Christmas crib, Italy-style

Handmade Nativity scene: learn how to make all characters with wire technique

Christmas crib is one of the most popular Christmas decorations in Italy. In this page you can find our handmade Nativity scene with a detailed HOW-TO guide. There is no better way to get into the holiday spirit than working with kids, isn't it?

Christmas crib, Italian style. Handmade crib with the Holy family
DIY Nativity scene

You'll need

  • - Silver plated wire, Ø 0,6 mm, 10 m (Gütermann)
  • - Mohair wool in different colours (beige, maroon, dark brown, pale brown ...)
  • - Leftover wool from other works
  • - Felting wool in bisque colour
  • - Leftover bias binding, ribbons ...
  • - Black and brown wool yarn (hair and beard)
  • - Cotton wool balls, 20 mm (Rayher)
  • - Felt in different colours
  • - 5 pieces of tree branch for the hut
  • - Flat pieces of bark
  • - Straw
  • - Artificial moss
  • - Pebbles
  • - Cinnamon sticks
  • - Dried fruits
  • - Very little branches
  • - A little stair
  • - Star and moon background
  • - Paper to wrinkle simulating the rocks
  • - Hot glue gun
  • - Pincers
  • - Scissors
  • - Glue
  • - Patchwork pins

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How to make handmade crib with characters made with wire technique

What is the real holiday spirit? A fantastic menu? a lot of gifts? a lot of people that tell you Merry Christmas? ... Without any doubt all that is important but the most charming aspect is decorating our home, getting more charming our "den", in our opinion.
Making Christmas crib is also the occasion to think really to Christmas significance: the birth of Jesus.
Christmas crib has a great charm on people. While you are planning it you are obliged to think about it. How did people live at that time? How were their dresses? What was the Holy Family like? what is Palestine's landscape? Search the answers with your kids, plan and make your Christmas crib with them. It will be the best way to wait for Christmas ...

Look at Christmas crib that my husband and I made. You need no much space. We put it inside and old dismantled upright piano. Every niche can be OK. For example a little space in a shelf or a small case inside a shop window.
Now we are going to explain how to prepare the structure, then how to make all figures.

  • - Step 1. The hut. At first you have to make the hut where Jesus was born and where to put the Holy Family. You will get the size of the Virgin, Sain Joseph and Jesus from the measurements of the hut.
    Join together the pieces of tree branch with the hot glue as you can see in the photo. Three pieces are the base and are joined together by the remaining pieces on the top. Make the first wall with the pieces of bark (overlap partially the lips and glue them). Instead of the second wall there is the manger. Make it with the pieces of bark and fill it with the straw. The manger has also the function of reinforcing the structure. Finally make the roof.
    Look at the photos for more details.
    The hut looks like in ruins, a shelter found at the last moment according to the Bible. The floor is covered with straw and artificial moss.
  • - Step 2. The little houses. If you want to make little houses to see in the distance you can use bark pieces. You need four pieces for every house: three for the walls and one for the sloping roof. Glue them together.
  • - Step 3.The set. Begin with star and moon background. Place the hut. Wrinkle the paper that simulates the rocks and place it thinking about a varied landscape. Put the little houses. If you have no much space play with the different dimensions. Different dimensions help us to create depth. Create a lake with silver paper or a mirror. Arrange the moss.
  • - Step 4.The figures. Below you can read step-by-step instructions to make the figures.
supplies needed for making a Christmas  crib

You will need: silver plated wire, pincers, scissors, cotton wool balls for the heads, different kind of wool, felting wool in bisque colour for the hands, black and brown wool yarn for hair and beard. In the photo there are no felt piece but you can use leftover felt from other projects.

step-by-step instructions to make a Christmas crib

Cut two pieces of silver plated wire with the same length. A 45 cm piece is enough for a figure whose height is 9 cm (for example the kid).

making the head of a figure in the Christmas crib-crafting

Twist together the end of a piece with the end of the other piece. Fold and refold. Insert in the cotton ball. This is the head of the figure.

making the figures for a Christmas crib - crafting

Make the body helping yourself with the pincers. Work on every piece of wire separately. At first the shoulder, then the arm that must be folded; at last you have to duplicate the shoulder. Put aside this piece of wire and make the second shoulder and arm with the second piece of wire. At this point twist the two pieces of wire together making the bust.

crafting the core of the figure for making a Christmas crib

Separate again the two pieces of wire for making the legs. The legs must be folded too. After finishing the two legs, twist the two pieces of wire around the bust. At this point you have some wire left: two long ends. Don't cut them: they are necessary for the stability of your figure. A "third leg", in other words!

Wind the mohair wool around the core of figure: making the figures of a Christmas crib

Now you have to cover the body with mohair wool. This kind of wool is fleecy and it's ideal for this work. Wind the wool around the neck again and again.

crafting a figure for a Christmas crib: wind the mohair woll around the core

Pass from the neck to an arm and then to the second arm without cutting the wool. Continue winding the wool again and again around the bust and the two legs together.
Look at the photo for more details.

handmade figure for the Christmas crib

This is the final result. In those times people wore tunics and so this method can go well both for women and men. If you want, you can differentiate men with the beard.
Anyway try to increase the volume not tightening the thread too much.

finishing touches in making a figure for an handmade cChristmas crib

Cut the wool and fix the end inside the figure as you can see in the photo.
In the photo you can also see the legs are hidden but the "third leg" is still visible.

Cut the wire in excess in your figure (making a Christmas crib)

At this point you can cut the wire in excess of the "third leg".

dressing the figures for Christmas crib

Make an headband. Cut out a very little rectangle from the felt and fix it into the cotton ball with patchwork pins.

figures of  Christmas crib:father and kid that hold themselves by hand

Make a belt. Cut out a longer and narrow rectangle and tie it around the waist. Cover the head with another larger rectangle in a different colour; fix it with other patchwork pins.
The figure is ready!
You can add other details such as beard or hair.
In the photo you can see father and kid that hold themselves by hand. The core of every figure is malleable and you can bend arms and legs as you want. Make it before winding the wool.

a figure of the handmade Christmas crib: a woman that raises her eyes to heaven

This is another figure of the Christmas crib. It's a woman raising her eyes to heaven. She wears headdress and apron in white colour. This figure has got hands too for they are in the foreground.
You can make them with felting technique. Pull off a group of bisque fibres from your wool. Roll the fibres into a little ball between the palms of your hands and around the end of every arm. Then press it. Now lay it on your felting mat and start push a felting needle straight up and down through the ball.

a figure in the Christmas crib: a woman  with a mantle and log black hair

This figure has a wide mantle crocheted.
Make the hair with wool yarn. Cut long pieces of wool and fold again and again and then glue them on the cotton ball. Let wisps of hair show under her headband. The headband is made with a little piece of trimming fixed in the cotton ball with a patchwork pin.

a figure in the Christmas crib: a man who is walking

This figure is walking with a bundle of twigs on his shoulder and a stick.
It isn't difficult to make it. It is enough to bend arms and legs before winding the wool around the body but remember to wind wool around one leg at a time. Then cover the body with a large felt rectangle (take off the head, make a cut in the centre of the rectangle, cover the body with it and replace the head). Complete with a belt.

a figure in the Christmas crib: a woman on her knees -handmade

This figure is a woman on her knees. She is placed near the lake and is washing her face. Bend her legs and raise her arms.

The Holy Family. The Virgin and Saint Joseph are standing. Saint Joseph is near the Virgin, in protective attitude. Jesus is very simple. A little rectangle in white felt is the little sheet. The sheet is covered with a crocheted blanket. A little cotton wool is placed between the sheet and the blanket: the head. The Virgin holds him in her arms.

  • - Step 5.Finishing touches Place all figures. Then place a little stairs and some dried fruit near the hut and cinnamon sticks on the floor. Complete with some pebbles. Put some little branches in the moss to simulates trees.
  • - Your Christmas crib is ready!