Make a paper jumping jack

Each time my 3-year-old grandson comes to visit, he homes in on a wooden Santa Claus jumping jack that hangs from a lamp in my living room. He loves to pull the string that makes the Santa’s arms and legs flip up.

After one of his visits, I thought it would be fun to make a paper jumping jack for him and send it to him in the mail. I photocopied a picture of him, cut out his sweet, smiling face to glue to the face of the jumping jack I would make.

I have made many jumping jacks over the years, each one serving as a silly substitute for a birthday card or as a token gift in a Christmas card.

The easy part of making a jumping jack is selecting a piece of sturdy paper for it. Usually, I use an old greeting card, or sometimes an empty facial tissue or a cereal box.

The first thing to do is draw a pattern:

• Fold a piece of ordinary paper, such as printer paper, in half. Starting at the fold, draw a half-head and half-torso. Cut this out and unfold it to reveal the whole head and torso. Next, draw the foot to knee part of a leg, then draw the thigh part. Do the same for the arms — hand to elbow, elbow to shoulder. These pieces will serve as templates — trace around them on the heavy paper chosen for the jumping jack. The trick here is to make sure that one set of arms and legs is reversed — just flip the pattern pieces over and trace around them.

After the pieces are cut out, there’s more trickiness in store:

• Thread a long-eyed crewel needle with crochet cotton — any weight will do, though I prefer bedspread weight. Make sure the end of the thread has a sturdy knot large enough so it won’t slide through the hole the needle will make. Overlap the “knee” part of the leg with the lower “thigh” part, pierce the two pieces with the needle and draw the thread through. Tie a knot closely to the back of the joined pieces and clip the thread. Do the same for the other leg pieces, and for the lower arm and upper arm pieces. After these have been assembled, use the needle to make a hole at the top of the “thigh” and the top of the “arm” pieces. These holes will be used for fashioning the thread mechanism that will make the toy jump.

• Next, place the upper part of the “arm” behind the “shoulder” of the torso piece. Using the needle and thread fasten those two pieces together in the same way the arms and legs were done. Do the same for the second arm. Pierce the pieces slightly below the hole already made.

• Next, place the top part of the “thigh” behind the bottom edge of the torso and thread and knot it into place. Do the same with the other leg. Make sure the toes of the feet point outward.

The piece now should look like a human form with very floppy arms and legs.

Now comes the trickiest part:

• Turn the piece over. Locate the hole at the top of the right arm and push the threaded needle through, bring the needle and thread to the top of the other arm and from the back side of that arm push the needle through the hole and knot the thread. Make certain the thread tension between the two arms is taut, but not tight enough to make the arms stand out from the body, nor so loose that the string sags.

Do the same with the legs.

The last step is this:

• Cut a piece of the crochet cotton to measure approximately 12 inches long. Tie one end to the center of the thread between the two arms. Bring the crochet cotton down to the thread connecting the two legs, pass it under that thread and tie a knot around it, making certain that the vertical line of the thread is neither too tight nor too slack. Let the remaining thread dangle down. Pull gently on this thread to make the arms and legs move.

Go to to see images of the body pieces and how the thread mechanism should look.

Oh — and have fun.

In conjunction with Orrington’s 225th anniversary celebration,The Brewer Stitchers will have a table at a yard sale 10 a.m-4 p.m Saturday, July 13, at the Center Drive School in Orrington.  Available for purchase will be fabric, sewing notions, knitting needles and patterns, and other sewing related items.