My family has participated in this activity for the last couple of years and my kids really enjoy it. But, the Elf has always frustrated me. He is floppy and won't conform to many shapes or situations. I finally decided to upgrade my elf by adding a wire frame "skeleton" and some magnets.
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
You will need:
Small needle nose pliers
Sharp knife (exacto blade worked great)
A poking tool (I used a scratch awl)
Length of stiff wire (3 feet would be plenty)
Small neodymium magnets (I used 8)
Not pictured but also needed:
Hot melt glue gun and glue
And of course an Elf to modify.
Step 2: Starting With the Arms
I ran a single length of wire straight from one hand to the other. This makes his arms able to hold a pose. I also added a single magnet in each hand. I intended the Elf to be able to hang from the single magnets, but he weighs too much for just two magnets. He can hold on to small metal object though.
Inserting the wire:
Use the knife to cut the seems on both hands. Cut a length of wire that is ~10" long (longer than his total span). Make sure one end of the wire is pointy and doesn't have any burs that will catch on the felt or inside batting. Start feeding the wire through the middle of one arm. Pass the wire between the stitches at the elbow and keep feeding to the armpit. Because of the stitching and the head, the wire will have to exit the arm at the armpit and re-enter the body. Use the awl, or other pointy object to spread the fibers and create a hole for the wire to leave the arm and then re-enter the body. Keep feeding the wire through the body. You will have to work with the wire to navigate it under the head and then get to exit in the armpit. Again, use the awl to create a hole for the wire to leave the body and then enter the other arm. Keep feeding the wire through the stitch in the elbow and out the hand.
Adding the magnets:
With the wire all the way through, use your needle nose pliers to make a small loop on the end of left hand. Hot glue a magnet to the loop. Pull the wire from the right hand to feed the magnet into the left hand. Use hot glue to close up the left hand. Now trim the wire on the right hand leaving just enough to make a small loop that will fit inside the right hand. I suggest you stretch the arms out and mark your cut, then squish everything to the left side so you have extra wire to work with. Cut the wire, make your loop, and hot glue the magnet. Stretch out the arms again and the wire should naturally pull into the right hand. You can give the Elf a "hugging" pose to help in seating the magnet into the right hand. Again, use hot glue to close the right hand. Use the scissors to trim off and hot glue strands and to clean up the hands.
Step 3: Now Wiring the Legs
Wiring the legs is similar to the arms, except you feed from the Elf's bottom instead of from the foot. Start by splitting the seem at each foot. Then take a length of wire (1.5-2 feet long) and bend it in half. You are going to feed the wire down each leg separately. Use the awl to spread a hole at the seem where the back meets the bottom. Start feeding one side of the wire to the right leg. The wire will have to leave the bottom and then re-enter the leg, similar to the armpit. Use the awl to spread the cloth at the points. Once the wire is fed all the way through the right leg, repeat the process for the left leg. I only used the one hole in the back to feed the wire through both legs. Once the wire is through both legs, twist the loop at the back and bend it into a C shape. Stuff this twisted wire into the bottom of the Elf. Massage the hole along the seem to close up the gap.
Step 4: Putting Magnets in the Feet.
You will put magnets in the feet in a similar manner as the hands. But, I improved my process and used 3 magnets in each foot. To get maximum hold, you should place the magnets flat, next to each other, NOT on top of each other.
To place the bulky magnets in the feet, first you need to trim approximately an inch of batting from each leg. Then bend and trim you wire, and hot glue the magnets in place. I placed the magnets in a manner so that they are on the outside of the foot, instead of on the bottom of the foot. With the seam being in the bottom, the magnets didn't hold well enough through the layers of felt. With the magnets on the side, they are grippy on most surfaces. You can also bend the wire-magnet combo about 90* to give the Elf more of a realistic looking foot. Push the magnets into the feet and hot glue the seem shut.
Step 5: Enjoy
Enjoy all the new and creative places your Elf can hang and the new and creative things your Elf can do!