I was invited to an 80s party for a friend of mine’s 26th birthday, and wanted a costume that nobody else would be likely to have. As a child of the 80s and teenager of the 90s, my 80s memories consist of mostly children’s TV shows, as well as my Mum’s perm and my early school years. Out of all the characters I could think of, one stuck in my mind. Emu. You know, that shaggy, blue, rather aggressive bird puppet, tucked under the fake arm of that guy that fell off his roof fixing his TV aerial and died. Rod Hull, his name was. They lived, I think, in a pink windmill, and there was a fat green witch called Grotbags in the mix somewhere.
Now, if you’ve ever been to a house party you’ll know that they can be a bit hot and sweaty, so a full-body Emu suit was not only going to be a bitch to make, but it’d be like an oven in there. So I started to think about how to get an Emu arm puppet. I wondered if such a thing could be bought, and some quick research told me that not only were puppets available, but it was because Emu had been remade as a new kids’ TV show! Unfortunately, these puppets were highly sought after and were going for about fifty quid on Ebay. Also, they were a bit disappointing. Emu is a big straggly wild-looking beast, that needs an adult-sized arm to hold him back from damn well pecking out the eyes of all who cross his beaky path. These puppets, however, were sort of…fluffy. And they were far too small. They had nothing of the true spirit of the original Emu. It was then I decided to go about making my own Emu arm puppet, trying to replicate the original as much as possible. I started off by ordering some blue wool, looking up pictures online and drawing out some rough sketches.
I eventually made my Emu in around 4-5 hours, in two shifts. Here is a picture of him. If I’d had a chance I would have rearranged his woolly coat in a more orderly fashion. I think you’ll agree, while it’s not perfect, it’s not bad for a few hours work!
Emu didn’t cost me very much to make, in total it was around a tenner. Here is how, should you wish to, to make your own Emu:
- First, make sure you have the following things- 2 balls of blue wool, royal or navy or any medium-dark blue is fine; a medium-dark blue t-shirt, either small men’s or medium ladies'; an orange sock, and two yellow socks; a red felt tip; yellow card; a needle and thread; PVA glue; an old pillow; an old jacket or hoodie; googly eyes.
- Cut the sleeves off the t-shirt and sew up the holes. Sew the rim of the orange sock to the neck of the t-shirt, and sew up any remaining gaps in the neck.
- Take 2/3 of the stuffing out of the pillow. Tie up the end until you have a smaller pillow. Put the pillow inside the t-shirt to get a feel for how your Emu’s body will be.
- Next, the blue t-shirt needs to be covered in long wool, draping down from the top. You could glue this on but I sewed it. I bundled together lots of long strands, and tied the bundles in the middle, then stitched them on to the middle of Emu’s back, until his whole body was covered with enough wool. I stitched some individual strands around the sock/t-shirt neck join.
- I then stitched some shorter strands along the neck, i.e. the orange sock. At the top, they’ll need to be done a bit later.
- Cut out the shape of an upper and lower beak out of yellow card. On the upper beak, colour a red band in felt tip (see photo). Put your hand in the sock, and glue the top of the beak in place. Sellotape the lower beak to the top part at the corners, but don’t glue it to the sock. You get some beak movement from this; it will open and close with your hand somewhat.
- Stick the googly eyes in position, half on the beak, half on the sock. If you don’t have googly eyes (damn, I love saying GOOGLY EYES!), make some out of white card and a black felt-tip or marker.
- Carefully stitch or glue the last of the short blue strands above the beak and round the eyes.
- Make some legs by rolling up yellow socks and glueing them in the rolled position. I then just cut some feet out of card, glued them on the end and stitched the legs on to the bottom of the t-shirt.
- Get your old jacket or hoodie, stitch the bottom of the sleeve to the belly of your Emu. Take the leftover pillow stuffing and stuff the sleeve so it looks like an arm.
- Put the jacket over your shoulder, and put your other arm in properly. Put your ‘Emu arm’ through the t-shirt, under the pillow and up through the sock.
- Pull the jacket down at the back; if you can see your arm, then you could cut a hole under the armpit of the jacket and do it that way.
Et voila! One Emu. I’d liked to have made a better beak, but to be honest it got crushed a bit by people trying to snog Emu anyway. Turns out Emu is a bit of a slut. He was smoking and drinking too, disgraceful.
The moment that made it all worth it, all the stitching, the aching arm from carrying the Emu all night, that moment happened while I queued for the toilet. By the way, have you any idea how difficult it is to go to the loo with an Emu on your arm, strapped to your torso? Anyway, the moment in question happened when the guy stood behind me in the queue uttered the immortal words;
“How does it move its head by itself?!”