of fun with it, and you could be hidden in that pretty easily. (Use a pot or the silver food domes to give extra room for your head if you need it.)

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  51. I love the popity corny shrimpy!!!

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  52. Late to the party again, lol, but, he could be in a shopping cart, having gone shopping for cake-ish ingredients, possibly including a replicated cake wreck or two in there. That way, John can be your assistant, and the sides of th cart could help stabilize your arm, and hide the inside with "grocery bags". Allows for being able to have several interchangeable props, souvenir small packets of Swedish fish, lol, too much, but, I heart your Muppet so much!

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