Making an Elf on the Shelf

I didn’t know Elves on Shelves existed before last year. At first, I viewed them as some kind of novelty item and probably had thought along the many articles stating how it’s all getting too much at this time of year. However, maternity has left me with a big gaping hole in my creative space and I needed an outlet – what better way to do this than with a doll, which needs to move 25 times during the month?

However, I refuse to pay £30 for a simple rule book, a cheap felt elf with a devious grin and a couple of letter heads. With plenty of felt at home from other projects, it was time to make my very own Elf on the Shelf.

Materials needed:

  • A4 felt sheets in brown, red (x2), white and flesh colours
  • a bell
  • stuffing (about 2 big handfuls)
  • an old white sock
  • knitting wool
  • dental floss
  • garden wire in 2 different thicknesses (I used 0.5 and 1mm)
  • 2 thin pipe cleaners
  • 2 thick pipe cleaners
  • a short strip of Christmassy ribbon
  • a needle
  • thread in red, beige/ flesh, white, brown and black
  • a hot glue gun

Making the doll was simpler than I thought; the only types of stitches used were blanket-, running- and slip stitches. I followed the guidelines on Faith and String’s amazing blog on how to make Waldorf dolls to shape the head: make a stuffing and string ‘brain’, roll into a bigger stuffing ball, cover with the sock and partition with the dental floss, then use needle and thread to gather the nose.

Using felt meant I couldn’t pull the flesh-coloured material over the head as shown, so I only sewed up the top and then did the back of the head and neck directly on the ‘brain-ball’. I then used triangular bits of brown felt to shape the hair at the front and ovals for the back of the head and secured them with a blanket stitch. Elfred is a big baldie on top, but that doesn’t matter as the hat fully covers all sins.

In hindsight, I should have done the face at that point (I didn’t – I got too excited and made the hat from a red cone shape and a simple white rectangle, with the bell sewn on top). The top of the head is ideal to knot all the gathered thread. When I discovered my mistake I made elf ears to hide my knots behind; it still looks fine. The ears are sewn with a running stitch, applied twice for neatness.

So by then the elf looked like this:

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I took inspiration from the last page of Faith and String’s Waldorf doll tutorial to gather the nose and cheeks and embroider the mouth and eyes.

The body is made from the thick garden wire: 1 thick length for each leg, one thinner one for both arms, twisted together in the middle to form a spine-like structure, which got inserted into the sock through holes cut into the parts where the arms would be. I padded the body out with more stuffing and sewed the sock up at the bottom and sides.

Each arm was padded out with a thin pipe cleaner twisted around the garden wire and each leg was padded out with a thicker pipe cleaner. A dot of hot glue was applied to each end of the wires to stop them from potentially scratching or cutting through the material.

I used the body and limbs to measure out and trace the lengths of felt I’d need to cover the elf’s body. A blanket stitch on the wrong side of the felt covered the sleeves and trouser legs (hint: they’re tight when turned; I used a chopstick to turn them inside-out), while I used a slip stitch to hide the seams on the body.

The gloves and ribbon were directly measured out on the body, as was the collar. Make sure you cauterise any ribbon before attaching to prevent fraying.

Here’s our finished Elfred:

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All in all, it took two weeks to make – about an hour each day, mostly with the boy enjoying a snooze on me.

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