Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Of Biblical Proportions [Nativity Tutorial Part 2]

Have you noticed the phrase "Of Biblical Proportions" being used more often lately? Generally it is weather related, referring to heavy rainfall, or unusual flooding. I was thinking about this whilst making the Nativity Costumes last week- yes the Bible does speak of a great deluge in Genesis 6, and Abraham's descendants in Genesis 22 are "more numerous than the stars in the sky, or the grains of sand on the shore" Definitely big numbers!
But we mustn't forget that God is interested in small things too - the tiny eye of the needle in Matthew 19, and [I love this image] "The cloud no bigger than a man's hand" in 1 Kings 18. I have finished this year's batch of Nativity Costumes for the "small people" of Ferndown, and nearby West Moors. Realising that so many people have pinned my original  tutorial from 2010 on Pinterest, [here] I decided an addendum, with extra hints and tips was worth adding.

Old curtains, bed linen, and tablecloths are an excellent, inexpensive source of material. The same basic robes and cloaks can be used for Bible dramas from Noah to Nativity [useful!]
Remember they had simple woven fabrics, so plain colours, or stripes are best. Avoid floral Cath Kidston prints, and polka dots.
It's OK to combine different fabrics for sleeves. The striped shepherd's robe was cut from a tablecloth [avoiding the corners where the stripes crossed!] The cream robe is trimmed with a bit of upholstery braid. Kings, magi and VIPs are allowed fancy fabrics - like these velvet curtain offcuts.

I had some green and brown 'argyll' pattern jersey in the Great Stash. Too fussy for a shepherd - but sewn up inside out, it makes simple plain robes. Recycling old fabrics is eco friendly and cheap! Old 'maxi skirts' contain plenty of fabric too. Whether using "unused" fabric, or sheets/curtains/skirts, you can save a lot of time if you cut out your pieces to incorporate existing seal edges or hems - that saves a lot of "finishing" time. Other raw edges can be quickly finished with an overlocker. If you haven't got one, use a zigzag on you regular machine. Set to short stitch length, and max width [on my machine that is 2&5] and make sure your fabric edge feeds into the centre of the presser foot. It will give a  quick, strong, nonfray edge. Ideal for angel necklines. 
Fitting is not crucial - these have to be loose to go over everyday clothes, and to fit an assortment of children. I do not put on fastenings, preferring to use safety pins [adjust to fit] and girdles to cinch in or hitch up, at the waist. I'm still using the £2 reel of brown cord picked up in a CS years ago!

Angel robes are white, plain and simple. Avoid wings - too fussy and they get entangled. Avoid lace- without it, a robe can be multipurpose, and a contrasting shawl or tabard will make it a peasant outfit. Head-dresses. Make a simple 'turban' with a tube of fabric. Fold and seam as shown in the picture, below, centre, and it becomes 'self-padding' I abandoned adding a circle on top, when I realised the donut shape stayed in the toddlers' heads more efficiently.
 A headcloth from a rectangle of fabric is quick to fit if you pre-stitch a strip of stretchy fabric [about 22" long] into a circle. Attach it to centre front of the square with a few firm stitches, then it can be pulled onto the head.
Back to "Biblical Proportions" - children have got bigger - I've been making costumes like this for over 40 years and have changed my basic template measurements . But heads are about the same. I have two plastic plates- on 23cm, one 20cm. When making adult/older children costumes, I draw round this to get a neck-hole which will fit comfortably on those aged 5-99. Try it on your own head - if it won't fit you it won't fit them! For toddlers I use the smaller plate, its ok if the hole goes snugly over my head, but not past my ears.
I hope these tips prove useful to anyone making costumes- feel free to email me if you have any questions! [and the answer to 'can you make me a set for my toddler group, Ang?' is 'Sorry, NO!']

1 comment:

  1. Dear Angela
    First, thank you so much for your blog which is always a joy and instructional too. The costumes take me back to the humiliation of being an angel in the halleluiah chorus in my convent (papier mache wings, sheet costume) and being told to mime because my awful singing was putting the others off.
    Very best wishes


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