Sometimes I have studied a professionally made marionette to see where and how the strings are attached to create the effective movements. If you have even one commercially made marionette, you can create a few homemade marionettes, too, using a head and some colorful fabrics.
You could reuse an old doll head as beginning to making your own marionette. Or you can make your own head with papier mache or a styrofoam ball.
Marionettes are easier to make than a doll because you don’t have to worry about stuffing and other details. Getting the movements right is more important than having highly detailed costumes. As a result, your marionette’s clothes can be made from cast-off clothing or from any fabric you choose.
Although some people are content to use any old string for their marionettes, I think the best thing to use is clear, see-through nylon string. Fishing line is a good choice because it’s inexpensive, transparent, and strong enough to last a long time.
Another important element in making your marionette is having the right feet or shoes for your puppet. Balsa wood or recycled plastic lids are good choices, as they are both light weight, yet they make a noise like footsteps if you tap them on the stage. Whether or not the marionette’s footsteps make a noise is under your control. You only need to vary how hard they hit the stage.
Practicing making movements using your marionette is the key to whether or not your puppet show will be a success. The more you practice, the better you will be at getting the marionette to have a life of its own.
Start with the basic movements -- walking, waving, etc.-- and then add the more subtle movements -- dancing, scratching the nose, expressive tilts of the head.
In no time, even you as the puppeteer will be fooled into thinking your marionette is a separate little person.