SHADOW PUPPET THEATER tutorial

10.05.09

homemade fabric shadow puppet theatre

Some of my favorite moments with my kids or friends or hubby are at night, after a long day when everyone’s ready to wind down and just reflect on things. I think this is one reason stargazing is always a little magical. The kids and hubby and I tried a new evening activity this weekend that turned out to be a huge hit. I made a homemade shadow-puppet theater and we put on a show.

The lights went down and we strung our theater between two chairs. My daughter put on most of the show, because my son was just mesmerized by it all. We started trying out new puppets to see what kind of shadows they cast, and once we got going there was no stopping us. The possibilities were endless (see our animal cracker puppets below). Quite the perfect venue for open play.

DIY Shadow Puppet theatrehow to sew a shadow puppet theatre tutorial

A pretty ballerina for the girl and bloodthirsty werewolf for the boy.

We’re planning to try our theater again tonight. We’re in the middle of “cousin camp,” and we’re thinking this will be great for re-creating some good family stories. A theater like this would make a fantastic holiday gift for a whole family, too. And a pretty affordable one. I think I spent a whopping $5 on supplies.

freezer paper screen print art project2

Supplies:
Freezer paper
Elmer’s Glue
Masking tape
Some kind of paint that will be permanent on fabric, like textile paint or acrylic
A sponge brayer for applying paint
Fabric that will let a little light through, I used a half yard of muslin
Tulle (optional)

Start by cutting the shape of the theater opening out of freezer paper (this is also good for Tshirts, check out this tutorial).
freezer paper screen print art project

Lightly iron the freezer paper, waxy side down, onto the fabric.
iron on freezer paper art project2

Now comes the fun part. Use your Elmer’s glue to squeeze out some fun architectural features (I sketched mine in pencil first). This is sort of the batik method. Anywhere you put Elmer’s glue will be free of paint. I kept a paintbrush handy for smoothing out blobbie spots.
elmers glue art project

Allow the glue to dry.

Tape off any other areas you don’t want painted. Then, using your brayer, apply paint as evenly as possible.
kids paint roller art project

Allow the paint to dry according to package directions. I left mine overnight just to be safe.

It’s time to see the results of your work. Pull away the freezer paper, then gently place the fabric in a tub of water and allow it to soak for an hour or two to soften the glue.

classroom painting theatre projects

Pull it out and into the sink, and gently rub away the glue under running water. Take care not to rub the unpainted fabric against the painted fabric.
homemade batik2

Admire your results while you allow your theater to dry.
School paint projects

I decided to add a few curtains, for extra dramatic effect. To be honest, this took a bit of time. I wouldn’t recommend¬† it unless you plan on this thing being passed down through at least two generations. In which case you should go for it. Otherwise, painted-on curtains will suit just fine.
handmade fabric shadow puppet theatreNow all that’s left to do is make puppets! Get out some cardstock and scissors, as well as skewers to tape to the back if you like. Brads are also fun for attaching moving parts. Or, just use what you find around the house. We found animal crackers on toothpicks made for some great puppets.
animal cracker homemade shadow puppetsHappy puppeteering!
handmade fabric shadow puppet theatre2

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle October 5, 2009 at 8:02 am

This is amazing. I’m sending a link to my sister right now. She’s gonna love it.
You are so creative, Amber!

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Carly October 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Holy cow! That theatre looks incredible… I might have to borrow some children so I don’t look silly doing shadow puppets by myself!

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Brittney October 5, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I just found your website last night, and I think I have spent HOURS now browsing ALL your posts! I love it! Thank you! Do you have any ideas for a close friend who is approaching the one year mark of her daughter’s unexpected death? We have since moved, and so it would have to be something sent in the mail. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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jessica October 5, 2009 at 6:04 pm

I just found your blog and have been looking through all of your wonderful ideas. I love giving gifts and packaging pretty things. You’ve got so many great ideas. Keep up the posting. This is so great!

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crystal October 5, 2009 at 8:20 pm

WOW! This is incredible.

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shanti October 6, 2009 at 9:24 am

oh my freakin’ goodness. awesome! btw, those look like the winco animal crackers that your kids love so much! i bet they didn’t mind impaling them at all. =)

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Estelle October 6, 2009 at 10:41 am

Um, you are a creative genius and your kids are so lucky to have such a crafty mama.

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Linda October 7, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Amber!!!!!! You never cease to amaze tyandme. I am totally making this for baby jada. You are awesome!

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karen October 8, 2009 at 6:42 pm

This is beautiful!

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Tania October 8, 2009 at 7:37 pm

that’s an awesome tutorial! the pictures of the show you put on look so dreamy. thanks for the how-to!

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Lenetta @ Nettacow October 20, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I remember a group doing a shadow skit like this at 4-H camp and it blew me away. :>) This is great – and your details are phenominal! I linked to this on my weekly roundup – post is under my name. Thanks!

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kk March 20, 2013 at 8:45 am

WOW! This is incredible.

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