I used to make the "parachute man" toy a lot when I was a kid. I was visiting Danielle and Rhett. He got inspired to make a pulley system to drop parachutes similar to one he'd seen in a science museum with his little boy Rhett.
Here's what we came up with.
It works really well and little Rhett loves it.
Step 1: Parachute Man
Cut a square piece of the lightest cloth or plastic you can find.
Tie four strings to the corners.
Tie the other ends of the strings to the dude that's going to parachute.
The following steps show details of those steps.
If you've already got your parachute and parachutist,
feel free to skip ahead to the pulley system at step 7.
Step 2: Square Piece of Cloth or Plastic
Garbage or shopping bag plastic is as good or better.
Fold your square over both ways to check that it's mostly square.
This parachute ended up being way too big for the weight of the santa doll and the height of the drop.
Step 3: Cut Some String
It goes diagonally from corner to corner and back.
As mentioned in the previous step, this parachute is way too big for the Santa doll.
The little parachute in the background is the right size.
It's 18" square.
Step 4: String Rig
First I double over two strings and tie a half hitch in the middle.
Then I tie half hitches in the ends.
Step 5: Tie the Corners
Step 6: Harness the Doll
Step 7: Top Pulley
This pulley has no sides or "cheekpieces".
The cord can fall off the side of the pulley, jam up and stop running smoothly.
Get the cheekpiece kind of pulley.
We didn't put a pulley at the lower end of the loop. We just put a loop of string through it and tied that to a cabinet in th other room. That keeps the loop from hanging down in the middle of the room and getting in the way.
The loop has to be loose while hoisting or the clothespin will open prematurely.
Step 8: Tricky Clip
We tied two interlocking loops using "sheet bend" knots.
We attached one loop to each lever of a clothespin, so when the cord is pulled, it compresses the levers and opens the jaws of the clothespin.
This system works really well.
When hoisting the parachute the tension is only on one side of the clip, so it doesn't open until you pull both tails of the cord loop.
You could cut square notches in the clothespin jaws or use a metal alligator clip to hoist something really heavy.