I just couldn’t stop myself once I got needlefelting. I was enjoying the stabbing process so much, and I was so in love with the results of my animals, that I knew I needed to expand and do an entire nativity set. It was actually a whole lot easier than the animals.
Partly to keep it easy on myself, and partly to make sure that the figures could stand up on a table by themselves, I kept the bodies really simple by making them into a cone shape. Mine are just under a foot tall, but the only time size matters here is for consistency. I spent the majority of my time felting the bottom of each cone to get a sturdy, flat, bottom.
I had a lot of fun dressing all the different wise men in different ways, so when you make your sleeves you’ll want to have a plan. If you want it to be part of a tunic, then make them in the same color as the body. If you want your wise man to wear a jacket, then make your sleeves a different color. Either way, just roll up a bunch of wool roving and felt it to make a couple of tubes. Remember to leave some of the wool on one end unfelted to attach the sleeves to the body.
To make any kind of loose flowing clothing, you just have to make a felted sheet, and then drape it or cut it as necessary. I felted a piece of wool just as wide as the body and long enough to wrap from the back to the front, then cut a slit in the front to create the two sides of the vest and to make room for the neck. Some light felting at the sides and shoulders sticks the vest in place.
The head is always the most intimidating part of making figures, but you can do it. For starters, just felt a flesh colored ball, leaving some loose wool at the bottom. I made this wise man have a prominent chin by making one end of the ball a little flatter than the other.
Use the unfelted wool as a handle as you make your face. All you have to do is push the needle in to the wool a few more times in order to give some shape to the face. Punching the needle in a skinny U-shape pushes enough of the wool up to make a nose, and felting some small white circles in place will naturally create ridges that would surround the eyes.
I had so much fun giving each of these different figures a little different look. One of the wise man has a turban and a cape, another has gray hair and an embellished tunic, Joseph has a scarf and Mary has a shawl, and baby Jesus has a manger made by felting a couple of rectangles on top of each other. Once you realize that each piece is just a simple shape – a sphere, a cone, a rectangle, an oval – you can make any shape you want. And work out a whole lot of frustration while you do it.