How to Make a String Puppet

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String puppets, or marionettes, date back thousands of years. In the 15th century, people used puppets to tell stories or news of what was happening in faraway lands. One could almost say that string puppets were the first news anchors. You can craft a simple string puppet out of wire and newspaper. Once you grasp the principles of making a human-shaped puppet, you can move on to dragons, dogs and other animals.

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Floral wire
  • Masking tape
  • Craft paint
  • Paintbrush
  • 2 chopsticks
  • String
  • Cut 20 strips of newspaper 1 inch wide and 12 inches long. Separate them into two stacks of 10.

  • Cut a piece of floral wire 2 inches long and twist a small loop at each end, wrapping any excess around the wire between the loops. The wire piece, end loops included, should measure about 1 1/4 inches long after twisting. Cut and create an identical wire piece.

  • Place one of the wire pieces on the end of one of your stacks of newspaper strips. Roll the paper into a cylindrical shape with the wire inside. The loops should be sticking out of the ends. Wrap the cylinder in masking tape so only the wire loops show. Repeat the process with the other wire piece and remaining strips. You have now created the tops of the puppet’s arms.

  • Cut 20 strips of newspaper 1/2 inch wide and 12 inches long. Cut a 1-inch piece of floral wire and twist a loop on just one end. Roll the wire up in the paper as you did earlier, with the loop protruding, and tape with masking tape. Take a 4-inch square of newspaper and ball it up. Work the paper into an oval so it will look similar to a hand. Hold it to the plain end of the cylinder and tape it on at a 45-degree angle to create the forearm and hand. Repeat for the other side.

  • Use 2-inch-wide strips of newspaper to create the thighs of your puppet. Twist loops onto the ends of a 3-inch piece of wire. The wire should measure 2 1/2 inches after it has been looped. Roll the wire in the paper strips and tape. Repeat for both upper legs.

  • Cut 1-inch wide pieces of newspaper for the lower legs. Cut a 1 1/2-inch wire and make a loop on one end like you did for the forearm. Roll in the paper and cover with tape. Crumple up a strip of paper to form a foot shape. Make it proportionate for your character -- male or female. Attach it to the non-wired section of the leg by wrapping it with masking tape. The lower leg should look like an L.

  • Ball up an 8-inch square of newspaper. Shape it into a ball. Measure out a piece of floral wire long enough to fit through the ball, plus extra length for two end loops; cut it and create a loop at each end. Pull the wire through the ball so a loop is sticking out of both the top and bottom, then cover the ball with tape. Only the loops will show after you have taped it. This is the head of the puppet.

  • Create the torso by balling up a 12-inch square of newspaper. Work it into a rectangle. Cut five pieces of wire that will each be 1/2 inch long after you have twisted a loop on one end. Insert one of these wires into the center top of the torso, leaving the loop exposed so that you will be able to attach the head to it later. Similarly, insert a wire into the upper left side for the arm and one on the upper right for the other arm. Insert two wires on the bottom of the torso where the legs will attach. Cover the torso in tape.

  • Attach all of the pieces together by twisting a small piece of floral wire between each set of two loops at the joints. For example, the forearm will attach to the upper arm by a piece of wire twisted to form a circular link. It's important to make the links just large enough for the limbs and head to swing loosely, as a puppet should, with the appearance of free movement.

  • Paint your puppet with craft paint and let it dry.

  • Tape two chopsticks together to form a cross. Tie a string to the loop on the top of the puppet’s head. Tie a string to each of its arms by tying it around the elbow joint.

  • Pull the strings up to the cross and tie them loosely to the sides and bottom of the cross. The head is strung to the bottom of the cross and the arms to each side. Untie and adjust each string so the head is upright and the arms are by the puppet’s sides. Tie the strings in a knot and tape in place once you are satisfied with the final placement.

Tips & Warnings

  • Paint a costume onto your puppet. You can make your puppet a knight by painting a helm and armor. Add detail by gluing a sword to his side. You might also want to sew fabric clothing for the puppet.

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References

  • Photo Credit Gorobina/iStock/Getty Images
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