Wednesday, December 12, 2012

DIY Elf for your Shelf

Last year I started looking into the whole "Elf on the Shelf" craze.  The idea of posing and/or hiding a slightly mischievous creature around the house for the kids to find sounded fun, but several elements of the commercial version rubbed me wrong - not least of which the whole spying / bribery aspect.  But that's not really what This post is about: another thing that rubbed me wrong is that the whole doll/book combo is not only expensive, but also kinda ugly, cheap looking, and - apparently - not all that easy to pose.  I starting thinking to myself "I'll bet I could make something Much cuter."
Whether I succeeded you may judge for yourself... Here she is.

PS: I found a nice blog post from a Mommy who found some ways to insert a little Christian character instruction into the Elf on the Shelf game.  Scroll all the way to the bottom to see her introductory letter - where she explains to her children that the elf is staying with them in hopes that they can teach *him* to behave better - not so he can spy and report back to Santa!
My kids are really too little this year, but next year we'll probably try something along these lines.

There are about a million directions you could go making your own "elf."  I happened to have some printed Christmas felt that was perfect for a dress, but you can't go wrong with solids.  You could also sew leggings, use fleece for the clothes, use yarn for the hair, make a head out of Fimo clay... the possibilities are endless!  But here's (approximately) how I made little "Charis."

  • 3 beige pipe cleaners
  • 1 light-colored wooden bead about 1 inch in diameter
  • Felt in Christmas colors of your choice
  • Yarn in Christmas colors of your choice
  • Embroidery floss in Christmas colors of your choice (or additional yarn) for hair. 
  • Heavy scissors or pliers to cut pipe cleaners
  • Sewing / Felt scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Sharpie for drawing face

Please note up front that I am by nature a "measure once cut twice" kind of girl - especially on little projects like this one.  I haven't provided measurements or a pattern for the dress 'cause I never made them! So gather up your courage and follow along...

1. Twist pipe cleaners together to make a doll shape, cutting as necessary.  

Here are a few tips
The first cleaner formed the "hair" (leave at least an inch: you'll need it to attach the actual hair later), the trunk, and one leg
The second cleaner I wrapped a couple times around the neck, then twisted around the trunk area, and formed into the second leg.
The third forms both arms.  Be sure to leave enough length to fold over loop hands.

2. Make the dress. 

I folded my piece of printed felt in half lengthwise and then width-wise so I could draw just half of the dress shape, cut once, and have a nice symmetrical dress.

(Of course, after getting it cut out and starting to sew, I decided it was way too big and shapeless, and ended up cutting more by eye...)
I decided not to sew the dress inside out, because it added too much bulk and was hard to turn right-side out in any case.  So I used the near-invisible ladder stitch to sew the sides together.

I poked a Very small hole for the neck: she hasn't got much meat on her bones!

3. Make the leggings

Using a contrasting color of yarn, I wrapped, wrapped, and wrapped some more until I had nice "leggings" for my little elf.  This was about the easiest part of the project!

4. Make the hair

To make the hair, I wrapped about half a skein of green embroidery floss around a box roughly the size of a DVD case - as if I were about to make a very large pom-pom.  I then cut it on both ends, and wrapped head-end of the pipe cleaner around it firmly to secure it to the head.  A drop of glue would not be amiss at this point. If desired, braid a few strands of her hair.

5. Decorate and accessorize. 

I carefully drew her face using a Sharpie - make sure you practice first!
Then I glued a felt bow (and a jewel!) to the head, covering up the end of the pipe cleaner. I also added a scarf and a belt.

And that's all there is to it.  I honestly don't think I spent more than 60-90 minutes on the project.  I won't let the kids play with her - she's not going to hold up to much - but they like looking!

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