This year my mom decided – in October – that we should do a handmade Christmas. My addiction to Pinterest was perfect for this (!) and I started pinning things into a gift ideas board immediately.
It was fun, but it took A LOT of time. I didn’t want to be that aunt or person that makes all kinds of things that, while beautifully done, are not functional. And so I set out to make things that (I hoped) the people receiving them would actually use.
The first project I started on was a doorway puppet theater with puppets.
Puppets & Doorway Puppet Theaters
Inspired by both this simple-ish doorway theater by CoolSpacesforKids and this fancier, circus-reminiscent theater at The Crafty Cupboard, I set out to create a gift that could be used by a wide range of ages in hopes that they could use it for a few years. Puppet theaters are pretty cool and the bonus here is that not only are these pretty cost effective to make, but they can be put away pretty easily and aren’t in the way for very long.
The breakdown: puppet theaters
$5 for one solid-colored, twin-sized sheet (Walmart), cut into quarters
$5.50 for one package of coordinating pillow cases (2 per pack)
$4-ish for Heat-N-Bond
$2.17 for one white tension (curtain) rod, will need one per theater
All of this makes FOUR puppet theaters, so this was a very, very cost-effective project at roughly $5.80 each. This was fairly easy to make: cut your sheet into quarters (fits our doorways PERFECTLY!), use your Heat-N-Bond to hem the edges, cut a rectangular opening in the curtain/sheet, then cut the pillow cases into triangular bunting and attach with Heat-N-Bond. I wanted my husband to help with the openings, but he didn’t, so there was a several week lapse in when I started to when I finished these. If you’d like to, add something like the name of your puppet theater, perhaps; on one I cut a G and two stars out of felt and attached them.
(You could sew this if you’re not intimidated by your sewing machine like I am.)
But wait! You also need puppets, right? Right.
I liked the Old McDonald inspired puppets I saw all over Pinterest, so I set out to make those (SO thankful for that tutorial!). I sewed these guys by hand. The duck was the first guy I finished and I was so pleased with him that I couldn’t wait to make others! A month later it I finally made the chicken (another cutie pie!). Those two went to my niece and nephew in Minnesota.
I bought a pack of craft felt at Walmart ($3.97) to make these guys, though I didn’t even use a whole pack. My co-worker, knowing I was making puppets, brought me some felt from a yard sale (free) and I also bought about 25 sheets of felt for various projects from Hobby Lobby for 20 cents each, so this is not an expensive project, either. I used two sheets of the same color felt for each body, then parts of other sheets for various components like beaks and eyes and that comb thingy up there. Later, after I’d purchased a paint pen for other gifts, I realized we could easily just paint the eyes on and save our little hands the trouble of cutting the teeny things out.
I made the puppy and kitty for my niece and nephew here and a monster and chicken for my nephew in Florida. Jaiden was eager to learn to sew, so she started a little piggy. I used the paint pen for all of these eyes as well as the puppy and kitty’s spots and stripes.
If you’re going to make these, use your brain and sew everything to each body piece first, then sew the two body pieces together. Learn from my mistakes (lol). By the time I got to these bad boys (the wee, early morning of Christmas!), I’d felt more comfortable with the sewing machine, so these guys took a fraction of the time to produce.
The breakdown? It’s really hard to pinpoint, but it’s not more than $1 per puppet! If you want to get technical and count fractions of sheets of felt, I’d say 40-80 cents each.
Total: $7 for a puppet theater and two puppets! I usually spend three times that per child for a gift that will be tossed out within the year.
Verdict: I had fun making these and I hope they’ll get some use out of them. I really like this gift because it allows for imaginative play, not sitting playing video games. The kids can make new puppets from socks or paper bags or felt or popsicle sticks pretty inexpensively, so it allows them to also be creative. And the writer in me loves that they can come up with different stories, they can collaborate and the whole family can be included in performances. Also, if they really enjoy it, it opens up the possibility of making and gifting other puppets in the future.
I wasn’t going to make one for my kids, thinking that at 5-9 years old they were probably over things like this, but my oldest threw a fit about it, so they have one as well. My nieces and nephews here didn’t seem too excited about them (lol), but my SIL in Minnesota seemed to like it. We’ll see how it goes.