Thursday, 6 December 2012


This morning we went to see Angus "perform" in his nursery nativity play. He was a shepherd. There were about fifteen shepherds, and as many angels. I was amused to see that, despite refusing to ever wear a sunhat in the summer or a woolly hat in the winter, he was quite happily wearing a shepherd's headdress (made from a tea towel, of course). He sat with the other shepherds, beaming and waving occasionally at John and I, but completely failed to join in with any of the songs and actions they have been rehearsing over the last few weeks. It was as though he'd just turned up that morning and thought, oh, this looks fun, I'll join in with the nativity today I think.

So it seemed fitting that I share our homemade nativity scene with you today. The inspiration for these figures is Blue Peter meets primary school nativity play circa 1983. Mary dressed all in blue, shepherds wearing dressing gowns and tea towels, and Angel Gabriel wearing a white sheet with a gold tinsel crown. These are not culturally, geographically or historically authentic in any way. Which is probably why I like them so much.

Ages ago, we made a little family from toilet roll tubes, and we enjoyed it so much I knew the kids (and I) would want to make more. So, months ago, on rainy days during the six week summer holiday, we made a toilet roll nativity scene. Bella did about eighty percent of these herself, gluing, stapling, choosing fabric scraps and drawing on the faces. I did the tricky, fiddly bits that required an adult hand like attaching the pipe cleaner legs on the animals and tying the string or ribbon into tight knots. Angus has had a lot of fun playing with them, and was quite miffed when I packed them away.


Let me introduce Mary and Joseph, modelling green and blue fabric scraps, ribbons and smiling faces. 

Baby Jesus, swaddled in crafting felt, nestled in tissue paper. I couldn't think what to use for the manger and then I remembered I had some cardboard mini loaf tin liners which I have never used. They do nicely.

Angel Gabriel with a lopsided crown. I just couldn't get that blooming pipe cleaner to stay straight.

The three kings, or three wise men, and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (An empty box of staples, a cotton reel, and some gold cardboard.

And not forgetting the animals...a sheep for the shepherds, a camel for the three kings, and a donkey for Mary and Joseph. These were made from tubes cut in half length ways - it was easier to attach the legs that way. Mr Camel does not like to stay upright. His body is so weighed down with felt, PVA glue and cardboard that his little pipe cleaner legs do struggle to hold him up. He looks like he has been drinking too much eggnog.

And my favourites...the shepherds. I used old kitchen dish cloths for their head coverings and pipe cleaners for their crooks.

Nothing was bought especially for this project, it was just bits and bobs we had around the house. This is absolutely my favourite sort of crafting - thrifty, no fancy equipment, minimum skill levels...just some time and imagination. 

Should you fancy making some, you will need:

  • toilet roll and kitchen roll tubes in abundance
  • paint (we used emulsion)
  • fabric and ribbon scraps
  • string
  • pipe cleaners
  • cotton wool
  • crafting felt
  • tissue paper
  • scissors
  • stapler
  • glue
  • pens
  • three small boxes or tubes for the gifts and something to use as a manger
  • a cardboard egg box for the camel's hump

Paint the tubes inside and out. This is by far the most tedious part. It strengthens them and gives you a good base for the faces. Then just decorate away. Everything is glued on and stapled at the back to hold it in place. Hours, hours of fun. There is still time to make something like this before Christmas. It will certainly keep small people quiet in between parties and pantomimes and give them some quiet time away from all the Christmas craziness. 


  1. Just brilliant, what more can I say? I especially love the animals. How I miss all the nativity plays we used to attend, it's just not the same once they grow up so make the most of it all now.

  2. Aww bless Angus. I bet it was a proud moment. it's so sad they don't do anything like that here...not even a play of any kind, though they do have a 'spectacle' where someone comes to the school to do a show for the kids. You are the queen of crafts! One day you'll be writing a craft book. Love it! x

  3. Ah stop..the cuteness of that nativity!!

    I remember Dolly, about age 3, was an angel once and during their little song shouted down " stop waving at me Momma, I'm singing"!! Que sheer mortification. The kids restarted the song! Ah, memories!

  4. What a lovely addition to your Christmas decorations this is and will be for years to come! You mark my words this will be an obligatory part of every Christmas from now on in and woe betide the camel if he does decide he'll stand up straight! A bit of unruly waywardness on the part of pipe-cleaner legs is part of the charm and character of the figures! I love it! And you must have had such fun making it together. As you say, this sort of craft activity that is thrifty, absorbing and fun takes a lot of beating! Glad Angus enjoyed being a shepherd so much - the enjoyment is all that matters on these occasions. Happy Days! E x

  5. I have fond memories of the Nativities of my older boys, and cannot wait for Olly's.
    Your nativity is fab! When I was a Uni student in Leeds, we made a fantastic one out of pegs and tissue paper. We even had the Angel Gabriel flying above the scene. I'm going to rootle out the photo.....

  6. Super cute, you have such patience! The nursery nativity sounds so perfect, I LOVE this season! x

  7. The shepherds are amazing! Head wear is quite fantastic! :) xx

  8. They are fabulous!

    I was so chuffed when the smallest played Mary last year, but as you say - there is always an abundance of shepherds and angels...very sweet indeed.

    Nina x

  9. Hi Gillian,
    So funny, at least Angus had fun! Love the Nativity, really cool - camel is very cute! A few years back, I made a whole Nativity out of wine corks (as heads) cut and painted, it was so sweet that my mum 'needed' it...

  10. Brilliant! Your Christmas crafting ideas are genius, such clever ideas x

  11. What a wonderful crafty make. And Bella is very talented to have done so much herself.
    I think the angel's halo at a jaunty angle is the way it should be, if I was an angel that's how I'd have mine!
    Lisa x

  12. Just so gorgeous, i love Angel Gabriel's sideways smile too, i wonder what he is thinking?!
    Oh how i miss the little ones nativity plays ...
    love jooles x

  13. I love your nativity. I am especially fond of your slightly wonky angel Gabriel! Is there no end to your creativity? X

  14. Brilliant ... I so love the nativity ... you are very creative ... my little ones have their nativity play on 17th ... the eldest is one of the narrators and the other little one .. like Angus is a shepherd ... it will be fun ... Bee xx

  15. Lovely, you are a star doing this with the wee ones, all precious memories, Jo xx

  16. Oh my word, those are brilliant, I especially like Mary. Well done to you all x

  17. Great makes - bet the children are loving it. Angus's nativity story made me laugh. I'm a teacher and the nativity strikes next week.

  18. Lovely! Thanks for sharing! The archangel especially hit the spot with ex-RAF hubby and I! Leave the pipe cleaner like it is!
    May the Blessings of this Season surround you and yours,

  19. I love your nativity set! And this really helps your children learn the true meaning of Christmas! Angus's nativity story makes me laugh, too! Three is such a fun age!

  20. I think this is soo sweet, extra special because it was mainly made from little hands! Best bit is the dish clothes the shepards are wearing, priceless! :)

  21. Gillian these are just beautiful - and so finny and cute! we'll definitely have to try this at home at the weekend, not least because like you we've probably got all of the bits and pieces already (the perfect craft project is one that does;t require us to go out in the driving rain to purchase supplies!). I love all of the expressions and the different costumes... brilliant. Your story about Angus made me smile; Harry sobbed through last year's nativity and we're holding our breath that next week he'll actually enjoy it - and even sing along! Have a wonderful weekend x

  22. they are brilliant, love the shepherds :) x

  23. When you've got your own crafting television show and about 50 books to your name I shall be saying, I knew her when she started blogging, isn't she brilliant!

    One of my boys, aged 5, playing the carpenter who had made the crib, once waited until the kings were giving their gifts to announce to the shepherd standing beside him, in an easily audible 'whisper', "That's not baby Jesus, that's a dolly with a girl bottom!"

  24. Gillian, I want to come play at your house with toilet rolls and pipe cleaners ... it looks like lots of fun : -)

  25. LOVE, so adorable! I know you all will enjoy it until it absolutely falls apart:)

  26. This is so funny...the morning you loaded this, I threw away about 15 rolls of these and thought to myself "there has got to be a craft in these somewhere!" and then I looked on your blog and you had made these. Now granted my kids are not little anymore, so these would not be as fun for me, but there has got to be something! I hate throwing them away all the time. BTW working on my gingerbread house at the moment, just may get it done in time for Christmas morning!


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