Wool Magic by Suzanne DownPosted by Suzanne, on February 4th, 2010
One Spring, I was telling stories for four days at a large street festival. I was a roving storyteller, mingling freely with the crowds, drawing children to me like a pied piper. I used my most colorful one-pocket story apron and bravely set out. Whenever there is a large event with many distractions, I find the story apron the best storytelling helper ever! The key is to have short, lovely ‘tales’ in the pocket so children and their families are free to move on with the festivities. This is not a ‘show’ with a definite period of time for stories, it is an ongoing series of mini shows.
I was prepared with many poems, stories, and songs in my story basket, for changing my pocket full of finger puppets and small lap puppet characters. I also had colorful wool tucked away just in case I ran out of stories. All went well, the ponies, roosters, elves, and sun-spirits were chosen and tales told out. Then one little 4 year old girl with big soft eyes waited patiently for her story. I was out of my regular stories, so I proceeded to make a ‘story doll’ out of the colorful wool I thankfully had thought to bring along, with a story about my grandmother. This was made as I spoke the story, the same way you make a wool angel….or yarn doll. Then at the story’s end I spontaneously gave the child the wooly doll, and told her to put it under her pillow while she slept, and maybe it would tell her stories in her dreams.
The next day, that little girl came looking for me, her ‘doll’ tucked in her pocket. Such joy and wonder was emanating from her as she told me her doll had told her stories, beautiful stories. Other children started requesting the wool story, they followed me and listened again and again to the story doll tale. I decided to empty all of my pockets of the carefully chosen tales, and put rainbows of wool in my story apron pocket. Throughout the festival, children would find me, their wool dolls with them, smiling, and sharing in the story on mysterious levels.
I began to realize the incredible power of creating a story helper before children’s eyes that was woven and tied with the magic of a story within it. These little puffs of wool took shape and gave an imagination to each child who received one. The wool doll’s soft open quality left space for the story imagination to brew and take on a deeper life for each child. I have heard from moms since the festival, that those little puppet dolls were cherished for a long time, and lived by their pillows, or in their pockets.
Ever since this experience, I have increasingly developed my work and relationship with wool puppets. I have watched my young preschool groups wrapping colors of wool here and there, discovering a fairy, a valentine baby, a leaf boat, a soft cradle, and see how they can sink into the wool and be in a deep calm space for a while. And what pleasure to bring it all to life with a simple story
When this quality is brought to gentle life through gesture and story, children are given a chance to softly open and receive the gift. That is magic isn’t it!
There are some upcoming workshops working with needle-felting wool puppets.
A good resource for short poem stories for the story apron work can be found in Around the World with Finger Puppet Animals