So, a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to go all in on the whole cozy Christmas cabin, buffalo plaid and woodland creatures theme for my holiday decorations. And, since none of our Christmas stockings matched, I made some new ones with a few old sweaters and some nifty needle felted animals. I am really (mostly) happy with the way they turned out, and I thought I’d share how I made them. This is not exactly in depth enough to be a true tutorial, but I’m hoping I can at least guide everyone in the right direction.
For starters, I knew I wanted to felt down old sweaters to make the body of the stocking, so I headed to a local thrift store to find some. For the felting to work, it’s best to have sweaters that are 100% wool. This isn’t really the norm anymore for sweaters, so it may take a little digging to find enough of them. I originally wanted each stocking to be from a different sweater so I bought four different sweaters. One of them, however, turned out to be a dud. It said it was wool and angora, but it fell apart during the felting process, so I’m wondering if it may have been mislabeled.
Once you have the correct type of sweaters, though, felting them is pretty simple. I put mine in pillow cases and tied the end of the pillow case in a knot (this was especially helpful in the case of the one sweater that fell apart), then tossed them in the washer on hot with a little detergent. Then into the dryer, again, on the hottest setting. Basically you’re just doing everything you’ve ever been told NOT to do to a wool sweater. The goal is to get the fibers of the sweater to bind together, which causes the sweater to shrink. This may require a few trips through the washer and dryer. I believe mine only took two.
Next step is to cut out and sew your stockings. I just drew out a stocking shape on a piece of paper to make a pattern. It needs to be a bit bigger than you want the actual stocking to be, to allow for your seam. Personally, I just guessed on this, but you could always draw out the size you want the finished product to be, then add about a quarter of an inch the whole way around, except for the top edge.
Then you’re going to lay the pattern on your sweater and cut it out. The opening of the stocking should fall on the waistband of the sweater as this is usually the stretchiest part of the sweater, and you want that stretch at the opening of your stocking. The other thing you want to pay attention to when you’re laying out your patterns is any details on the sweater that you’d like to include on your stocking. One of my sweaters was a cardigan with a lovely cable detail down the side of the torso, so I angled my pattern on the sweater to include that cable. I also had to decide which way I wanted my stockings to hang before I laid out my pattern. The cardigan had a small hole on one side after the felting process, and the cables only ran down the front of the sweater, so I didn’t have much of a choice. That stocking had to hang with the toe to the left. One of my other sweaters, however, had another issue, honestly I can’t remember what it was, I just know it resulted in that stocking having to hang with the toe to the right. Because I lost the one sweater during felting, I was down to three sweaters, so I had to get two stockings out of my last sweater. I decided to have those each face a different direction so that I’d end up with two stockings that hung to the left and two that hung to the right.
I also cut out small rectangles from each of the sweater sleeves to make pockets for the front of each stocking. The pockets made for a cute detail, but also gave me something I could felt the animals on, without having such a large piece to be working on. Be sure to cut your pockets with the top edge along the wrist of the sweater. This will give you some stretch, just like the waistband does for the top of your stocking. And don’t forget to cut a few small strips of sweater to use for the loops to hang your stockings from. The felting should make it so that your pieces will not fray, so you don’t need to finish the edges of these, just try to keep your cuts neat.
Now it’s time to sew up your stockings! I’m not going to pretend I can teach you how to sew, but assuming you have some experience using a sewing machine, this should be an easy enough task. I only know the basics, and I managed to do it. Simple explanation: you want to put right sides together and pin around the outside, leaving the top open. Then sew your way around about a quarter of an inch from the edge. The pieces of wool are going to be thick. I had a couple of spots where I had to lift the presser foot and maneuver my way through it s-l-o-w-l-y, but you can do it. Then snip a couple places in the seam allowance, being careful not to snip through your stitches, and turn your stocking right side out. Fold your loop in half, tuck it in the corner of your stocking and sew back and forth over it a few times. Voila. You have a stocking.
On to the fun part. Quick explanation of the art of needle felting: needle felting is done by poking pieces of wool with a barbed needle. The barbs on the needle will grab the wool fibers and push them through in one direction, then pull them back in the other direction, as you poke through. This interlocks the wool fibers, fusing them together, which allows you to attach two pieces of wool to each other. It compresses the wool, to a degree, and you can continue to add pieces of wool as you go, which allows you to basically sculpt anything you want.
Now, this is the part where I pass the buck. I am not a needle felting expert. These stockings were only my third needle felted project ever. But, what I lack in knowledge, I make up for in my ability to follow directions, and a bit of ingenuity. My first foray into this art was in a workshop with Sara from Sarafina Fiber Art. She has a plethora of YouTube videos to go along with the needle felting kits she sells on her website. She also sells needle felting supplies. When I asked everyone what animals they wanted on their stockings, the responses were; raccoon, hedgehog, and falcon. Well, the first responses were actually raccoon, fox, and falcon, but I wanted a fox for mine, so I made someone pick again. As luck would have it, there are Sarafina videos for felting a raccoon, a fox, and a hedgehog so I just skipped through these, watching the parts about making the head of each animal and used that to create mine. I used pipe cleaners for the armature and once I got the basic shape of the head, I felted it onto my pocket, and then worked off of that to finish.
There was no video for falcons, however, so this is where my bit of ingenuity comes into play. I did find a video on felting owls, and I thought to myself, “hey, owls are birds too,” so I used that video to get the basic idea of how to create a beak, and what shapes were important to get the basic facial features of a bird down. Then I looked at a lot of falcon pictures for reference and played around until I got the look I wanted.
I will also say, I did get progressively better at these as I went along. I made the raccoon first, and he is probably the one I’m least pleased with. His eyes are just not right. I tried making slight adjustments to them, but could only get them to look angry or surprised. Either way, it looked a little cartoon-y to me. I made the fox last, and am probably the happiest with that one.
Once your animals look like animals and are felted onto your pockets though, you’ll of course want to attach your pockets to your stockings. I originally thought I could simply felt the pocket onto the stocking, being careful to only felt around the sides and bottom of the pocket so that it could still be filled. This did not hold up to use, however, so for their second Christmas, the pockets needed some hand-done whip-stitching instead. I would recommend doing this from the beginning.
There you have it, more or less anyway. If you’re unsure of your needle felting talents, you can always just make yourself some up-cycled felted sweater stockings with a cute pocket, and leave off the animals entirely, but if you like a good challenge, I say go for it. You could end up with some really darling woodland creature stockings to go with your lumberjack chic Christmas decor.