DIY Network

Christmas Crafts

How to Make Wool-Sweater Topiaries for the Holidays

Learn how to make Christmas decorations using old sweaters, some scraps of wood and a few crafting supplies. This project took just a couple hours to make and cost less than $15.

More in Decorating

Courtesy of Susan Teare

Turn that old sweater you don't wear anymore into a clever holiday decoration. We covered foam craft balls in felted wool, then transformed them into a trio of lollipop Christmas trees.

Materials and Tools

chop saw
measuring tape
hand saw
hot-glue gun and 6 to 8 glue sticks
drill with large bit
large cooking pot
wooden spoon
old wool sweater (that you accidentally shrunk)
blocks of scrap wood (cherry salvaged pieces)
6" foam balls (3)
7/16" wooden dowel (48" long)
1 package roping mini pine garland (18') (craft store)
2 to 3 yards wide wire ribbon
1 yard smaller ribbon
3 ball head pins (tailor sewing pins)
pencil and paper
shellac (all-natural sealer)
wood glue

Felt the Wool

The wool sweater must be felted so it does not unravel. If you need to shrink it to make it more felted, boil it in water in a large cooking pot. The water must cover the entire sweater, so periodically move it around with wooden a spoon. Let the sweater cool down before you wring it out and put it in the dryer or let it dry natural. Repeat if necessary.

Topiary materials

Make a Template

Create a template on paper to use as a pattern for cutting the sweater. We used this eye-shape pattern because it will uniformly cover the ball without a lot of bunching.

Red sweater topiary template

Cut the Pieces

Cut the sweater into pieces to go around each ball.

Topiary construction

Glue the Sweater Onto the Ball

Starting at the top, use the glue gun to carefully attach the sweater pieces to the foam ball. IMPORTANT NOTE: Put the glue on the sweater (close to edges as well as the middle) not directly onto the foam ball because the hot glue will melt the ball.

Slightly overlap each piece of wool, careful not to have glue coming out of the edges. Glue all pieces down until none of the foam is showing.

Topiary construction

Cut Dowel/Stems and Insert

Cut the 48" dowel into three different-sized pieces. When creating your sizes, remember to include 4 to 6 inches that go into the ball and into the wood blocks.

Cut a small hole in the bottom of the foam ball and push a wooden dowel into it (about 2 to 3 inches). Repeat for the other balls.

Wrap Stem With Garland

Wrap mini pine garland around the dowel — hot glue it only at the top under the sweater ball to keep it in place. Leave about 2 to 3 inches at the bottom unwrapped so it can fit into the wood block. Do not glue the garland all the way down the dowel. It will stay in place once it is in the block.

Make a Bow

Add ribbon(s) and one pushpin to keep it held in place.

Topiary bow

Make Wooden Blocks

Stack the salvaged wooden blocks at three different heights. (We used cherry scraps picked up at the recycle center.) Mark them with pencil, then cut them on the chop saw. Use wood glue to adhere each stack together. Place something heavy on the stacks and let them dry for a day.

When the stacks are dry, sand them to get rid of rough edges. Coat each stack with two layers of shellac.

Topiary decor construction

Stand Trees in Blocks

Mark center on the top of each block and use large drill bit to make a hole about 2 inches deep. Fit dowel into the hole — make sure it is straight. Then pull it out, insert wood glue into the hole, then push the dowel back in. Let dry.


Joanne Palmisano is the author of Salvage Secrets (W.W. Norton, September 2011). Visit her blog, also called Salvage Secrets.