The old woman did not want to let the man in but finally agreed to let him sleep on the floor. She led the man to the fireplace and he opened his bedroll. “Can you give me something to eat?” he asked. “I have nothing to give you,” said the little old lady. “I have nothing in the house. I have nothing in the garden.” And she began to walk away. “Well then,” said the young man. “If you cannot give me something to eat, will you give me a pot?”
“A pot?” said the little old lady. “What will you do with a pot? You cannot eat a pot and you have nothing to cook!”
And the traveler replied:
“He who far and wide does roam
Sees many things not known at home,
And he who many things has seen,
Has wits about him and senses keen.”
“Ah,” said the young man. “I can make soup from a stone. . .”
~Enki Kindergarten Folk Tales
We all know this timeless story of resourcefulness with a touch of trickery. I think it speaks well to the kindergarten child who is just starting to really wake up to the world. Willow still remembers it from her kindergarten time two years ago, and the children put on a lovely puppet show earlier this week. They were waiting, quite anxiously, for me to finish up the puppets. They had the set all ready and wouldn't let me have a peek.
These silk marionettes are wonderful, I think, for adding a dreamier feel to kindergarten, for keeping that which is little as such for a just bit longer. Per Freya Jaffke, we made an old man, an old woman, a queen, a king, a princess, and a prince. They can be much more than that, of course, and we have grand plans for crowns and so on. The materials are fairly simple, as is the technique, and I'll show it to you now.
Here are the materials you'll need:
Wool batting: This comes in a roll. That helps very much!
Silk handkerchiefs: Choose ones that are about 12"x12." I dyed mine with kool-aid and turmeric.
Skin-colored stockniette: This is the same kind used for making Waldorf dolls.
Wool roving for hair and felting needle or coordinating thread
Small weights of some kind for hands
Coordinating thread and embroidery thread
Strong white thread
Embroidery needle, or one you can put the thread through: It must be sharp.
The instructions I started with were from Toymaking with Children. I've made many of the items from this book. I also used this tutorial for assistance. You can see in this picture that I have taken a strip of batting and rolled it into a cylinder about 5" in length and 1.5" in diamter. A cylinder this length allows the marionette to sit. You can do a longer one if you want it to stand.
After tying some white thread around to form a neck and head about 2" down, I covered that area with the stockinette. I didn't do a fancy Waldorf doll head here. The stockinette fabric has been cut into a rectangle about 3" x 4." You can experiment with this to find the size that is right for your marionette.
I stitched up the back and then did a gathering stitch around the top. I pulled the gathering stitch firmly (but kindly!) to close up the head and knotted it in place.
Now, I cut a cross shape in the center of the silk handkerchief. Test it out on the doll to make sure that it is not too small to fit around the neck. Mine were about 1.5" across. Stitch around this with a simple gathering stitch, but do not knot it.
Put it in place around the doll's neck and pull to tighten. Knot and trim on the underside of the silk. It can help to stitch just once into the neck to hold it in place. Wrap some of the white thread around the bottom to give it a bit more structure for sitting. You can also felt the very bottom to flatten it a little.
Here's the magic, or it is to my children. Find the corners of the silk and have two folded to make a triangle out of the whole thing. Does that make sense? I should have gotten a picture of it. Well, the folded edge will make up the arms and hands of the doll. Four inches out, put in a small weight: a rounded pebble, a ball of wool, whatever is small and fairly round. I don't think a coin would work. You can see what I have used, but don't tell my children. Sew this in place and repeat for the other hand.
Next, add on the hair. You can felt this on or sew it here and there with thread. I did it both ways. Wool roving is forgiving and is easy to pull off and start again. The women had long hair or buns. The men had short hair (at Roan's request) and beards. Use a very gentle touch with the felting needle, as it is easy to break one when you are putting it through the roving and the stockinette. It doesn't need heavy felting, so just go with what feels fairly sturdy. Then, put in matching embroidery thread that is 20" long, making the knots under the ear area. I chose not to put strings on the hands, as the book didn't mention that. These are meant to be used by children, so the simple design will serve them better. We may make more complex versions later on.
Last of all, carefully stash your supplies and clean up the scraps. Put away those sharp scissors and gather up the scattered bits of wool. Put it all away. Away away. Ask me how I know these things. In addition to saving your home from stray snips, you'll model to your children that a craftsperson (or farmer or cook) always cares for and puts away his or her tools.
You can see all the dear friends here. Some have had embellishments to their simple dress using smaller silk handkerchiefs that we had on hand. I will say that these are toys that must be handled gently, all the time, and must never be left on the floor. They are not meant for a child younger than four, at least at our house. The felted hair can come off; the silk (though a good weight) can tear, the strings can come off or unwind; they cannot be washed easily. It's important to use them with a mood of magic and reverence, for that is their intention. Ours are stored on the mantle for now, but they may have a peg rack as time passes. While they are still new, I do get the feeling that they will be very much a part of our homeschooling and will be beloved. They're simple, yes, but it is best for the children to fill in the details with what is within. It is our only true possession in this life.