DIY Marionette (work-with-us) tutorial – kids craft age 8+


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DECEMBER 12, 2013

This is a fun project.  The reason I rated this ages 8 and up was the bodily mathematics that had to be figured out.  The pompons on strings and craft sticks is a good one for the little ones, but there are already lots of tutorials out there for that.  This one is geared toward my elder. It is also a project in progress with lots of mistakes to be made along the way.  I have decided that I love the problem/solution part of these projects we undertake, so am going to just post as we go along!

I have looked at several DIY tutorials, as well as the professional crazy cool and inspirational site puppets in prague. ( we are of Czech decent, ourselves)  I was hoping to find something in the middle that was a wooden puppet with human like movements without ANY wood carving skills or tools. What we are hoping to accomplish is to use a wooden artist mannequin, some sculpy, and maybe some weights? and costume to create a seven point marionette.

Materials:  12 or so inch artist mannequin that was very underused and colored on, twine, wooden beads with holes, tiny screwdriver, sculpy clay, tin foil, craft sticks or wooden slats,duck tape and fabric.  All of this was found around our house. (paint and costume comes later).

Mannequin to marionette by Miala

So long mannequin, hello parts.  This part should be done by an adult or able child, as the springs and screws on some of these can be very tight.  Unscrew the screws and pull the parts apart.  It takes a very small screw driver and don’t be afraid to pull those springs until they can unhook from their homes.  You will not need the base and metal stand.  Please excuse the crappy photos of the parts, we did it fireside.

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We used twine to re-string the parts back together.  We DID put the screws back into the hands and feet to loop the string through and work it back up to the middle.  Make sure you leave a little movement slack and not pull the string totally taut.

photo (63)We had added the knee and shoulder joints from our stash of wooden beads, but decided these were not necessary and that just the main “bones” of the body were needed.  So these can be left out.  The head tied in as a separate part on the top where the string is hanging off.

Now, you will have a super floppy marionette.  At this point, we held it by the head, did some moving around and it was …well not want we wanted.  It bent sideways at the knees and twisted around at the waist.  Little smartie pulled out the duck tape and started to figure out the way to make them bend in only one direction.   I brought up some scrap lace from a project and we ended up with this crazy gal as our base.  She is eventually going to be  an elf queen, so it is sort of humorous she is wearing purple zebra duck tape as a base layer!  We took tiny strips of lace (or you can use a very thin fabric) and taped them down with some slack on the front of the knees and both sides of the thighs.  Now her legs can swing around a bit at the hips, but only bend to the back at the knees. The piece through the middle just kept the body from turning side to side.  Her feet were also turning round and round, so we just taped them in the right direction.

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As weird as this thing is…both girls are loving it.  So much more to come soon.


JANUARY 5, 2014

We completed our odd marionette, and it turned out beautifully!!!

Here is how we finished it up!

After finishing the body, above, I decided the wooden head would not do, so we un strung it, and made a new one using sculpy.  We reattached it with the original string.  When sculpting the head, we make holes both horizontally and vertically through the head, as well as a little loop on the back to tie the thread to. Notice the elf ears and big eyes for our woodland elf queen.

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We baked the sculpy as directed (20 mins or so at 285 degrees in the oven).  Then came the fun part, painting her face with acrylics. I definitely had to help with the small details here.

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Then we had to wrap lace around the neck and make a costume.  I did not feel like taking the time to sew a whole little dress for her, so we just cut a rectangle of satin with a whole in the center and tied/glued it onto her!  Maybe the next one will have a nice interchangeable wardrobe, but not for our first try gal.   I used some yarn and glue for the hair, and glue and ribbons for the rest of the outfit.

Stringing her up was a bit of a challenge, but using some online directions, we strung her hands, head, knees, and back using popsickle sticks like this:

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And we are done!  The strings got tangled the first night we played around, so I have to restring with a way to untie them from the top easily to untangle!!

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I found this picture of a vintage marionette theater, so I think we will maybe use a tri fold board or boxes and try to make one similar 🙂

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Origami Cats – fun paper project ages 4 and up


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origami simple catsWe used Christmas colored construction paper for these large paper cats.  You need rectangle shaped paper, not traditional origami squares.

Our inspiration came from the tiny tiny clay origami cat my oldest friend made (shown below)

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You can google search Simple or Easy Origami cat to come up with the instructions, but here is a screen shot of the method we used (no longer valid).  This was a bit challenging for my 3 year old, but she loved it with some help.  It was a breeze for my crafty 9 year old.

photoWhat is cut off is… the first step is to fold the paper in half longways.  The last step is to curl the tail around.  A pencil or even a finger works great for this.  My girls strayed from the traditional origami way and drew eyes on the cats and used some tape to keep the thick construction paper in proper form at the end…eek, but ok 🙂

We spent a good couple of hours making these along with some even easier scotty dogs.  Fun crafting with the kids!

Big Pocket Market Skirt sew-along tutorial


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This sew-a- long is for use with the MiaLa Pocket Skirt Pattern.  I will be making the size small skirt above in most of the photos, but all sizes are made the same.

1/2″ Seam allowance unless otherwise noted.

First, double check all measurements and lay out your fabric.  Be sure to cut one pocket one way, then flip the pattern to cut the second pocket.  I like to change the direction of the fabric print for the pockets so that it contrasts with the skirt.

Measure UP from your long bottom edge of skirt Front and skirt Back.  (Your large rectangular pieces) Each size has a different measurement to mark.  Mark this line with pins or fabric chalk/pencil on the back side all the way across both pieces.

Bind pockets:  Gather long bottom edge of pocket between dots, then bind with contrast strip.  Bind top edge the same way.  Photo below shows binding on pocket, right sides both DOWN.

Photo below shows folding the binding around to right side.

Then fold over again and topstitch, shown below

Do not worry about the short raw edges of the pockets.  Just bind the top and bottom.  Once all pockets are bound,  pin to the skirt front.  Align the larger of the raw edges to the side edge and the upper raw edge exactly on your line that you marked earlier.  Use lots of pins as the skirt will gather at the top, but has to be strait across the bottom :

Reposition if needed and make sure both sides are the same.  Then stitch the LONG bottom and side edge and raw edges only.  Stitch near the outermost edge.  Yeay, pockets!

Sew skirt front to skirt back by laying them right sides together and stitching ONE side.  (Either side).

Then take your two longest contrast pieces and lay them right sides together at the short ends.  Stitch together making one super long strip.  Remember to backtack at the start and finish of each stitch line!

Fold your long strip in half , right sides out, and place along the bottom of your large skirt piece with raw edges even and fold of the strip pointing up to the top of skirt.   Pin and stitch 1/2″ from raw edge.

It should be exactly as long as the skirt.

Now for the waist…You will take a tuck along the mark where the pockets end.  Be sure to keep this nice and strait (mark with extra pins if needed).  Fold along your mark right sides together across whole skirt so that the tuck is on the backside.  Stitch on the skirt’s wrong side 1/4″ away from fold.  Will try to insert a photo of this (missed this step).  You will ENCASE the top raw edge of the pocket in this little tuck.

Now is a good time to press all your seams!

Fold skirt right sides together and stitch up the other side seam of the skirt.  (Backtack!)

For the elastic casing you will fold the top edge of the skirt under (toward the wrong side) 1/4″ , then fold down again 1″-1 1/8″.  Stitch as close to that bottom folded edge as possible and on TOP of the stitch line you made with the tuck. This stitch line will show on the outside and needs to be a consistent 1″ wide.   You will make this channel all the way around the skirt leaving a 2-3″ hole when you get back to where you started.

Hook your cut elastic piece with a safety pin and thread through the channel

Make sure your elastic is not twisted in the channel and pull out a few inches on each side.  Overlap ends 1/2″ and stitch a few seams to secure.

Feed your elastic back into the channel, stitch your hole closed, adjust elastic and you are done!  Email with any questions, and good  luck!

Kid’s Pilot cap pattern and tutorial


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Sew Liberated has this great free pattern available HERE.  After I cut up my old sweaters to make diaper covers, this is the PERFECT thing to do with all the soft cashmere scraps!  She also has a little pixie cap pattern I will be experimenting with soon.  Here is my prototype, a little small on CL.  (And she would not sit still!!)

Recycled Wool Sweater Diaper Cover and Longies Set – One Sweater, Two items!


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Use one wool sweater to make these adorable cloth diaper covers!  This tutorial is for Turn and Topstitch method making one wrap and one pair of pants. See our other wool sweater tutorial for making single layer covers!

Materials:  THIN sweater….at LEAST 80% wool.  I recommend cashmere or merino blends, but other woolen sweaters will work here if they are not too thick nor too scratchy.  1/4″ elastic.  1/2 or 1″ elastic.  Hook and Loop velcro.  Thread.

Sewing Skills:  Intermediate.  Sewing elastic, curved seams

Before you cut:  Felt your sweaters by washing in hot and drying to shrink the fibers.  With these thin sweaters, they will shrink to maybe 1/8″ thick.

Use your favorite turn and topstitch cover pattern.  You can try our medium/large one found here (do not add the snaps) or our small/medium one found here.  If your sweater is a cardigan, or too small on the front, you will need to use another sweater as well.  I like to mix and match sweaters and add little appliques too before sewing up.

1.  Lay out your sweater flat.  Cut arms off at underarm seam.  Lay aside.  Place your pattern on the sweater  vertically, which ever way it fits best.  Trace and cut through both layers.  Set aside for now.

2.  Pants:  The wrists of the sweater will be the ankles.  You can use your child’s favorite pants as a guide, or in general, depending on the sweater I CUT the length from the wrist / bottom / ankle as follows.  Small: 16″, Medium: 18″, Large 21″.  You need to leave one inch at the top for folding over the elastic waistband.  (Included in my measurements).  Cut STRAIT across arm (90 degree angle).

3.  Fold each arm piece in half longways and mark centers on seam.   Then starting at your mark and heading up toward the top (armpit end), cut away the seam opening up the crotch.  If your sweater has really big arms, you can just cut strait up parallel with the outside folded edge.

4.  Turn one arm inside out and place inside of other arm, lining up seams and edges.  Pin and then sew the whole seam with 1/4″ seam allowance.  Backtack at crotch center where the seams meet.  Backtack at each end of seam.  Turn rightside out!

5.  Turn under the top edge 1″ or less to the inside and sew a casing for your elastic leaving a 2″ hole.   Cut elastic to your babe’s waist measurement and using a safety pin attached to one side, thread the elastic through the casing.  Secure ends of elastic together with a few rows of stitches and then close up your hole.  Don’t forget to take out your safety pin!  My rule of thumb for the waist is always the same as my finished length.  20″/20″ Large, 17″/17″ M and 15/15″ S.  These pants can be rolled up or worn as capris so fit for a long time!

6.  DIAPER COVER:  This really is a simple turn and topstitch.  Notes are that you can applique on the bum before sewing (with wool , NOT COTTON) and that the velcros should be added as the last step through both wool layers.  See my tutorial for a 3 layer cover here but the basic steps are :  Sew the two layers together around all edges with 1/4″ SA, leaving a 2″ hole at front middle.   Stretch and sew elastic INTO seam allowances at legs and back.  Turn rightside out.  Close/topstitch front top edge.  Sew a line UNDER your elastic on the back edge just to keep it from rolling in.   Sew hook velcro onto the wings and loop velcro on front.  Voila!

All wool items should be hand washed in cool water with a splash of baby soap and air dried.  They are super great covers because they breath, yet hold in moisture, but for some reason, don’t hold odor, and only need to be washed when soiled or every few weeks.  You can put a splash of lansinoh/lanolin in the wash for added moisture control and softness.  The longies are only a single layer, so great as pants or for added moisture control at night!


MiaLa Simple Turn and Topstitch Cloth Diaper Cover Pattern S/M

Here is my original favorite cloth diaper cover pattern.  Fits approximately 15-20 pounds or a general size M.



Be sure to make sure the square inch prints to scale (or resize on your computer).  Once printed, tape pattern together by lining up the stars.  1/4″ seam allowance is included on the pattern.  You will need two layers of fabric to make this diaper…Either 2 layers thin wool or one waterproof layer and one liner like suedecloth, or thin fleece.  You will also need 1/4″ elastic and hook and loop velcro

My tutorial here can help you get a visual picture of sewing this diaper, just use 2 layers instead of 3, and you will need to omit the pocket slit.  On these, I normally leave the 3″ hole for turning on the front edge above the velcro.

One Wool Sweater= 2 diaper wraps and 1 pair of longies! For thicker sweaters…


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For thicker wool sweaters, instead of using our turn and topstitch repurposing tutorial, you can use this one.  You get an extra wrap without many extra steps!  You will need one large wool sweater that is not too scratchy.  Felt it by washing on warm and machine drying.  You need to watch it closely and check it often, you only want to shrink it to about a 1/4″ thickness, like a thick sweatshirt.  Once shrunk, you can’t really unshrink it 🙂

Materials needed:  One large 80% or more thick wool sweater.  1/4″ and 1/2″ elastic.  Pattern .  and Polyester FOE, wool binding, OR strips of fleece for binding.

You can use the same patterns as the turn and topstich, (look here under diaper patterns or use your own favorite one) but you need to TRIM OFF 1/4″ from the leg edges since we will be binding it.  Those are the longest curved edges of the pattern.

Follow basic instructions for cutting and making the pants found here.  Then for the diaper covers, we are going to do things a bit differently.

1.  We will be making 2 covers, so just set aside one of your layers until you are finished with the first.  This way, you can correct any mistakes easily.

2.  IF YOU ARE USING BINDING OR STRIPS OF FLEECE OR WOOL:  Mark where you elastic is going to go on the legs and back.  Cut 1/4″elastic pieces (usually 6″ -7″ long) and stitch right next to the edge on the WRONG side of the diaper.  You will be stretching the elastic as you sew it.  Use a zig zag or 3 step zig zag if possible.  Stay right next to the edge!  You don’t want the wool to stretch while you are sewing so try to push it in, as you are pulling elastic out.  (you will get the hang of it!).  Be sure to backtack at each end of elastic to secure.  IF YOU ARE USING FOE, DO NOT SEW ELASTIC.

3.  Sew loop (soft) velcro piece across the top front of your dipe

4.  For our binding, if you are using strips, cut long pieces that are 1.25″ wide.  You can sew strips together if you need to, but is not preferred.   Start on the back edge on the WRONG side of diaper to the left of the elastic.  Your diaper is going to be laying with the back side at your left hand and the front side toward your right.  Wrong side up.  Place the beginning of your binding strip right side down (if applicable) with its left side edge flush against the edge of your back.  Sew 1/4″ or a little more away from the edge.  You will go around the wing and then down the leg seam and when you get to the elastic, it should be to the left of your needle.  Don’t catch  your elastic while sewing and stretch it out while you stitch.  Go all the way around until you get to the back again.  Stretch the back elastic like you did the legs then keep going till you overlap you start by a little.  Trim excess binding.   Flip to the right side of your diaper and fold the binding over.  Turn under the edge 1/4″-1/3″ inch and topstitch all the way around on the right side like you did the underside about 1/4-1/3″ away from the edges.  Stretch through your elastics and when you reach the starting point again, secure edges and zig zag over raw edge that is showing.

5.  If you are using FOLDOVER ELASTIC, just bind without stretching until you reach your elastic marks, stretch to full capacity as you sew the legs and back, and close it off in the back.

6.  Add hook velcro tabs to the wings, on the wrong side, and you are done!


Tee shirt turned baby/toddler dress!


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Sewing Skill: Beginner, Cost: Nada except thread

What better way to recycle your favorite tee shirt? All you need is a currently fitting shirt of babe’s and an old one of your’s…or thrift store finds….this one was made of a small FAVORITE tee of mine and turned perfectly into a 2T dress for my daughter. I found as my daughter grew, all she ever wanted was stretchy cotton dresses. The ones I made her before she was born with all the beautiful layers of calico and vintage woven fabrics ended up being to stiff to flow around and twirl like fairies or the seams were “scratchy”, etc…they were all wrong. Now I know, an old loved tee shirt makes a perfectly loved dress.
1) Lay out old tee shirt flat with all seams even

2) Lay favorite fitting shirt on top of shirt, making sure your featured logo is centered

2a. For an X small T shirt or bigger kids t shirt, place shirt even with neckline, it will probobly be small enough. For a small or larger tee shirt, you will need place below the neck and will have an extra step of adding the neckline (see below)

3) Fold shirt up at 2-3″ below arms’

4)Cut out around shirt 3/4″ . If you are using XS, do NOT cut the neck, taper your shoulder cut to match. Do not cut prehemmed sleeves that are shorter than your pattern shirt.

5)Measure UP from BOTTOM of tee shirt:
10″ for 18M, 11″ for 2T, 12″ for 3T,
or guess from babes measurements or a similar dress.
6)Mark and Cut strait across.
7) You now have 2 layers on the top and one tubular rectangle on the bottom. Turn top piece inside out with right sides together. Sew shoulder seams, a, tapering into neckband if applicable. Use a tight stitch and about a 1/4″ Seam allowance. See note below for larger shirts.
8) Still right sides together, sew from finished sleeve opening to underarm in one continuous seam, b. 1/4″ SA. Reinforce underarm with another row of stitching close to first. Be sure to tack ends.

9) Gather bottom piece at raw edge. By hand or machine baste. It should be the same width as top “c” edge.
10) Place both “c” edges RIGHT sides together with raw edges even. The easiest way to do this is to put the shirt part inside of the skirt.
11) Stitch with a tight stitch. Stitch again close to first row. 1/4-1/2″ seam allowance. Be sure you catch all the gathers.
Turn and done!
NOTE: For a larger shirt, you will need to line up pattern shirt UNDER the neckband. Use you pattern to cut a new neck (lower in the front). Remove original neckband, shorten, and reapply to your new cut neck after finishing as above. If sleeves of large shirt are longer than your pattern shirt, you will need to cut and then hem them.
Cute and Comfy!  Be sure to check out Tee’s to pants and Tee’s to skirts, too!

Soft Soled Leather Baby Shoe Pattern 6-18 months


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These are recommended for new walkers. They provide slip protection and the soft soles help develop arches and improve balance.

Materials: Small leather scraps (old leather skirts, etc, work great). The thinner leather makes for softer shoes and can be sewn on a regular machine. The pattern is for sizes 6 months to 18 months.

You can use your child’s foot to gauge which size to use, just make sure there is about 1/4-1/2″ of space around the foot on the pattern for seam allowance and room.

I used my imagination for the decoration, but you can do anything to cover the elastic holes..
Here are the directions:

Print pattern:  Both pages



Cut pieces…2 of each pattern piece no need to flip pieces, they are ambi-foot!

Cut out your elastic hole cover (not on pattern) this will be a flower, circle, stripe etc about 1″square to cover the slits where the elastic would show. For a stripe, just trace the toe pattern again on the contrasting color and cut about 3/4″to 1″ deep.

Cut elastic to the length of your elastic casing pattern. If using a thick leather, or if you elastic is very stretchy (they all vary), cut 1/2″ less than your casing. I use stretchrite 1/4″ elastic and cut it 1/2″short. Cut 2 pieces

Cut 2 small slits in the center top of toe portion. These should be about 3/8″ apart and 3/8″ down from the edge of the side that will go across the bridge of the foot.

Thread one end of your elastic up from the wrong side,then back down through the other hole. Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic (small pin)

Sew elastic casing to upper part of heel piece, leaving short ends open and backtacking all ends. Sew close to the edge, as you will have to pass a small safely pin through there.

Sew your decorative stripe, flower, applique, etc over the place where your elastic shows. BE SURE to not sew ON your elastic…move the ends around as you sew around the hole.

Thread the safety pin from your toe portion through the elastic casing, keeping it threaded through the toe part as well. You will have to hold one end and gather as much slack as you can, gathering an inch or more on bothends of the elastic. I sew them together with about an inch tail, but you can do less than this if you want them looser on the ankle.

Then I trim to just beyond my stitching, then thread that thick part into the elastic casing and scoot the elastic around so that the bump is near the back.

Sew you toe/heel (now attached via elastic) to the bottom piece. 1/8″ seam allowance. You can use a 1/4″ S.A.for a slightly smaller shoe.

Sew right sides together. Heel portion should overlap OVER the toe portion about1/2″ when you sew it on. This will make the toe portion be on TOP once you turn.

Reinforce the stitches all around,sewing just next to (outside of) your first stitches. No need for these to be neat, and are not absolutely needed.

Turn and smile, you are done.