Teresa Howard has a clever way to build special Christmas memories for your children.
Last Christmas, a friend of mine brought over a gingerbread house for our daughters to share and enjoy. She'd baked it using an old family recipe, and it featured the traditional touches of royal-icing trimmings and the modern delights of chocolate-freckle tiles and musk-stick fence pickets. What caught my eye though, was the vintage witch figurine that stood at the front door.
My friend explained the figurine belonged to her father, who had kept it since he was a child growing up in Germany. It was a treasured memento of her own childhood Christmas memories, and it was clear she took much delight in continuing a family tradition by incorporating it in a home-baked gingerbread house for her daughter.
While the gingerbread house was devoured in minutes, the significance of treasured childhood memories and traditions stayed with me. Inspired by my friend's story, I visited my parents and recovered a treasured fabric doll's house complete with doll family – a favourite toy of mine when I was my daughter's age.
As I delighted in watching my daughter play with my old toy, I was inspired to create a modern, Christmas-themed version of it for her. My daughter and I had fun with this Christmas craft idea, and I hope we created not only a toy to enjoy at Christmas time, but happy memories to treasure forever.
What You Will Need:
Red cotton for lips (doubled over to make it thicker)
Black cotton for eyes (doubled over to make it thicker)
White embroidery thread (I used cotton perle)
4 x A4 brown felt pieces to make the house and family
1 x A4 white felt piece for the roof
A variety of coloured felt to make a door, window, window shutters and other features
A variety of buttons to decorate the roof and people
Hobby fill/cushion fill for the people
To Make The Gingerbread House
Holding one piece of the brown fabric horizontally, fold in half so the folded edge is on your left. From the top right-hand corner, measure 3cm horizontally toward the folded edge and mark a point with a permanent marker. Starting again from the top right-hand corner, measure 5cm vertically down and mark with a permanent marker. Draw a line from each of the marked points then cut along the line so you are cutting the corners off. Repeat this process with the other brown piece of felt. Put these to the side.
Using the coloured felt, cut out pieces to create a door, window, window shutters and any other features for the house (for example, a window box, garden, lollipops or candy canes). Pin these to one of the brown house felt pieces and blanket stitch in place using the white embroidery thread.
Using the white piece of felt, cut out a roof (applying the same process from step 1) and pin on the brown felt piece on which you have stitched your door, windows and other features. Sew a variety of buttons onto the white felt roof using the white embroidery thread. Sew some in place where the two pieces of felt overlap to secure the white felt roof to the brown felt house. You have now created the front facade of your house.
Lay this house façade face down and lay the other brown felt piece on top, aligning the cut edges. Pin together. Using the white thread and needle, blanket stitch around the edge of the house in a clockwise direction, starting at the top-right edge and finishing at the top-left edge. Keep the top of the house open (so your gingerbread family can live inside). You have now created your felt gingerbread house.
To Make The Gingerbread Family
Find a gingerbread template online or use a gingerbread cookie cutter to trace gingerbread bodies onto the remaining pieces of brown felt. After tracing the outline of two bodies onto the felt, cut out.
Using the black thread, stitch eyes onto the head of one of the body pieces with a French knot. Using the red thread, stitch a smile onto the head with a running stitch. Stitch on buttons. Place the two body pieces together and pin in place. Using the white thread, blanket-stitch the two body pieces together, leaving a 2cm opening at the head to let you fill the doll.
Fill your gingerbread person with hobby fill, using a pen to fill the legs and arms. Stitch the opening closed with the thick white thread. You have now created your first gingerbread doll. Repeat the process to create other members of the gingerbread family. Use a smaller template to create gingerbread children. Use wool to add hair and scraps of coloured fabric to add any other clothing features you like (for example, red felt to create a bow tie or black felt to create a top hat).
Teresa Howard is mum to three-year-old Amelie. They enjoy completing mother-daughter craft projects together.