Make a DIY Gnome, Part 1 – the Armature

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If you’d like to make a gnome using my pattern –

Click this link and download the PDF to your device.

Gnomes bookThis little fellow will be about 18″ tall when he’s finished. The inspiration for his design is the wonderful book Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Rein Poortvliet. I love this book, and I’m glad my little gnome gave me an excuse to go back and look at the beautiful drawings again. Be sure to look for it at your local library.

The pumpkin I made last month is holding up really well, but I can’t leave him out all year (that would be weird). Fortunately, gnomes don’t have a special holiday, so they can stay outside as long as they want to.

In case you  missed that post, I’m trying to find a way to make waterproof outdoor sculptures that use the same skills we already use for paper mache. I’ll coat my gnome with the same products that I used for the pumpkin, and we’ll see if he can stand up to a whole year of Minnesota weather

I also like the idea of making a gnome because I moved to a small lakeside town about five years ago, and at least half of my neighbors have Norwegian roots. Our town already has quite a few carved wooden creatures taken from Norwegian mythology, so my little guy will fit right in.

In Norway, these little people are called Nisse. In neighboring Sweden, they’re called Tomte.  We made a Tomte last year, and if you’re looking for a faster project, you can find it here. (I called him “Santa” in the title of that post, to help Google find him. 😀 )

The armature you can see me making in the video can be used under a hard coat, like the one I’ll be using, or you can use paper strips and paste or paper mache clay, instead.

How to Make a Gnome – the Armature:

Print the gnome pattern

Step 1: Prepare the pattern.

I like to print the patterns on full-sheet labels. They stick really well, and it’s fast. But you can use a glue stick, if you prefer.

If you do use a glue stick, remember to tape the edges of each pattern piece to make sure the pattern doesn’t fall off.

And as I mentioned in the video, the downloadable pattern is slightly different from the one you see above. The slits at the shoulders and on the arms was removed, because they really didn’t work. This is my very first pattern for a figure sculpture, so I had to fiddle when I was trying it out.

Step 2: Cut the slits for the gnome’s leg patterns.

Cut a slit that’s thinner than the ones printed on the pattern, and then test it to make sure a piece of your cardboard can be slipped into it. You want it to be fairly tight, so the pattern will stand up by itself.

Attach the hat and legs to the gnome pattern.

Step 3: Attach the hat and legs to the gnome pattern.

Match the hash marks on the head and hat piece to match them up.

Step 4: Fill out the gnome’s forms with foil.

Lightly crumple your foil and attach it to the pattern with hot glue. Then form it into its final shape with your hands or a wooden tool. Remember to not cover the round bumps at his shoulder – those will be used later to help with the placement of the arms.

You will find it much easier to sculpt the forms if you have a photo or model to look at while you’re adding your foil. I kept checking the drawing that’s included with the pattern to make sure my gnome looked right, when seen from the side.

You can add lots of details, or keep it really simple. Either way will look great when it’s done.

Step 5: The face and mustache.

I gave my gnome a very long beard and a full mustache. I also gave him a nubbin of foil to act as a placeholder for the nose I’ll eventually sculpt with epoxy clay.

You can add more facial features with the foil, if you want.

I also put a thin roll of foil around the outside edges of his ears.

Step 6: Add the arms.

Bend the shoulder tab backwards and use hot glue to attach it to the foil on the gnome’s side. Your pattern will have a dotted line to show where it should be bent.

Adding the arms to the gnome.

Use hot glue to attache the arms to the shoulder tabs. The foil on the arms will allow you to bend them into a natural position.

After the arm is attached, use additional foil to fill in under the arms and to make a natural transition across the shoulders and back.

The gnome's armature is complete.

The gnome’s armature is now finished. Go back over it to make sure everything looks the way you want it to. As soon as your happy with it, you can start adding his final ‘skin.’

I’ll have my gnome finished soon. I’ll put a link to the next post here as soon as it’s finished. If you make a gnome, either from this pattern or from one you designed yourself, we would really love to see it! And if you have any questions about this armature, be sure to ask.

See you soon!

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DIY Gnome Tutorial

18 thoughts on “Make a DIY Gnome, Part 1 – the Armature”

  1. I did get my gnome done! He was a lot of fun to make. I decided to make him a Christmas gnome. I really enjoy your patterns and instructions and am looking forward to the next one. I love your paper clay recipe.

  2. Hi Jonni, how are you? Thank you for introducing us to this sweet guy. I am working now on my hen 🙂
    Warmest regards, Miki

  3. That is a cute Gnome and I love the Gnomes book! The only thing that bothers me is the fact that aluminum foil is used, as it is not cheap, needs to be bought, and aluminum can be recycled so If I have any used aluminum foil I want to recycled it. I would like to use a product that can not be recycled and would end up in our landfills. Like, maybe plastic bags.

    • You might be able to use plastic bags to make the armature, but it wouldn’t be easy. For simple shapes like the pumpkin, the bags work really well. But for a gnome, it would be a real challenge. If you try it, please let us know.

  4. Perfect timing! I have a small bag of Pal Tiya I have been wanting to try. Just watched a bunch of videos yesterday on how to build armature, mix, etc. Thought about what I should create with it…maybe a gnome? Hah! Today’s email had “gnome” in the subject line! So excited to try my version with your techniques!
    I have owned that Gnomes book since I was a child, growing up in the MN woods. It is out of print now, so your local library is your best bet to find this book now.
    Will post my creation soon! ?

  5. I have read that a substance called PAL TIYA can be used to make paper mache waterproof and weather proof. Then there is POWERTEX that is often used for outdoor sculptures.

  6. Thank you so much for Mr Gnome my oldest will love him. I really do appreciate all the hard work you do so all of us not too talented people can make neat things too.
    God Bless

    • Thanks, Genevieve. If you make one, I hope you’ll come back and show him off. I’d love to see how it turns out. (And I’m sure you’re much more talented than you’re willing to admit. 🙂 )

  7. Love this. I’ve got mine already cut out. I have the same book somewhere but never wanted to make one until I saw yours. Thanks for the free pattern.

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