Make a Kallikantzaroi Felt Figure

General Info on Kallikantzaros

The kallikantzaros (Greek: Καλλικάντζαρος; Bulgarian: караконджул; pl. kallikantzaroi) is a malevolent goblin in Southeastern European and Anatolian folklore. Stories about the kallikantzaros or its equivalents can be found in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Turkey. Kallikantzaroi are believed to dwell underground but come to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas, from 25 December to 6 January (from the winter solstice for a fortnight during which time the sun ceases its seasonal movement).

There is no standard description of the appearance of kallikantzaroi; there are regional variations in how their appearance is described. Some Greeks have imagined them with some animal parts, like hairy bodies, horse legs, or boar tusks; sometimes enormous, other times diminutive. Others see them as humans of small size that smell horrible. They are predominantly male, often with protruding sex characteristics. Many Greeks have imagined them as tall, black, hairy, with burning red eyes, goats' or donkeys' ears, monkeys' arms, tongues that hang and heads that are huge. Nonetheless, the most common belief is that they are small, black creatures, humanoid apart from their long black tails. The shape of the kallikantzaros is said to resemble that of a little, black devil. They are, also, mostly blind, speak with a lisp and love to eat frogs, worms, and other small creatures.

Kallikantzaroi are believed to be creatures of the night. According to folklore, there were many ways people could protect themselves during the days when the kallikantzaroi were loose. One such method was to leave a colander on their doorstep to trick the visiting kallikantzaros. It was believed that since it could not count above two – three was believed to be a holy number, and by pronouncing it, the kallikantzaros would supposedly kill itself – the kallikantzaros would sit at the doorstep all night, counting each hole of the colander, until the sun rose and it was forced to hide.

Another supposed method of protection from kallikantzaroi was to leave the fire burning in the fireplace, all night, so that they could not enter through it. In some areas, people would burn the Yule log for the duration of the twelve days. In other areas, people would throw foul-smelling shoes in the fire, as the stench was believed to repulse the kallikantzaroi and thus force them to stay away. Additional ways to keep them away included marking one's door with a black cross on Christmas Eve and burning incense.

According to legend, any child born during the twelve days of Christmas was in danger of transforming to a kallikantzaros during each Christmas season, starting with adulthood. It was believed that the antidote to prevent this transformation was to bind the baby in tresses of garlic or straw, or to singe the child's toenails. According to another legend, anyone born on a Saturday could see and talk with the kallikantzaroi.

One particularity that set the kallikantzaroi apart from other goblins or creatures in folklore was that they were said to appear on Earth for only twelve days each year. Their short duration on earth, as well as the fact that they were not considered purely malevolent creatures but rather impish and stupid, led to a number of theories about their creation. One such theory connects them to the masquerades of the ancient Roman winter festival of Bacchanalia, and later the Greek Dionysia. During the drunken, orgiastic parts of the festivals, people wearing masks, hidden under costumes in bestial shapes yet still appearing humanoid, may have made an exceptional impression on the minds of simple folk who were intoxicated.

In Greek, the term kallikantzaros is also used to describe a number of other short, ugly and usually mischievous beings in folklore. When not used for the above-mentioned creatures, it seems to express the collective sense for the Irish word leprechaun and the English words gnome and goblin.

Felt Figure Preparation

3 sheets Grey or Brown Felt for base pieces
1 craft piece Fake Fur (brown, black, or grey)
1 piece Pink Felt (for inside ears)
2 Red Buttons
Something for hair, or just use extra fake fur piece
Something for a tail, or just use extra felt

Pattern is below.

Please make sure you know the basics to sewing for this craft.

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  1. Use your felt pieces to cut out the Top Half, Ears, Arms, Feet, Hands, and Nose. If you are using pink for an inner ear color, be sure to cut 2 base color and 2 pink color from felt.
  2. Use your fake fur piece to cut out the Bottom Half, Base, and Legs. I recommend turning the fake fur over to the flat back side. Mark the back side with chalk or something that will show on the fabric, then use a razorblade to carefully cut the fabric back. This will preserve your fur on the other side.
  3. If you plan on giving your goblin a tail or hair, be sure to create a tail piece and/or hair pieces. One option for a tail and/or hair, is to use yarn or embroidery thread after everything is finished. Simply use a needle and tie yarn into place.
  4. Mark where you plan on the nose to be. You won’t attach the nose until after you get the top half finished, but you need to get it ready before hand. NOSE – Use a needle and thread to do a simple basting stitch (straight stitch) around the edge of the nose circle. Take a pinch of poly-filling and place it in the center of the nose. Tighten the thread as you would a drawstring purse, trapping the filling inside. Tie your thread. This round blob is your nose! Feel free to add additional stitching for a better hold on the base of the nose.
  5. MOUTH – If you want to add a mouth, create one out of whatever you feel is best and place it a good half inch below the nose mark. You can hand embroider it, you can wait until later and use fabric paint, you can use an iron-on patch, or a mouth shaped button.
  6. Set your Top Half pieces aside. You can’t sew anything until you get the ears and arms made.
  7. EARS – Place a pink ear piece on top of a base one. Sew these together. I recommend matching thread to the base color. If you know what you’re doing, you can create your own version of a big floppy donkey ear. Once you finish both ears, you can trim the edges as needed.
  8. ARMS – Take two arm pieces and a hand piece. The hand piece is going at the rounded tip of the arm. Pin that in place and sew the elongated U-shape of the arm. Once you’re done, turn the arm inside-out – as it will remain. Take a little poly-fill and stuff some in the arm. Repeat this with the other arm.
  9. UPPER BODY – I found that it was easier to sew half of the body at a time. Prepare the left side! Pin one arm and one ear in place. Sew up to the top of the head – if you are adding hair at this time, be sure to do so before sewing to the top of the head. Prepare the other side, sew that side up to the top of the head. Turn the upper body inside-out – as it will remain. You should have ears and arms in the proper places! This is a good time to add the nose and the 2 red buttons that will serve as eyes!
  10. LEGS – Fake fur is a pain to sew. Use some scotch tape and try to push/tape the fur towards the center of the leg pieces. It’s weird, but when you turn the legs out you won’t have so much fur snagged in the seams. Layer two leg pieces, fur on the inside, with the foot piece pinned or taped into position. Sew the elongated U-shape of the leg, then turn out. Remove scotch tape. Do this with the other leg. Be sure to add a little poly-fill to the inside of the leg.
  11. BOTTOM HALF – Sew the short edges of the bottom half together to form a band. The base piece is going to be turned into the bottom of this critter, giving it a platform so it can sit on a shelf or where ever you put it. Be sure to pin the legs in place on the bottom half band. Pin the base to the bottom half and sew. If you need to use the scotch tape technique (see LEGS), do so. You should end up with the full bottom half!
  12. THE BODY – Pin the Top Half to the Bottom Half, leaving a good inch or so of space in the back. Sew these together – except for that little space! Fill the goblin body with poly-fill. This will take more poly-fill than you first assume. Once you push the fill around and you have it packed in there pretty well, stitch the back opening closed. Don’t want any falling out.
  13. EMBELLISHMENTS – You might want to embellish your Christmas goblin with hair, a tail, or some Christmas accessories. You can find yarn that looks like Christmas garland, which is what I used for my first goblin. You should check out the miniature area in your local craft store. You might find small presents or sleigh bells or candy canes, etc.