Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Little Felt Tree Tutorial *with actual instructions*

I'm a little felt tree that your kids can decorate and redecorate!
Are you here for the gift guide? Fret not! It's right there.

And, as per someone's request--a lovely someone who actually has this recipe printed, but fretted over the availability of it to others--the giftable grapefruit marmalade recipe is now here. I am making this tonight. Act surprised when you unwrap it, okay?

Likewise, the peppermint patties are here too. And I have pieces in this month's O magazine and FamilyFun and, as always, Real Simple, if you get a chance to look!

But I'm writing now because I was reviewing my instructions for the little felt trees here, and I felt like they were a little, oh, I don't know. . . 

So I'm going to try to offer a little more guidance this time. Ready? 

Make a pattern. You'll do this by tracing something large and round, such as a dinner plate onto a piece of paper. Cut out the circle and fold it into quarters. Voila! A pattern!

Now use this pattern to cut a piece of felt. I am using a washed and dried wool sweater (I say more about felting thrift-store sweaters here), but you can use any kind of felt: wool, acrylic, even polar fleece, come to think of it. Of course, I love upcycling, and I love weird wool sweaters, so that's always the direction I head. 

Note that I am using a rotary cutter and am too lazy to do anything but hold down the pattern while I cut. If you are using scissors, then secure the pattern first; I find that pins or double tape both work well for this.

Now fold up your felt shape and use a needle threaded with a longish piece of embroidery thread to stitch up the side from top to bottom, leaving your needle and thread attached when you get there.

Now pop open your cone shape on a piece of paper and roughly trace around the bottom. Then find a circular object that is more or less that size, and trace around it to make a pattern for the bottom of the tree.

This is not an exact science. Use the pattern to cut a circle from your felt.

Place the felt at the bottom of your cone (again, pinning could be useful but I am too lazy to bother) and pick up your needle and thread where you left off to begin stitching on the bottom. I am using a _____ stitch. What the f is it called? Whip stitch. 

When you're about 2/3 of the way around, stop sewing (leave your needle and thread where they are) and stuff your little tree. I used polyester stuffing, but you could use cotton balls or felt scraps or, like my mom used to, old pantyhose if you prefer. After it's nice and stuffed put something heavy at the bottom to weight it. I like beach rocks for these, but I was out, so I put in a few handfuls of dried peas. Pinch the bottom to the tree and sew it up the rest of the way, making sure to run out of thread when you are one fucking inch from the end, so you'll need to tie off and rethread and sew two stitches and tie off again.

Now put some sequins and pretty pins in an Altoid tin. I got all of these things at Michael's: the sequins came in a bag where the crafts are, and the "pearlized" pins were in the sewing area. There's lots of both, in case you want to make these as gifts. Which you really might, because they are so cute.

I used hot glue to decorate the tin's top with felt (and some of my thumb skin) because I am meticulous like that. Trim the felt *after* you glue it on or you will be ruing the day. That's it! It takes about half an hour start to finish, and it is seriously worth it because it gives the kids something to do while they are waiting for Christmas or to open a little flap or to light the menorah or eat a chocolate coin or for you to be done drinking eggnog or any number of the things they are stuck waiting for in December.


  1. A perfect tutorial. You have added all the bits I forget to add to my tutorials, like running out of thread one inch from the end of the seam, and burning myself with hot-glue. Also forgetting the names of stitches. (ridiculous. you think I'd remember this stuff, right?)


  2. I would use applique pins, sometimes called sequin pins, so you don't stab yourself. They basically have a short metal pokey part instead of the long version that you have in the picture.

    1. STF, because the tree is kind of pouffy, I'm worried that shorter pins wouldn't stay put. But by all means! I would hate for anyone to stab themselves.

    2. I was totally googling STF - because the longer version, STFU isn't very nice... realizing now it is my own freaking name, geez. I was thinking of my 5 year old when I wrote this, and also it was much longer with a witty joke about the owl and my own beautiful art (AKA thumbprint books) that got eaten by your website three times so it got shorter and shorter... anyway, stubby pins for little ones. And don't STFU. Just STF. You know, see stuff, try it out, make your dreams come true. Or something. Time to hit the egg nog.

    3. dale_in_denver4:27 PM

      I had to look at STF several times as well - could not understand what you had said to offend! Shows where our minds are.

  3. Very cute. I like the old instructions, too. I think I'll try one of these--I've been saving a box of old sweaters to make your patchwork afghan and just discovered it was the source of last winter's wool moth outbreak. So I washed all the sweaters and now I need to hurry up and make them into things. And the yarn cone tree is awesome, too. You can also take an empty yarn cone (in case you weave your own holiday place mats and have a bunch of empty yarn cones left over) and wind wool roving around it for a fuzzy conical tree (I use pink and blue lime green wool for an avant-garde/Urban Hobbit look).

  4. dale_in_denver4:26 PM

    I found some really heavy-weight evergreen textured placemats at goodwill and used them for my 4 nieces. I stuffed the tree with the remnants of the placemat and beans. I bought the multi-pack of Altoids mini's at Costco and wrapped them in cute wrapping paper and mini ribbons to look like presents. They have some mini "pearl" strings near the sequins at the craft store, and that looks cute wrapped around the tree. I also found some white sparkly fabric that has little "lumps" texture, cut into a circle and it provides a little snowy spot for the tree and presents. Everything fits into some wooden boxes that one of my clients sends chocolate covered almonds in. I gathered them up from my colleagues and glued a sparkly wire-ribbon bow on top. It's been a couple of years, but they still love to pull them out right after Thanksgiving and decorate the tree multiple times. My oldest niece was 25 at the time and was grateful to have a decorated tree for her apartment. I kept one for me and my three sons also enjoy decorating it. So, really they are good for any age and any gender.

  5. Anonymous9:15 PM

    Make it truly homemade:

  6. You knew about Pandora in 2005?!?

  7. I don't know why I'm giving you a hard time. I worship you. I love that every time someone asks if I'll divulge a recipe, they always say the same thing, "benandbirdy! I shoulda known!"

  8. 'how to draw an owl' good god. You made my snowy Friday morning :) <3

  9. Anonymous4:49 PM

    I'm off to draw an owl now that I know can be done in just two simple steps! Seriously, you're the best! I'm really off to pack up Hunters and Gatherers (which I won in one of your lovely contests several years ago) for our trip to see family. I'll also be taking some $6 dollar t-shirts for the 14 year old, Hanabi, the mini-golf game and a variety of books--all thanks to you. Happy holidays to you and yours!

  10. Links to the magazine articles? Or do we actually have to buy the magazines - which I guess is what they are hoping!

  11. Best tutorial instructions, evah!

  12. Elizabeth12:44 PM

    I am adding thumbskin to my Christmas list. :)

  13. This tutorial is really useful, cute and made me laugh aloud at the end of a long tiring day. At various moments of this post. And then again, re-reading it. Thank you :o)

    Also, I am about to paint an owl in watercolour (as part of my Christmas-or-birthday-whatever-comes-first program). Very enticing instructions!

  14. 'draw the rest of the fucking owl' - I think I love you! Plus your stretching cat is the very image of my own long gone and fondly remembered Maine Coon x x x