Sunday, October 25, 2009

Peg Dolls

As part of of my teaching degree, we had to go to an excursion venue and then make a presentation about it in a little Expo at uni.

We chose Sovereign Hill and headed out there, it was a fantastic day filled with heaps of cool things to do and see. For those of you who don't know, Sovereign Hill is a small historic village constructed entirely to mimic the goldrush times in rural Victoria. If you ever have the chance to check it out, do so! There were a number of old and beautiful crafts on display including knitting, quilt making, embroidery, blacksmithing and more.

When we were putting together our display for the expo, I decided I wanted to make a little craft station where people could make peg dolls. I remember making them when I was small, and about half the students remembered them too, so it was a great nostalgic thing to do. A couple of students who swore they couldnt sew to save themselves had a go and were really pleased with the results!

This is the writeup that went with the activity:

Toys and games in the past

The tradition of making dolls out of wooden clothes pegs comes from a time when most families had little money to spend on things like toys. During the 19th Century, peg dolls were very popular, even among the rich. One of the best-known collections of these belonged to the young Queen Victoria, but because they were relatively cheap, they were well within the reach of even the poorest families. Remnant shops often sold fabric scraps which were sometimes a floral design, or off cuts from curtains, rolled into bundles and sold for 1/2d. These scraps were then lovingly sewn by hand by the children into clothing for their peg dolls. Some families made them into peddler dolls adding little trinkets to the finished doll and sold them for pennies on the street.

Suggested activity: Make a peg doll

You will need:

  • A wooden 'dolly' type peg
  • A pipe cleaner
  • Scraps of material and wool
  • Scissors, glue, sharpie pens

Wind the middle of pipe cleaner a few times around the peg just below the 'neck'. Bend out the two ends to make arms, and twist the ends under to make hands. Wrap the material around the peg to make clothing and glue down. Glue the wool on for hair and draw a face with the sharpies.

This can be done as part of a 'history of toys' lesson, or a 'clothing of the past' lesson or simply a fun activity during the goldmining unit.

Below is three peg dolls made during the expo. You have a serving girl to the left, a convict man in the middle and a lady to the right. All in all a fun and highly successful activity to do!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My friends, I have been making puppets

Teaching rounds are good but work-intensive, which is why I'm a little quiet around here at the moment...BUT

After our show Everything Will Be Ok, finished, it sparked a puppet making frenzy. I have embarked on attempting one of each style of puppet there is, from materials found around the home.

Firstly: The Bunraku style puppet from toilet paper rolls, foil, kebab sticks and wool:
There is a lot of controversy about use of the term "Bunraku". Either it's a certain style of puppet that usually takes two to three people to manipulate or it's a very specific style of puppetry that only ancient Japanese people can do, the secrets of making them are closely held and no-one in the Western world can know. Japanese puppeteers can train for up to 10 years before they're allowed to puppet anything other than a foot. This is why I have referred to this as a Bunraku 'style', rather than the actual puppet type, I don't tend to like to enter into fights that don't seem to matter. And, after all, they didn't have toilet paper rolls in ancient Japan. Dontcha just LOVE craft materials?

The next guy I made is a rod puppet from dowel, felt, some stuffing, a coat hanger, an old pillowcase and two buttons:

The wrists spin quite a lot, being due to the fact they're just plaited wool. I'd want to look at another way to do it next time. But these are all test puppets so I can learn to make them and we can learn to puppet them. So for a first effort, making it all up as I went along, it's not too bad.

And this rod puppet from pencils, scraps of leather, some left over scraps of the aforementioned pillow case, a wooden bead and another coat hanger:

This guy (and his lady puppet) are tiny, about a hand and a half high. The culmination of hot glue and thick leather in the joints have made them both a little hard to manipulate, but I've learned heaps from it to make the next lot.

I've got the rod puppet and the bunraku style puppet photographed step by step, I can write a tutorial for either but the bunraku is pretty damn easy to make. You imagine the joints of a human and stab corresponding holes in the toilet rolls, thread them through with wool... And if you happen to have half a role of cheap aluminum foil the head practically makes itself! Left over theatrical props are dreadfully useful for this type of thing.

I'm such a fan of puppets. Little inanimate objects that are endowed with life, it's right down my alley!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cute crafts and exciting craft book news

Friends of mine have an adorable daughter who turned one on the weekend, so a present was in order! Her favourite hairstyle is what my mother used to refer to as Whalespouts, and since she's so horribly cute, I figured I'd continue my grandmother's tradition and make her a portrait doll.

I loved the upside down bows and the heart. And her parents recognised it instantly as a portrait doll, which is always heart warming!

In other, exciting news, Garth Johnson (of Extreme Craft) long awaited book 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse is almost here! Featuring a bunch of artists and their crafts from totally reused materials. I'm in it, somewhere, so grab a copy when it's released, or preorder it from Amazon... EEE!!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

ebay, craft and exhibitions

I've just put a copy of the Gentle Arts book up on ebay! I found it today in a dusty old shop that hardly anyone frequents, and I couldn't just let it sit there.

Go HERE to check it out.

If you're into the history of craft, and the history of Australian craft, you should really consider it. It's an awesome book and I'm delighted to have a copy in my library. You can read my thoughts while reading it in this post.

In other craft related news, Rayna from Radical Cross Stitch has an opening tonight at Platform Gallery as part of the Interventionist Guide to Melbourne. If you're around, go check it out!

An example of Rayna's awesome work:
(Originally uploaded on Radical Cross Stitch)