The idea of making a fabric puppet theatre and clown puppets to go with it was inspired by my son Jakob’s favourite kindy song – and his love of singing it at the top of his lungs on any occasion. These are easy projects, requiring little sewing or even none at all. You can make your puppets as sophisticated or as simple as you like. I started with clowns but since then my kids have made a host of puppets to suit their various shows.
My children have really enjoyed acting out their favorite songs, so we’ve made characters to fit: Five Little Ladybirds, as well as all the letters of B-I-N-G-O – complete with dog of course! The older two have made up their own plays and acted out stories from books, while two-year-old Rose has a staunch claim on the happy face in ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands’!
The kids’ puppet-making continued for several weeks. I kept a box of materials on hand for when inspiration struck.
1. Clown friends
I drew a picture of the clowns on light card using pencils, old papers, gesso (a white paint mixture) and charcoal, then I cut them out and glued them onto firm cardboard before adding hair, buttons and other embellishments. Articulated arms and legs were made by piercing the joints with a needle and threading through with light copper wire. I taped magnets on the back of the hands so they could hold hands (as in the song). Finally, I secured the clowns with strong tape to a bamboo stick.
Thread wire through arms and legs to make moveable joints, and tape small magnets on the back of the puppets’ hands so they stick together!
2. Life’s a stage
The clowns needed a home, so we created a theatre. Start by finding a suitable doorway and measure the width. Cut a length of fabric to fit and cut out a rectangle for the stage at a suitable height. You might want to reinforce the fabric edge by ironing interfacing onto the back around the stage opening so the fabric sits flat. Add any extras such as curtains, flags or mediaeval-style bunting. Fold a fabric flap over at the top and sew along so you can slide a piece of bamboo or dowelling through. Screw in a discreet hook at the top of your door frame and hang your theatre using ribbon or string.
3. Glove love
I traced the shape of my daughter’s hand to make sure the fabric glove puppet would be the right size, then stitched the face before sewing the puppet around the edges.
4. Sock creatures
Finally, a use for all those odd socks I’d been collecting! We used sticky paper and buttons for eyes, and sewed or glued on feathers and wool for hair.
5. Roly-poly people
Toilet rolls fit little hands really well. Just add on faces using paper and felt pens before gluing on arms and hair. Add clothes made from fabric scraps.
Materials for the theatre:
- Fabric remnants to fit your door frame and extra scraps for trims
- Fabric interfacing (optional)
- Several lengths of bamboo or dowelling
- Sewing machine (optional)
Materials for the puppets:
- Paper, cardboard, pens and pencils
- Fabric scraps, wool, feathers etc
- PVA glue
- Copper wire or string
- Strong masking or gaffer tape
- Thin bamboo or dowelling sticks
Susan Elijas is mother of three and a creative stylist with Gilded Lily. Check out more great ideas at www.gildedlily.co.nz.