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Published on December 11, 2017

Puppets: A gift for young and old

Puppets: A gift for young and old

300A visit to Dianne Greaney’s home studio in Orleans is a delightful and whimsical time spent with like-minded women who share a passion for making hand puppets.

Surrounded by colorful fabrics, ribbons and other artistic materials stored and labeled for future creations, I felt like I had escaped to a world where wonder and joy are ever-present.

Children who spend time in admissions, radiology or the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital get a taste of this world when they are given one of the puppets made by this group of gifted women. They are also distributed to Cape Cod Healthcare Urgent Care in Harwich and Hyannis, and the Tomlinson Outpatient Clinic and MRI at Wilkens Outpatient Medical Complex in Hyannis.

The core group of six to 10 members of the Orleans Branch of the Cape Cod Hospital Auxiliary comes together twice a month to craft the hand puppets. To date, they have made well over 2,000.

In addition to the donation of puppets to the hospital, the group sells them elsewhere for $10 each, with all the proceeds going to Cape Cod Hospital.

The day I visited the puppet-making meeting six women were busy hand sewing bright yellow ducks with brilliant orange beaks and feet. I was introduced to the sewers, along with their past and present versions of their puppets.

“No two puppets are identical because each expression is a bit different,” said Greaney. “When we started making the puppets in 2009, we used upholstery fabric samples. We tried various other fabrics including cotton and flannel but they took a lot of snipping and trimming.

“We ended up with fleece because it is easier to work with and a lot more cuddley.”

The two main designers are Greaney, who taught art for more than 40 years, and Linda Bohlen of Brewster, who was a teacher.

“The original puppets were a cow, puppy and a monkey,” said Bohlen, who designed those puppets. Greaney created the cat, chipmunk, bunny, frog, tiger and leopard.

Jane Kucks of Orleans cuts out the patterns of the puppets and does the final sewing and finish work at her home. She also purchases all of the supplies.

The evolution of the puppets over the past seven years has somewhat depended on the availability of the material and colors.

“We started making the bunnies in a beige, like the wild bunnies, but the dogs and chipmunks were also beige so we decided to make the bunnies white,” said Greaney. When the availability of cow fabric became limited because the fleece material to make cow costumes at Halloween went out of vogue, the group had to stop making them.

Other hallmarks of the puppets are their names and extra attention to detail. Pindy the Panda has legs and feet, Penelope Penguin has happy feet, the bunny has a cottontail, and Petunia Pig has a twirled tail. The tigers and leopards known as “twins from different mothers” have the same noses, blue eyes, and mouths but one has black and beige spots and the other has black stripes and spots.

The women insist that the puppets aren’t just for the enjoyment of children.

“Puppets are good for all ages and adults use them very creatively,” said Greaney.

Her friend’s 95-year-old mom put the chipmunk puppet on her bedpost at the nursing home where she lived. A bottle of wine and a puppet are great gifts for a new mom and her baby.

By the end of the meeting, the puppets are done and ready to be given to Kucks for the finish work. The discussion of various topics comes to an end and Greaney gives each sewer a snack pack of homemade cookies to take home to their husbands.

“(The meeting) is not just about making puppets,” said Bohlen.

To purchase a puppet contact Dianne Greaney at 774-207-0386 or by email at