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Dala Horse Christmas Ornament DIY: Upcycle Denim for a Scandinavian Charm

Every year I make a load of upcycled and repurposed Christmas ornaments. At least one of those involves using some of my denim scraps. I’m very fond of Scandinavian Christmas decorations. This year I’ve made a denim Dala horse ornament.

If you’re unfamiliar with Scandinavian decorations, you might not know what a Dala horse is.  

A Dala horse is a traditional carved and painted wooden statue of a horse. They originated from the Swedish province of Dalarna. Originally they were made as toys. These days Dala horses are more of a Swedish cultural symbol.

I liked the idea of making a mini denim Dala horse wall hanging for part of my Christmas decorations. All you need are the smallest of denim scraps to make these horses.

So that each of the horses was a different shade of indigo, I repurposed the denim from 3 different pairs of jeans.

Denim scraps from old blue jeans

Making A Dala Horse Ornament Stencil

Whilst sorting out my craft room, I found a Dala horse stamp I had hand-carved many years ago. I’d used the stamp to make Christmas cards and tags. I considered using it to make some Dala horse Christmas ornaments.

Unfortunately, the stamp wasn’t going to work with this upcycle. What I needed was a Dala horse stencil. I don’t have any fancy craft-cutting machines. I make my stencil the old-fashioned way by hand, as with my painted Christmas basket.

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What You Need

Dala horse ornament stencil

How To Make A Swedish Dala Horse Ornament

Making the Stencil

Step 1: The first thing to do is to make the stencil. Print the Swedish Dala horse above onto heavy paper (about 260gms). Cut out the Dala horse shape from the paper.

Then cut out the areas on the horse, shaded with a pencil. Use a paper-cutting knife. You will notice that the shaded area doesn’t go to the stencil’s edge.

This is for two reasons. First, if the markings were cut to the edge, the stencil would not be very stable. The second is that the border allows for a seam allowance when stitching the Dala horse ornament.

Cutting out Dala Horse stencil

Step 2: I sprayed the Dala horse stencil with an acrylic varnish. This was to make it more robust and slightly waterproof. As I planned to use the stencil more than once, I wanted it to last.

I sprayed both sides of the stencil to use it with the horse facing either way.

Making Swedish Dala Stencil

Making the Denim Dala Horse

Step 3: Place the stencil onto a scrap piece of denim. Using the acrylic paint pen, draw around the outside of the stencil. Then with the same pen, paint in all the stencil gaps.

Drawing around the Dala Horse

Step 4: Flip the stencil, and draw around the Dala horse facing the other way. Depending on your acyclic paint pens’ quality, you may want to review the markings again or use white paint and a thin brush.

two sides of Dala on denim

Step 5: Cut out the denim Dala horse shape and pin them right sides together. Then stitch the two pieces together with a 5mm seam allowance. Leave a hole in the belly for stuffing.

Denim pinned right sides together

Step 6: Turn the denim horse right sides out through the hole. Use a thin stick such as a chopstick to help poke out the ears and legs.

This process can be a little fiddly. Using soft, worn jeans scraps will make it easier.

Turning the Dala horse right sides out

Step 7: Stuff the horse with fiberfill. Again use the chopstick to help move the filling into the ears and legs. Then stitch up the hole.

Stuffing the Denim Christmas ornament

Step 8: To finish the denim Dala horse Christmas ornament sew in a hanging loop. I like to use strips of fabric in festive colours for my ornament hanging loop, but ribbon would work just as well.

Upcycled Denim Swedish Dala Horse Christmas Ornament

Making A Denim Dala Horse Christmas Wall Hanging

The Dala horse ornament looks fabulous as it is to hang on the Christmas tree. However, I wanted to make a wall hanging for my Scandinavian horses as I did with my denim feather wall hanging.

I made two more of these Dala horse ornaments, using denim in different shades of indigo. All three of the ornaments were hung on a small branch.

Denim Dala horse wall hanging

I know I made this wall hanging for Christmas, but as the horses are made from denim, I think I will get away with leaving it up all year round.

If you liked these denim Dala horses, you might want to check out other Christmas decorations, such as these tabletop denim Christmas trees or denim patchwork stars.

For other stencilled denim, check out this stencilled denim table runner.

For more Scandinavian-themed Christmas wall hangings and decorations, check out this Marimekko Nordic Christmas wall hanging. Or these cute Scandinavian handmade felt ornaments. Check out these other fabulous Christmas sewing projects.

DIY Swedish Dala horse ornaments

Find more sewing projects here.

Pam Crenwelge

Saturday 15th of January 2022

I have a small Dala horse I purchased in Sweden in 1969 when my Nana took me on a trip! (She was a travel agent and took each of her 6 grandchildren on a trip when we were in 6th grade). I love these ornaments and will definitely be making for Christmas 2022!!! Thank you for sharing!

Claire Armstrong

Saturday 15th of January 2022

Thank you so much, I bet that was a very memorable trip.

Donna @ Modern on Monticello

Wednesday 16th of December 2020

I had no idea what a dala horse was but so glad you taught me something new with this post. Thank you for sharing and I hope you enjoy the holidays. #HomeMattersParty

Claire Armstrong

Thursday 17th of December 2020

Thank you, they are very much a Scandinavian thing. Having Norwegian relatives we are all fond of things Scandi.


Thursday 10th of December 2020

These little dala horses are so sweet, and definately ideal for all year round. I only know this style of horse from all the Ikea decorations and wrapping papers that they had a few years ago. It's nice to know a little more about them.

Claire Armstrong

Thursday 10th of December 2020

Thank you, Julie. Yes, we love all things Scandi in this house, it's in our blood.


Sunday 6th of December 2020

I cannot copy the stencil for the Dala Horse

Claire Armstrong

Monday 7th of December 2020

Have you tried clicking the link in the materials list to the Dala horse it should open up as a new tab in your desktop and then you should be able to print it or save it by right clicking with your mouse. Thank you