Monday, 3 December 2012

Countdown to Christmas 1: Nativity Advent

Idea One: Nativity Calendar
Last year, I was all inspired by Noel Piper's "Treasuring Christ in our Traditions" and began to gather together a nativity set with 24 pieces, with the intention of building up the nativity scene as advent unfolds... this year, my purpose was to create an advent calendar which was big enough to store these little pieces.

I love wandering round the shops and seeing these gorgeous felt advent calendar creations. I'm not one for the cardboard things in the shops. They're great, but they are all about chocolate, and we wanted to create something that would help Ava to realise what Christmas is really all about.
This project looks big and scary, but I PROMISE you, it only took me about 3 hours (without a sewing machine) so it really is do-able. I nicked the idea from something I did with my year 6 kids a couple of years ago, and trust me, if 10-11 year olds can do it? So can you...

You need...
* A piece of calico/fairly stiff material as backing (approx 50cm x 60cm)
* A4 sheets of felt in 5 different colours (I chose wine red, green, beige, brown and gingerbread)
* Scissors
* Thread
* Ribbon
* A piece of dowel (or you can improvise like me and use chopsticks!)
* Some nice buttons
* Card Baggage labels (10 for 75p in Wilkos!)
* Christmas stencils/pastry cutters 
* Felt tips

This picture is for kits, you do NOT need this many pockets!!

Step One: Cut your pockets
Using your 5 pieces of felt, cut your pockets so that they are 6cm x 8cm in size. Out of the A4 sheets of felt, I cut 5 pockets in each colour, and kept the remnants to use for decoration. I went for 25 pockets, as I had decided to have one for Christmas day as well, but 24 is more traditional. Up to you. This bit took me about half an hour to do, but you can probably do it quicker!!

Everything laid out and ready to sew!
Step 2: Sew onto your pockets:
The next thing I did was to decorate my pockets - on some pockets I sewed little buttons, on others, I drew around a cookie cutter onto a contrasting piece of felt and sewed it on. This is actually the bit that I found takes the time because its more fiddly... the good thing is, you can decorate as much or as little as you like. I did something on about 20 of the pockets, and left the blank ones to be interspersed between them. Once I had sewn onto them, I laid the pockets out on my big piece of material (I had pinned back a cm or so round the edge of my calico to create a hem) and pinned them down. Voila! That's the trickiest bit done!

Step 3: Sewing on your pockets:
This is the bit where you're laughing if you have a sewing machine, and groaning if you are unlucky like me, and don't own one or, as in my case, own a broken one! This is the easy but tedious part as you sew around three edges of your calendar pockets to hold them all in place. It doesn't actually take that long, its just monotonous, so I recommend a good chic flick while you're doing it! I used a back stitch to make them really secure, and would recommend doing likewise.

Step 4: Sewing your hem:
Once your pockets are all sewn up, it starts to look really exciting! All you need to do now to finish it off is a quick backstitch border to hem around the edge and then sew some ribbon hoops on the top to hang it up. I am still awaiting my piece of dowel to arrive, so in the mean time I've had to improvise with some chopsticks I found in my cutlery drawer (!) and 2 clothes pegs (don't look too closely at the photos at the top!)

Step 5: Filling your calendar:
This bit's the fun part, and its really up to you what you do with it. I like the fact that this type of calendar has meant a bit more work this year, but will save me a fortune in the long run! I bought some cheap baggage labels to use to mark the numbers on the calendars, and also to write an accompanying verse as the nativity story unfolds. I sat down with my Bible and broke the story down into bitesize pieces, matching a piece of the nativity set (which is a combination of bought and homemade) to each verse. I've attached that below so you can steal if you wish!!

Before I sign off, then, I thought I'd let you know I have already taken custom orders for The Homemade Hutte for these advent calendars for next year! A custom made Advent Calendar can be yours for just £15 including blank or verse labels (your choice - available in English, German, Norwegian or French) Sadly nativity figures are not included. Contact me if you'd like to place your order...

OR... you can have a go yourself!!

Here are the verses and accompanying figures/props (I will post a picture of the completed scene on Christmas day!)

1st            Micah 5: 2                    Piece of brown felt for stable floor
2nd           Isaiah 7: 14                  Card stable background
3rd            Luke 1:26-27                Mary
4th            Luke 1:30                     Angel
5th            Luke 1:31                    "Jesus..." sign
6th            Matthew 1:21              "Saviour" sign attachment
7th            Luke 2:1                       Mini Scroll
8th            Luke 2:4                       Joseph
9th            Luke 2: 6-7                   Empty manger
10th          John 1:14                     "God as a man" sign attachment
11th          Luke 2:8                       Sheep
12th          Luke 2:9-11                 "Good news" sign attachment
13th          Luke 2:13-14               "Prince of Peace" sign attachment
14th          Luke 2:15                    Shepherd
15th          Luke 2:20                    Sheep
16th          Luke 2:17-18               Shepherd
17th          Luke 2:19                    King
18th          Matthew 2: 1-2a          King
19th          Matthew 2: 2b             Star
20th          Matthew 2:9-10          King
21st          Matthew 2: 11a           Gold
22nd         Matthew 2:11b           Frankincense and Myrrh
23rd         Luke 2:30-32              "Light of the world" sign attachment
24th         Luke 1:32-33              Baby Jesus
25th         Luke 2:11                    "Christ the Lord" sign attachment


  1. Lovely Claire...did I miss where you said you got the figures from?

    1. The figures are a mix and match jobby... I found it really hard (no - impossible) to find a set of 24, so they are a combination of homemade (out of Fimo) and a cute little set I bought at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire a few years ago. The set I got at Chatsworth is REALLY cute, but it only had 3 Kings, 2 Shepherds, 2 sheep and Jesus (no angel, no Mary, no Joseph etc etc) so it needed bulked out a bit! Unfortunately, I haven't seen it anywhere since (even though a few ppl have asked about it) I also have used my own Jesus and manger rather than theirs because I wanted them to be separate (on the Chatsworth one, Jesus is stuck to his manger, my manger enters the scene on the 10th, but Jesus doesn't arrive til the 24th...) Sorry to be absolutely no use whatsoever. Anyone else got this set, or seen it anywhere? (the packaging doesn't even have a label on it!)

  2. Oh I love this advent calendar! I hope you're still going to be making them in the New Year as I would definitely want to order one for next year - it's gorgeous. I love the idea of being able to fill it with a nativity scene too to give it some meaning instead of just more chocolate.

    1. Definitely making them in the new year... keep an eye out on the shop! :D Ava's loving picking out the little character to add to her scene everyday, and we're enjoying the unfolding Christmas story together! Thanks for your comments as always!


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