Heidi Kenney, photograph by Andrew McCaul
1 large or 2 small green 100 percent wool sweaters (if you don’t have any your kids have outgrown, check thrift stores) Washing machine 1 tablespoon detergent Scissors Pins Needle and thread or sewing machine Pencil and paper ½ yard brown eco felt ⅛ yard cotton contrasting fabric Nontoxic fabric glue 24 small treats or trinkets
1. Using the hottest temperature setting and the lowest water-level setting (if available) on your washing machine, wash the sweater. You are “felting,” or matting, the wool fibers into a thicker, sturdier fabric.
2. When the washing cycle is done, pull the sweater out. If any parts of the sweater look less matted than the rest, you can put it in the dryer for about 10 minutes. Check every couple of minutes to make sure the sweater doesn’t get so thick and matted that you won’t be able to cut it with regular scissors.
3. Lay out the felted sweater to dry completely.
4. Meanwhile, make a tree template with the pencil and paper: Sketch a triangle with two long sides and one short side. Snip the point off of the end where the long sides meet (this will make it easier to construct the trees), then draw an arch along the short side to take the place of the straight line. You can make two or three different sizes, from 6 to 9 inches tall.
5. Using the templates, cut out 24 trees, to count down from December 1 until Christmas.
6. Fold the tree pieces in half lengthwise, so that the two long edges are lined up. Pin along the edges to hold them together. Sew, then turn right side out.
7. To make the pinecones, cut an egg shape, about two inches high, from the brown felt. Each pinecone should have two pieces, so you’ll need twice as many pinecones as you have trees. Pair them up and glue them together, leaving about a half inch at the bottom unglued. Snip small triangles around the edges to turn your eggs into pinecones.
8. Secure the pinecones to the trees by placing the open end of a pinecone over the tip of a tree, and gluing in place.
9. Draw the numbers 1 through 24 on your contrasting fabric, then cut out and glue to the pinecones.
10. Arrange the trees on a table or mantle, and add a treat or trinket underneath each cone. Have your child lift one tree each day to reveal the surprise. Adapted from Every Day’s a Holiday by Heidi Kenney (Chronicle Books).