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DIY Elf on the Shelf Skirt Tutorial & Touching Holiday Lesson

8 Jan

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
  • scissors
  • one hook-and-eye closure
  • a toothpick or sharp pencil
  • fray-check


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!

Scrapbook: DIY Wasp Avengers Costume

13 Nov

I always knew it would come down to this: a list minute Halloween costume decision. First she wanted to be a Christmas fairy. Then a forest fairy. And then something called a Squirrel Scientist, which we were never sure if that meant a squirrel who happened to have a talent for STEM or if it meant someone who studied squirrels. The jury’s still out. Both must have had their appeal.

I really thought she’d settle on being Tinkerbell, however, since Grandma and Grandpa gleefully supplied her with both a suitable green dress, wings, and even a blonde wig.  To sweeten the deal I told her I’d dress up as a fairy, too, because she knew that otherwise when she asked me what I was going to be for Halloween I’d only reply, “tired.”

Three days before the big day, however, she made her decision. And it was not at all what I expected: she wanted to Wasp, a Marvel character who was part of the Avengers. While not part of the blockbuster movies she was present in comics and a few cartoon adaptations, such as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, one of Isobel’s favorites. She has wings and can fly and shrink herself down very small; she is, essentially, a superhero fairy, and all Isobel could want in life. I could tell that this decision was final, and since there were no Wasp costumes to purchase, I knew we’d be making it ourselves at the Eleventh Hour.

My decision to work from the home happened for many reasons, some of them complex, but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t, in part, stem from a wish to be able to do stuff like make Halloween costumes together. It’s not the main reason, but it is a pretty fantastic privilege.

The first thing I did was consult the all-knowing google for tutorials from those who have cosplayed before. There weren’t many hits, and those, when clicked, pretty much linked back to this fantastic costume. As awesome as it was it wasn’t going to be useful for us. I needed something a five year old could wear to school and for trick-or-treating at night in the rain. I also didn’t have any headphones, and, did I mention we were on a budget of about twelve dollars? Time and money were something we did not have, but we had imagination in spades, and we let ourselves run away with it.

To make a headband like Wasp’s, we ended up needing:

– an actual headband

– two canning jar ring lids

– thin, but sturdy, cardboard,

– yellow duct tape

– black chopsticks

– yellow felt

– basic tools, such as a glue gun, a pencil, and scissors

1. We used cardboard from a box that came from Amazon, and it was very thin but corrugated so it was sturdy. The headband needed to be pretty light to be comfortable for a young child and to prevent it from slipping off. I traced the inside circle of the canning ring and cut it to fill in as in the photo above. To make it secure, I glued the cardboard in place on the ring.

2. Net I covered the metal ring with the yellow duct tape. We are only going to see the edges when it’s done, so don’t worry about making the sides look nice.

3. Then I covered the outside of the ring with stiff felt that I found at a craft store for super cheap. I simply traced around the canning lid with the pencil, cut it out, and glued it pencil-side down with a glue gun.


4. We need a way to secure it and the chopsticks to the headband, so I used the cardboard again but instead of tracing the inside of the circle as I did before, I traced the outside of the circle. I cut it out and used duct tape to secure it on top of the canning ring lid.

5. Now that the headphone part is basically done, we need to secure it to the headband along with the chopstick antennae. I put the chopstick and headband net to each other and secured them both at the same time with duct tape. The headband will not lie flat and this will make the whole thing very unstable, so fill in all the gaps with copious amounts of glue from the glue gun. It won’t really form a bond secure enough on its own, but it will create a scaffolding that will allow the tape to do the work. Repeat on the other side.

6. You are almost done! Now, the fun part: cut little strips of the yellow duct tape and wrap it around the headband and chopsticks in a decorative fashion.

Your awesome Wasp headband is done! Be sure to allow at least fifteen minutes between glue gun steps to let it dry. I used a child’s sized headband and smaller canning jar ring lids, but you of course can scale it to your needs. We also have a large collection of chopsticks so I happened to have these on hand, but don’t feel limited to them. In fact, don’t feel limited by this tutorial. This is something I cobbled together at almost the last minute out of stuff hanging around my house. It worked fantastically for us, but by all means branch out!

What Wasp costume is complete without an Avengers ID card? I used the image of the card I found here to make ours. A quick google search didn’t yield many results, so I used that card and switched it for a photo of Isobel dressed as Wasp with Photoshop. She carried it with her while trick-or-treating and showed it to whomever would look.

To complete the outfit we needed something warm, simple, and more comfortable for a five year old than a strapless dress. I decided to use black clothes she already owned and use the tape trick we used for her Busy Bee costume a few years ago. Back then I used black electrical tape but we did have some issues with it falling off by the end of the night. To counteract this and be sure her Wasp stripes stayed true I went with duct tape. It is probably something you only want to use if you don’t plan on taking it off because I’m betting it will leave adhesive residue behind. I don’t know for sure because Isobel is still wearing her costume over a week later and wouldn’t dream of letting me take the tape off. She is very proud of it as she did the whole thing, all of the stripes, herself.

We paired the outfit with bee wings we found at our local costume popup store and she couldn’t be happier.


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