There are some projects that come together with what feels like lightning speed. My recent mitts were like that – there was no deadline, but I had the idea I wanted to make them on the Thursday, took a day to choose the yarn, and by the following Friday, voila. Mitts! Others take a bit more brewing, like the shawl I’ve been working on for nearly two years now. I do a little then set it aside for a few weeks/months. It’s fine, it’s a slow-burner, and as I don’t have a deadline, I’m just pottering on with it when I feel like it.
And sometimes, you’ve had the materials for a project for ages, but you suddenly decide that you want to make them for a deadline that is just a few days away. In this case, I’d bought some little numbered pegs, meant to be used for Advent, about eighteen months ago in a charity shop. They were meant to be used for an advent calender for my friend’s little boy (remind me to show you his birthday quilt) at Christmas last year, but these things being what they are, I never quite got around to actually making anything. Then in the last week of November, inspiration finally struck. I would make him a Nativity scene. No, more than that, I’d make him a Nativity scene in 24 parts, one for each day, put the pieces in little bags and use the pegs to number them.
My new motto appears to be ‘Never Knowingly Under-Engineered’.
After trawling around the internet for a while and coming across lots of felt nativity scenes, I happened on a blog post with a PDF pattern link at the bottom. Although I had a little felt in my stash, I knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough, and so a PLAN was born.
I sometimes feel kind of nuts when doing these things, but whenever I take on a project like this, I find the planning one of the most enjoyable parts of the process. I worked out what pieces would work for what day. I worked out what colours of felt I would need for the various parts and made a list. Knowing that she’s a fan of felt, I used Ali’s Big List of UK fabric shops to find someone to buy the felt from. I talked to N’s mum and we decided how it would work.
Once I was armed with my lists, I bought the felt, printed the templates and got to work. As I only had 3 days to do everything, I’m afraid I sacrificed photography for speed, so I don’t have any process pictures. But I do have photos (taken indoors with my phone, but still. photos!) of the results:
It’s important to note that the PDF is just templates, not a how-to guide. That’s not a complaint! I’m always grateful when someone does work for me on these things, but if you’re expecting a full ‘make your own nativity’ guide, that’s not what this is.
TOP TIMESAVING TIP: use fabric glue. Seriously. N is three and a quarter, so I don’t expect him to be gentle with these pieces, and I wasn’t sure just embroidery stitching would be strong enough. I glued pieces together, embroidered them, then glued them onto another sheet of felt and cut out the outlines. Hopefully this means they will last a little longer. The added weight meant that they wouldn’t stick by themselves, so I bought some velcro dots to help them out.
The stitching was done with two strands of embroidery thread. Let me say at this point that free-hand stitching is not my forte, and some of the detail is a little on the rough side. However, see above comment about the age of the recipient – I figured he’d forgive me. I did enjoy the stitching, though, as I felt it really finished the pieces off nicely.
There were a few pieces not included in the templates, so the star and the beards are all my own work. I also decided to leave out the palm trees, since to me, they never look quite right in a Nativity. Silly, since they definitely grow in that part of the world, but there you are. The Magi’s gifts are also my design, since I needed to bump the piece-count up to 24! None of the missing pieces were tricky to work out, since the pictures on the blog are excellent.
Finally, I bought little paper bags, and put a piece in each, then clipped them shut with the pegs. As well as looking nice, that also means everything can be reused next year, as nothing is stuck down or written on!
In the end, I finished everything on Monday evening and put them in the first class post on Tuesday. A little late, but that just means there will be more pieces to play with right away. Or that’s what I’m telling myself, anyway! And after all, there’s always next year as well…
Links below for the curious:
The templates for the pieces came from this blog
I bought my felt from this website. I got the 30% wool felt in various shades of brown and green, with a few bright colours thrown in.
The bags came from this Etsy seller who seems to have them in every size, shape and description!