By now most of you probably have a passing familiarity with the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. You might think it’s cute or creepy or the beginnings of a police state. I personally subscribe to all of the above, and this is why it shocked some friends to learn that we purchased an Elf on the Shelf for Isobel. We are confirmed Christmas Assholes who don’t even do Santa, so why on Earth would we have an Elf on the Shelf?
It’s simple: Isobel’s teachers bought one for the classroom and since then she and all her fellow Kindergartners have been cuckoo for kringle nuts here. Isobel is very aware that Santa isn’t real, so imagine her confusion when her teachers insisted, over and over, that Santa was real, and that His spies are everywhere. We sat her down, again, and explained that Santa wasn’t real, and sometimes adults get too carried away with stories. But the stinkin’ Elf remained transfixed in her heart, like a worm that had buried there to feed off its host. She had to have one. She was frothing at the mouth with Elf-derived glee. Elves were practically fairies, right? This concept married her two favorite things, fairies and Christmas, together in holly matrimony.
So I talked about it with Anthony and we decided that she could have her Elf provided that she was absolutely clear that this was a story and a game. It would be part of her Christmas present that she would receive early. We went to Target and thirty fucking dollars later, Isobel was the proud owner of the Elf and the accompanying book, which she wanted me to read to her the moment she got home. I cracked open the spine and read… a bunch of rules. Yes, this doll came with an elaborate set of rules. No touching your Elf. It must be given a name immediately. Bad behavior would be punished. It was worse than a Gremlin. “I’m going to touch mine,” Isobel said quickly, looking at me for assurance. I nodded. You’re damn right, I thought. If I’m going to buy my child a doll, she is going to get to play with it. This isn’t Madame Alexander’s House of Fancy Fripperies. According to Elf on the Shelf lore, touching your Elf makes her magic disappear, and then she has to flit away to purgatory for a few days to find herself again. This Elf on the Shelf business was an elaborate web of lies. “If Twinkle needs more magic because I’m playing with her, she can get some from my pocket. I have plenty of magic in my pocket,” Isobel concluded. We high-fived in agreement.
And so Twinkle (Isobel’s chosen name for the scamp) became a part of our household, and Isobel carried her everywhere she went. She took her on the walk to school and we heard audible gasps from parents and children who saw Isobel cradling Twinkle in her arms. We were chastised by her teachers on more than one occasion. While other parents set up full-blown EotS pagents each morning, Isobel took hers to bed, and upon waking would toss Twinkle my way and say, “Go ahead and hide her, Mimi!” I’d sleepily make my way out to the living room and stick Twinkle in Anthony’s shoe or Elias’ swing, where Isobel would discover her with glee. The time effort the other parents must spend on elaborate Elf situations made me feel tired. If I had that much time and energy available to me, I’d use it to have more sex.
It is rather disturbing that the point of all this is to make your kids totally aware that their every movement is being watched and reported to Santa. Aside from the duplicity involved in this, I truly don’t think it’s an effective tool to promote good behavior. I could say that children aren’t developed enough to think through the consequences of one hundred percent of their actions, but even adults, who are fully aware that sometimes their actions could have very negative effects, aren’t a;ways deterred. But mostly it’s the lying that bothers me. The lying, and of course, the sheer amount of effort. Each day would resemble The Sting, which, while entertaining to watch, would be exhausting to perform.
Oh, and did I mention that the Elf on the Shelf costs thirty fucking dollars? Why yes, I did! I think the real reason you aren’t supposed to touch these dolls is that their construction is shoddy and not able to hold up to actually functioning as a toy. Look at the pilling of the fabric in the photos. That happened immediately. The hands, which were sewn together in a clasped position, came undone and the glue that held the hat to her head, relented. Elf on the Shelf? More like Racket on a Bracket.
But Isobel loved Twinkle, and I loved the way she disregarded the rules and made Twinkle her own. Twinkle, she said, needed a skirt. The Elf in her classroom had a skirt. I was not going to buy her Elf a skirt.
But I would make one. In fact, I would make three. And it was really easy. Here’s what I did:
Isobel was very specific. She wanted Twinkle’s outfit to have stars, puffballs on her feet like Tinkerbell, and be red and white. So we went to our local fabric store and bought
- multicolored shiny plastic star-shaped beads
- two sizes of teeny-tiny puffballs
- sparkly gold elastic ribbon
- two lengths of spooled ribbon, cut at one foot each
I keep sewing and art supplies on hand, and we used
- a glue gun and glue
- needle and thread
- one hook-and-eye closure
- a toothpick or sharp pencil
Since Twinkle’s hat fell off, I was able to sew two stars beads on it, at Isobel’s request, before gluing it back on with my glue gun.
We used the smaller size puffballs for her feet. I used the sharp tip of a pencil to tab pinpricks of hot glue on Twinkle’s feet to attach the puffballs. This kept it neat and secure. (They are still attached despite the rough treatment of both Isobel and her brother.)
For the skirts, I was able to make three different styles by eyeballing everything: a stiff white tutu, a gossamer red skirt, and then the combo red-skirt-with-white-petticoat.
I started by wrapping the elastic around the doll’s waist and snipping the right side, then doing the same with the ribbon. In each case I glued the ribbon to the wrong side of the elastic. I added stars to the waistband with dots of glue applied with the pencil tip and then carefully adding the beads on top of the glue.
I didn’t have quite enough elastic or ribbon for the third skirt, so I made it with the remnants I did have and then secure it in the back with a hook-and-eye closure I had lying around. It worked perfectly with the stretchy elastic.
(Please do not judge me harshly by my terrible stitching job on the hook-and-eye. I sadly did not take my own good advice and have a cold bowl of water at the ready in case of getting hot glue on your fingers and I burnt the hell out of my thumb and forefinger because of it. Hot glue is like napalm, you must get it off you quickly!)
The edges of your ribbon might fray, depending on the fabric, but dots of fray-check, or even hot glue, will keep the problem from escalating.
I have to say I was very proud of my attempts at Shelf Elf couture.
Isobel loved the skirts and made a little Elf in the Shelf closet in the Christmas tree for the storing and changing of Twinkle’s outfits.
The main thing about this is, we had fun because we made it fun. If you don’t like the lore, change the lore. Happy crafting!