Monday, November 9, 2009

Photo Tutorial: Spool Doll Nativity, part 1

Welcome to another episode of Crafts for the Craft-Challenged! Last time, altered Altoid tins; this time, it's a simple spool doll nativity. I chose this craft for our MOPS group so that the moms would have a somewhat childproof nativity for their kiddos to experience the Christmas story. This post will get you started with Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Once you conquer those, feel free to move on to the rest of the cast of Christmas with Spool Doll Nativity, part 2, which covers the shepherds, the wise men, and an angel. Click on any of the pix to make them bigger if you need the details...

Supplies: you'll need a hot glue gun, 3 spools (2 around 2 inches and 1 around 1 inch), 3 doll bead heads (I got these prepainted 1-inch ones off of Craigslist), some hemp cord or other string (about a 12" piece), and some fabric scraps. I used 3 linen pieces that were cut a little over 3" x 4" for Baby Jesus' wrap and Mary and Joseph's headpieces and 2 scraps of corduroy that were about 1 3/4" x 4 1/2" for their bodies.

Step 1: If the labels on your wood spools are old and loose, I'd suggest peeling them off so that they don't cause a head to fall off later! Then hot glue the 3 heads onto the 3 spools. By the way, I found tons of spools by searching "wood* spools" on eBay.

Step 2: Glue the fabric pieces around Mary and Joseph for their bodies. I liked the frayed look, so I trimmed them at the exact size of the spool. Feel free to leave your fabric a bit longer and fold it under if you don't want the fraying.

Step 3: To do the headpieces, fold back a bit of the 4" edge on a linen scrap. I anchored that fold with a dot of glue in the center, mostly to help me find the center. Then put some hot glue on the head to adhere the headpiece to Mary or Joseph's scalp. I then glued at the edge of the spool covered by the headpiece so that the linen would lie down. Finally, I made 2 folds in the back and anchored each of those with a dot of glue for more aesthetically-pleasing folds.

Step 4: To differentiate Joseph from Mary, wrap a 12-inch piece of hemp string around his waist and knot it in the front. Feel free to secure the knot with a dot of hot glue-- I'm a firm believer in using plenty of hot glue!

Step 5: Baby Jesus was the tough one to figure out, so check the pix above. My linen scrap had a selvage edge that I loved, so notice how I lined up the piece to make sure it would show on the final fold. I started by putting a dot of glue at the back of the base of the Baby Jesus spool to secure the back of his swaddling clothes. Then I flipped him over and folded down the edges triangularly (is that a word?) and glued them along the front. If your scrap is just a bit big, like mine was, you can fold under the edge that wraps around his face so that he peeks out just right. Next (3rd pic), you fold over one of those triangle flaps and glue it down and finally, fold over the flap with the selvage edge and secure it with hot glue.

You did it! Hope your kiddos enjoy their very own spool doll nativity!


  1. I found your blog from One Pretty Thing and I just love this nativity! I have a whole bunch of old wooden spools and I really want to make a set like this now!!

  2. Thank you! If you do a post about it, I'd love to see what you come up with :)

  3. I love this idea! My daughter would love to help me make these. I've added it to my list of projects to do at I'll let you know when/if I get around to them before Christmas since we're moving between now and then. I've got a post up about some Nativity Stockings I made and will have a tutorial up for them later this week.

  4. Great, Polly! I'll look forward to seeing your post :)

  5. Super super cute! I love it! I have seen popsicle stick nativities, but not spools and I think this is just darling! thanks for sharing!

  6. I am writing to request permission to reprint this adorable project on We would of course give you full credit and will happily link back to your blog. Please let me know if this is acceptable. Thanks!

    Amanda Formaro
    Chief Editor -

  7. Thanks so much, these are so adorable! I'll send you a link when it is live ;)

  8. I just saw this on One Pretty Thing's Christmas Round Up, I had to stop by and tell you how much I love your Nativity. I will add this to my list!

  9. How adorable! I am going to make these with the grandkids! They will love them!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. I hope you don't mind that I added your post to my Nativity Linky:

    It's just too cute not to have in the collection!