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I had so much fun making the whiskers on this little Swedish Tomte.
He looks like a tiny Santa, but he’s really a traditional elf-like character who helps safeguard the house and farm. I found one online the other day, and fell in love with him.
And this little guy was so easy to make! Put a nose on a cone, add a couple of feet (or not – lots of people leave off the feet) and add whiskers.
The whiskers were easy, too. Most people use real fur or wool, but you know me – I had to use paper mache. As you’ll see in the video, I dipped paper towels in a mixture of white glue and water, and then wound the paper around some aluminum foil. After a bit of twisting, the foil grabbed onto the paper so it couldn’t unwind before the glue was dry. The whiskers are attached with hot glue.
This Tomte is a simple little soul, but he had to be built in stages so there would always be a dry area to hold on to. A fan saved me a lot of time.
As I mentioned in the video, I only made up half a batch of paper mache clay, and I didn’t use as much paper as the recipe calls for. I wanted a smooth mixture that would be easy to spread. I don’t know exactly how much paper I used, because I didn’t measure it. Even with a smaller batch, there was still a lot of the pm clay left over. This would be a good project for a sculpting party right before the holidays.
By the way, you may have noticed a few changes to the site lately. I’ve been trying to simplify things a little to clean up the design. I’m also weighing the idea of offering some courses. I’ve been frustrated lately by the constraints of YouTube videos. A course would take longer to put together, obviously, but I could include all the details that would make sure that everyone could successful complete their project. Do you have any thoughts about this idea?
And, as always, if you make a Swedish Tomte, I really want to see how it comes out.
Made by readers:
My first gnome couple
Made by Jennifer Waters
Inspired at WHS!
Made by Laura Bork and Her Students
Nisse Goes to Florida (Danish Gnome, Christmas)
Made by Karen Holme
My two gnomes
Made by Angela Crowley
Meet Fred and Ethel Gnome
Made by Carol Brown
Eight Christmas Gnomes
Made by Danielle Haggerty
Really Loved this Project
Made by Kim Turenne
72 thoughts on “Easy-to-Make Santa (Tomte or Nisse) with Paper Mache Whiskers”
Discovered your website and thought it would be fun to try making one of these little guys as Christmas is right around the corner. Didn’t turn out too badly for a first timer. Would change a few things next time around, but had a ton of fun and learned a lot.
Thanks for hosting such a wonderful resource!
I’m glad you had fun with them. 🙂
Would love to take a class online with you!
No classes yet – but we have lots of videos! 🙂
Do you have directions on how to make the foil form? Is it in one of your books?
No, it’s not in my books. The shape of the Tomte is just an elongated cone with a ball stuck on for a nose. I crumple foil int a shape I like, and if more foil is needed to fill out the form I use hot glue. Each one will come out a little different, which is part of the fun.
I have posted before and received valuable info about making cultural dolls. I would like to add some details similar to the Swedish Tomte whiskers. They would be on a much smaller scale. Could I use the paper mache (smooth) recipe to make “grass” skirts without using aluminum foil twists??
Thanks for your reply.
Hi Carolyn. I’m not sure if the smooth air dry clay recipe would be strong enough, if they were made into noodles and were unsupported. You could give it a try and see, of course. If the textured area is all of one piece, although it’s sculpted so it looks like separate pieces, that would probably work. Mix up a small batch and see what happens. And let us know. 🙂
Hi, Jonni. For years I have been following your site. Enjoying and learning a lot. I am so thankful for your generaus shareing of your knowledge! When I saw your tome I descided to give it a try. Being Swedish I decided to make some changes. For example I gave him wooden shoes and a pair of socks. My bonus daughter and I made those tomtar in my picture.
They’re wonderful, Eva! I love those woolly beards, and the shoes are perfect. Thank you so much for showing them to us.
Love the beards! Is that wool roving?