This year I wanted to make something that my son would always associate with Christmas's approach; something that every year he would see me pull out of a box that would bring the smell of pine to his nose and the warmth of a fire to his feet; something that would get him giddy for Santa Claus and snowmen; something that would elevate itself to the level of treasured heirloom, not because it's fancy but because it is loved.

These trees are lots of fun to make. You get to knit them up on big needles, nice and loose, then you get to decorate them with lots of pretty French knots and, finally, you get to feel the surprise of pulling them out of the washing machine, transformed into fuzzy little trees!  Enjoy! -- Whitney

The Materials

The Patterns

Gauge

 3 stitches = 1 inch in stockinette stitch (before felting)

Finished Sizes

The Big Tree is 6 inches in diameter at its base and 12 inches high (after felting).

The Little Tree is 3 3/4 inches in diameter at its base and 6 3/4 inches high (after felting).

Big Tree

The Bottom

With the US #11, 16 inch circular needle and Color A, cast on 4 stitches, leaving a 24 inch tail.

NOTE: For the Bottom section, you will work back and forth on the needles, turning the piece at the end of each row.

Row 1: Knit into the front and back (kfb) of every stitch. (8 stitches)

Row 2: Purl.

Row 3: Repeat Row 1. (16 stitches)

Row 4: Purl.

Row 5: *K1, kfb, repeat from * to end of row. (24 stitches)

Row 6: Purl.

Row 7: *K2, kfb, repeat from * to end of row. (32 stitches)

Row 8: Purl.

Row 9: *K3, kfb, repeat from * to end of row. (40 stitches)

Row 10: Purl.

Row 11: *K4, kfb, repeat from * to end of row. (48 stitches)

Row 12: Purl.

Row 13: *K5, kfb, repeat from * to end of row. (56 stitches)

Row 14: Purl.

Row 15: *K6, kfb, repeat from * to end of row. (64 stitches)

Row 16: Purl.

Row 17: *K7, kfb, repeat from * to end of row. (72 stitches)

Row 18: Purl.

Row 19: Purl.

The Cone

Place a marker on the right needle and, with the right side facing you, join to work in round.

Round 1: *K10, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (66 stitches)

Knit 10 rounds.

Next Round : *K9, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (60 stitches)

Knit 4 rounds.

With Color B, knit 1 round.

With Color A, knit 1 round.

Repeat the last two rounds.

With Color B, knit 1 round.

Continue with Color B.

Next Round : *K8, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (54 stitches)

Knit 8 rounds.

Next Round : *K7, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (48 stitches)

Knit 7 rounds.

Next Round : *K6, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (42 stitches)

Knit 6 rounds.

Next Round : *K5, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (36 stitches)

With Color C, knit 1 round.

With Color B, knit 1 round.

Repeat the last two rounds.

With Color C, knit 1 round.

Continue with Color C.

Next Round : *K4, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (30 stitches)

Knit 4 rounds.

As you knit the next round, change to the US #11 double pointed needles.

Next Round : *K3, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (24 stitches)

Knit 3 rounds.

Next Round : *K2, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (18 stitches)

Knit 2 rounds.

Next Round : *K1, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (12 stitches)

Knit 1 round.

Next Round : *K2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (6 stitches)

Cut the yarn and thread it through the remaining stitches.

Weave in all the ends except for the cast on tail.

The French Knots

Thread three strands of the needlepoint yarn onto a tapestry needle. Bring the needle from inside the tree to the outside.

Wrap the yarn around the tapestry needle four times. (There are two ways to wrap the yarn: one way makes a knot and the other doesn't. Please study the photo carefully to make sure you're wrapping correctly. I find it helpful to think of wrapping toward the tail end of the yarn.)

Insert the needle into the hole directly above the one the yarn is coming from. There should be one strand, or "ladder", of the tree yarn between the hole where the needlepoint yarn exits and where it enters.

Bring the needle through to the inside of the tree, sliding the wraps off the eye end of the needle. Gently tug the ends of the yarn to take up some slack in the french knot.

Tie the ends together and cut the yarn.

(We have another French Knot Tutorial here if you need some extra help.)

I arranged my French Knots in a vaguely rainbow order, so the reds are at the bottom, fading into yellows and greens at the top. I also tied off the top of the tree with two slightly different colors of red yarn.

Felting and Finishing

Put the tree in a cotton pillowcase and, along with a pair of jeans or a couple of tennis balls, put the pillowcase in the washing machine. Set the temperature to hot and the water level to high, add some soap, and let the machine run through an entire cycle. If the tree isn't as felted as you want after one cycle, send it through again.

Lay the tree flat to dry.

Fill the tree with lots of stuffing. Make sure it is nice and firm, which is easier to do by tamping down small amounts of stuffing rather than by trying to fill the tree all at once.

When the tree is full, use the cast on tail and a tapestry needle to sew the bottom closed.

Little Tree

The Bottom

With the US #11, 16 inch circular needle and Color B, cast on 4 stitches, leaving an 18 inch tail.

NOTE: For the Bottom section, you will work back and forth on the needles, turning the piece at the end of each row.

Work Rows 1 - 12 of the "Bottom" section of the Big Tree pattern.

Row 13: Purl.

The Cone

Place a marker on the right needle and, with the right side facing you, join to work in round. (For visual aid, see the Big Tree picture, above.)

Round 1: *K6, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (42 stitches)

Knit 8 rounds.

Next Round : *K5, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (36 stitches)

Knit 7 rounds.

Next Round : *K4, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (30 stitches)

Knit 6 rounds.

As you knit the next round, change to the US #11 double pointed needles.

Next Round : *K3, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (24 stitches)

With Color C, knit 1 round.

With Color B, knit 1 round.

Repeat the last two rounds.

With Color C, knit 1 round.

Continue with Color C.

Next Round : *K2, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (18 stitches)

Knit 4 rounds.

Next Round : *K1, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (12 stitches)

Knit 3 rounds.

Next Round : *K2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (6 stitches)

Knit 2 rounds.

Cut the yarn and thread it through the remaining stitches.

Weave in all the ends except for the cast on tail.

The French Knots, Felting and Finishing

Use the needlepoint yarn to decorate the tree, as explained above in the "French Knots" section of the Big Tree pattern.

And to felt and finish, also follow the directions of the Big Tree pattern above.

Here's the Little Tree felted, laying out to dry.