Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Clothespin Nativity

This month we are talking about how Jesus brings us the "best life" (from John 10:10), and have been highlighting different parts of his life. Last week we talked about how a baby born in the humblest of circumstances brought us the best life--but how this isn't what people typically think of when they think of a good life--ie: not based on material possessions. There was a kids time where the children's minister talked about how Jesus wasn't born in a nice nursery with a crib and some soft blankets, and then what this means to us. I wanted to reinforce this at home, so I decided Q needed a nativity. I shopped online, with an idea in my mind of what I wanted.
Something simple and accurate--Mary shouldn't be beautiful with a gold robe and Joseph should be tall and elegantly dressed and stately....amazing how many nativities depict them this way.....
I wanted something she could touch and handle and not break.
I wanted it made of natural materials--not plastic.
Yikes--that left one problem. E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E!!!!
So I decided I would have to make one. I did a little internet surfing to get some ideas and then headed to my studio during nap time. I resolved to use only materials I already had. I had so much fun! I really tried to think about how to dress each character and what elements to give them--the shepherds have long hair and beards because they're out in the fields all the time...etc. I went with the Waldorf method of not putting faces on the dolls. I like the simplicity
of it and it allows for your imagination...and also I didn't want Mary to have that holy, peaceful gaze that's typically depicted on Mary's in nativities....since I don't know how to draw a scared to-death teenage mommy expression, I decided to go for simplicity. :)

a VERY short and informal discussion on why Waldorf dolls don't have faces that sums it up pretty well.

So, several days later....we still LOVE the nativity....Q plays with it every day. She can name all the figures. She likes to make Mary and Joseph hold baby Jesus. Soon I will get out the Bible and read the story and we can act it out.

So hopefully you're inspired to get crafty and make a nativity of your own! Good fun, I tell ya!

You need three pieces for the main body--a doll type clothespin, a clothespin stand, and a large wooden ball for the head.

The clothespin fits into the stand.
To start making clothes, measure from the top of the clothespin down to the stand (and a little bit extra if you plan to cinch it up with a tie for a belt.) I put a plain layer--muslim, under the regular clothes. So cut your clothes pieces in strips, fold them in half over the clothespin, and then hot glue them by putting a glob on the top of the clothespin.
This is the angel--so I did a layer of shiny silver fabric covered by some lace. Once both (all) your layers are glued down, put another glob of glue and attach the ball for the head.

The next part to add is the arms. I like to do it after the clothes are in place so I make them the right length. Fold a pipe cleaner in half.
Twist the pipecleaner around the part where the clothespin has a little nitch . Then put the clothes back down, tie on the belt and cut the arms the size you want. I always bend the very end a bit to look like a hand.

To seal off any ribbons or ties you use for a belt, lightly burn the edge with a lighter. This will keep the end from freying.
I made Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the angel using this same method. I added some string, yarn for hair, felt for beards, flannel strips for head covers, and different types of ties. The shepherds hold pipecleaner staffs. I basically just got out all the scrap fabrics I had and went to town with some scissors and my glue gun!
For baby Jesus I just cut the doll clothespin in half, using the ball at the top for the head. I wrapped a piece of muslim around and glued it down to look like he was swaddled. I made the manger by gluing together several small pieces of scrapwood I found on the floor of the shop and stuffed some dried grass inside.
For the sheep I used THIS tutorial.
For the wisemen I had another set of doll clothespins that were darker wood and the ball on the top was less spherical and a little longer. I used that for the head--I didn't glue on a head bead. I cut my fabric the same way, but then cut a small hole in the middle to slip over the head. I glued an acorn cap on for a hat, and used some ribbon to wrap around them for cloaks. For their gifts I painted some little wooden spools metallic colors.
For the donkey I cut a body shape out of a cereal box (similar to the way you make the sheep). I cut some grey felt into inch-wide strips. Painted the two clothespin feet and a cork for the head grey. My trick on painting the cork was that I stuck a large needle into it, that way I could hold the needle (and also the cork) and still paint all the surface. I stuck the needle into the handle of a wicker basket to dry.
Then I started wrapping the body in the felt strips, hot gluing down the ends. I made a mane and tale out of black felt and some grey felt ears.
For the stable I raided the scrap pile in the shop for suitable pieces and Matt nailed them together for me. I wanted it to look rough and simple.
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