Make your own recycled gnome for the holidays

A perfect decoration, a perfect gift

Recycled Gnomes Hjelmen

Photo courtesy of Lynn Hjelmen
Last summer, Lynn Hjelmen presented her recycled gnomes at Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minn.,, where she ran into Editor-in-chief Lori Ann Reinhall. Recently, Lynn demonstrated how to make the gnomes from beginning to end at a special class at Norway House in Minneapolis.

Carstens Smith
Education Coordinator
Norway House

During a trip to Norway and Sweden to visit relatives, Lynn Hjelmen noticed that all the stores had tomte and nisse in them. The small mythical creatures appealed to her, and she began to research their history and how they appeared in art.

Just as the tomte uses magic and ingenuity to help on the farmstead, Lynn used a little magic and ingenuity of her own to source materials, design, and craft a creature of her own.

“It was important to me to use recycled materials as much as possible,” she says.


Left: The Recycled Gnome by Lynn Hjelmen provides complete instructions on how to make your eco-friendly personalized gnome from recycled materials.

Opting to call her creations “gnomes” because the name is more recognizable to English-speakers, she kept them true to their Nordic origins in all other ways.

“My first gnomes were all on skis because that was the best way I could find to balance them and make them stand upright,” laughs Lynn. Though she has since found a technique to make very sturdy gnomes that  stand independently, her gnomes on skis are the most popular.

Lynn combed through thrift stores and found Norwegian sweaters and other items needed to complete the gnomes. Her first batch of 60 gnomes were ready to make their first appearance at a craft show in Hudson, Wis., in 2019. They sold out in 90 minutes. Lynn and her husband looked at the empty table, and since they now had the rest of the day open, Lynn hit the Hudson thrift stores and stocked up to make another batch.

The skiing gnome was also a tribute to her skiing family members. While Lynn isn’t too keen about strapping wooden slats to her feet and going out in the snow, the rest of her family does so enthusiastically. Hjelmen’s daughter’s family is very involved in the Loppet Foundation, a public and private partnership that encourages outdoor activity, especially cross-country skiing.

class gnome

Participants at the Norway House class eagerly got to work on their gnome creations, as Lynn stood by to provide instructions and support.

Lynn participates by making skiing gnomes and donating them to the Loppet gift shop, which helps support the foundation. Andrea Bidelman, the foundation’s merchandising manager, says, “Lynn initially brought in 20 gnomes to the gift shop. People would come in, see the gnomes, and they were just gone from the shelf!”

Keeping the gift store stocked with recycled gnomes has become so challenging that Lynn will be teaching a group of Loppet volunteers how to make the gnomes so an entire team of people can keep up with the demand. She regularly teaches Recycled Gnome classes throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, including a recent class at Norway House.

Class participant Synneva Bratland says, “It was a lot of fun and very accessible. Lynn did an excellent job of giving us instructions in small bits we could do and not giving too us much at one time.” Synneva’s lefse chef gnome has a proud perch above her desk. “It was satisfying to make our own little gnomes. I now understand the process and feel that I could make one on my own,” says Synneva.

It was so people could make their own gnomes  that Lynn wrote her book, The Recycled Gnome, published last January. The book gives instructions and inspiration to make 20 different gnomes. The book keeps with the recycling ethos.

hjelmen gnome

Participants at the Norway House class with Lynn Hjelmen learned to make their own Nordic chef gnome, complete with a little kitchen spoon.

“You use materials that you probably already have around your house,” says Lynn.

Now, you can have a gnome around your house, which is even better.

To learn more about Lynn’s recycled gnomes, you can find her on Facebook at: Gnomes by Hjelmen or ordering her book, The Recycled Gnome, at

For information about classes at Norway House, visit:

All photos courtesy of  Norway House unless otherwise indicated

This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Carstens Smith

Carstens Smith is the class and education coordinator at Norway House in Minneapolis. She also works a freelance writer, instructional designer, and ESL instructor, and she has published numerous nonfiction magazine and web articles. You can email Carstens at