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Make your own elf for your shelf – tutorial

My kids are 9, 7 and 4 and we’ve never had, done, or known of “elf on the shelf” until last year, when I heard about well into December. This year I wanted to try it, but kept forgetting to buy the book. In mentioning this to a friend, she scoffed at the book. “My mom had eight elves that she made herself sitting around the house watching me.” Make my own, why didn’t I think of that?!

So I searched and searched for a good tutorial, picture, idea, something to go on. I didn’t find much and what I did find was either way too involved for me (you may have noticed how I like to think of something and then try to do it without waiting or making any trips to the store), or really flimsy, like foam or paper. I wanted to do something relatively simple but also that would last for a few years in case we keep this up. So, here is my tutorial. It’s rough, I was kind of making the project up as I went along, and I didn’t preplan any supplies, but I’m quite happy with the end result!

What you need:

  • felt – I used less than 1 sheet of red and 1 sheet of ivory, the soft kind, not stiff (well, honestly I used a little gray too when the 1/2 sheet of ivory I started with was gone)
  • 1-2 pipe cleaners or some type of mid-weght wires (any color is fine, because I only had yellow and purple instead of the red and white I hoped for, so I ended up covering them. If you have red and white, you could just twist them together and make candy-cane type legs and arms.)
  • stuffing – just a little – heck, you could probably take some out of a pillow on your couch and no one would know!
  • scissors
  • glue gun – this is essential and you’ll use a lot of glue so have the extra sticks handy.  I decided I would just glue, which seemed easier than sewing on this day.
  • misc supplies for facial features
  • some other random things I’ll remember along the way

Cut out two body pieces, two head pieces, two hat pieces and four shoe pieces from the pattern, found here.

Cut four leg pieces and four arm pieces. For these, I kind of just eyed it. I would say the legs are about 3/4 in wide and maybe 5 inches long . The arms are similar, but maybe 3 inches long. Of course, I didn’t measure these, but just make them in proportion to your body and shoes.

Now get out that handy-dandy hot glue gun and run a strip down the middle of one of the leg pieces and lay the pipecleaner right in it.

Then put glue along the edges and stick another leg piece on the top piece of felt, pressing the sides together to cover the pipe cleaner (the sides anyway, top and bottom don’t matter so much).

Do this for the other leg as well as both arms. This makes the elf bendable and posable. Once that’s done, I held the shoe to the leg and cut the legs so they are tapered at the bottom and fit “into” the shoe.

Then I glued one piece of shoe on either side of the leg.

Next, glue the legs to one piece of the body piece. *Here is where you should do the same with the arms. I, on the other hand, made my arms later, after I glued the body together, and I had to glue them to the back. So, do as I say, not as I do, and glue your arms on here. There is not a pattern on my sheet for little gloves, I just cut a small half oval that was proportional in size to the arm (also tapered). The arms should then be glued to this main body piece now, just like the legs.

After legs and arms are glue to one of the body parts, put hot glue around three edges of the body like this, leaving the top open.

And put the other body piece on top. Now you’ll use that little opening you left on top to stick a little stuffing inside the body. And then glue it shut.

You will then do the same for the head, gluing it most of the way around, stuffing it, and gluing it shut.

Glue the head to the front of the body. This picture shows the back, where I cut another small piece of felt and glued it to the back to add stability.

OK, here’s what we’ve got  so far, except yours has arms. This is where I figured out something was amiss with my elf!

Glue the hat to the front of the head, just a little ways down, and then glue most of the way around the hat, leaving the top 1/3 or so open for more stuffing. Stuff the hat and glue the top shut.

Oh look, arms! You will do this above, with the legs. They are glued with the pipe cleaners inside just like the legs. These are the mittens I cut, very simple. Sorry I didn’t add them to the pattern sheet.

I now glued my guy’s arms on to the back of his body. He’s starting to take shape! And I’m liking what I see (this could have gone badly due to the lack of planning and direction, so I’m quite pleased at this point that he looks somewhat like an elf)!

Look! He can scrunch up like all those other, store bought elves!

Now for the features…. I used buttons, brads, crosstitch floss, puffy balls. Really, use whatever you can find.

I added brads for eyes (I used a scissors to pike a hole and then stuck the brads in, I added a little tiny puffy ball for a nose, buttons down his shirt, a band across his hat, and I am putting on his mouth with floss. And, look, he has ears now too! These are on the pattern sheet. I cut two and glued them to the back of his head. They attach easily along the “seam”created by the glue around the head. I also cut a rectangle of fleece for a scarf, which you will see below. I tied it, but also glued it down.

Here he is from the back, where you can see the arm faux pas plain as day!

And here he is, all done and hanging out. His name is Basil. My husband thought we should have named one of our kids that. I think it’s perfect for an elf!

 There you go! He looks pretty good, and my kids have said they like him better than the store-bought version, which makes me oh-so-happy!




One comment on “Make your own elf for your shelf – tutorial

  1. I love your elf and your tutorial. I can follow it. I want to make a couple for our Relay for Life Cookie and Bake sale next Christmas. This craft idea is so cute and certainly doable!
    Love Aunt Jan