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The Hand Puppet Kits | Story

The Hand Puppet Kits | Story

The Shop Floor Project hand puppet kits, designed by Samantha Allan, have two distinct inspirations, as she explains:

“I have had a copy of the book Paul Klee, Hand Puppets on my studio table for five years. Between 1916 and 1925 Klee made over 50 hand puppets for his son, Felix, of which 30 are still in existence. For the heads, he used materials from his own household: beef bones and electrical outlets, bristle brushes, leftover bits of fur and nutshells. Soon he began to sew costumes, using his wife’s collection of old clothes. They have such a presence and really speak of that time in the early 20th century, when toys were made by artists in their homes, busy with visitors from all corners of the the avant garde.”

“I combined these hand puppet designs with a love of folk customs and characters (below). My hope is that people will sew the kits and add their own embellishments; scraps of fabrics, embroidery or old buttons. I imagine winter evenings with folklore stories being told around a fire, brought to life with these puppets.”

The first set of designs included Wolf Woman, Star Monster, Ribbon Man, Twig Man and Breton Clown (seen below). A second collection of the popular kits emerged; this time including designs such as The Conjuror, Sleepy Moon and King Rooster.

Final additions to the characterful collection included three new designs: A bee keeper with a netted face, cloaked in red and covered in bees embroidered in gold thread; a figure covered in rags and tatters with a mask made of confetti; and a fur-trimmed ghost of the snow forests, wearing a coat which contains the landscape she travels through.

Following on from the interest people have shown in adding their own embellishments to the hand puppet kits, we designed these new additions as a ‘modern sampler’, using a series of patterned embroidery stitches within the designs to suggest where embellishments could be made.

The Bee Keeper is particularly inspired by a Basque country folk costume, with it’s strange lace mask and robe, which the artist developed into a bee keeper with a gold bee adorned cape.

The Snow Traveller is inspired by stories from The Book of Russian Folk Tales. The fur trim can be added using a Knot Stitch (which you can learn from our book The Geometry of Sewing), while French knots in white wool could act as falling snow and a feather stitch for the central panel.

Mr Rags, is inspired by a certain sub group of Morris or Rag Dancers, who cover their clothes in scraps of fabric, wear masks and add feathers to hats. Designer of the kits Samantha Allan explains how she embellished her own Mr Rags - “I’ve covered the mask in a ‘seed’ stitch, put gold sequins in the eyes, and coloured straw in his head. I’ll be adding lots of little rags to his costume soon so he is heavy with them!”.


  • Post author
    Caitlin Daw