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If knitting little tiny sweaters for sad urban trees is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Remember how I said that once I’d had the idea to make a company logo dog sweater, I couldn’t NOT do it? I had another one of those tonight.

Outside our building is a sorry little sidewalk tree. At the height of summer, it had about five leaves. A dead glowstick has been dangling from its branches for three months.

Tonight while I was out on a smoke break, I looked at the tree and thought, “Man, that is one sad tree. It looks cold and wet and pathetic. It needs a sweater!”

I went home and whipped one up, it only took an hour and a half to knit. Then another fifteen minutes or so, standing outside in the cold at half past midnight, stitching it up.

If you would like to make your own little tree sweater, here’s what I did:

First, find a good tree, then find a good spot. Ideally, the sweater will sit at eye level, and will have only one “arm.” (The topography of knitting a sweater for more than one branch is tricky, although not insurmountable.) Measure:

1. The circumference of the tree
2. Circumference of the branch
3. Distance between the top of the branch (the “shoulder”) and the next branch up, and the distance between the bottom of the branch (the “armpit”) and the next branch down. These numbers let you know how much room you have to work with at top and bottom.

My tree was 7 inches in circumference, with a 2 inch branch, and 4 inches from the shoulder to the next branch up.

To give you an overview, you will need to stitch the sweater onto the tree. To do this, you will create a rectangle with a slit in one side. The sleeve will fit into the slit, stitched top and bottom, and then you’ll have some seam from the armpit back to the main seam. If it helps you to visualize, from the back, the seam will make a |- shape.

Picture a sweater for a one-armed man: the main seam runs vertically up his back. Another seam runs from the main seam horizontally across his back to what I’ll call the “armpit,” (although it’s on the back of his arm) and runs right up the end of the sleeve to the cuff.

Got it? Okay.

I decided that a baggy sweater was somehow more appealing, so I built 2 inches of ease into the body, and 1 inch into the sleeve. I cast on 35 stitches (worsted weight acrylic yarn on 6mm needles), which was 9 inches across. I knit 2 inches in 2×2 ribbing (for the bottom hem), then another inch in stockinette.

Armpit time. I bound off 12 stitches (3 inches, more or less) and knit the rest of the row. On the way back, when I reached that point, I cast on 12 stitches. Same as you would for a button hole or pocket – you’re basically just creating a horizontal divide between one row of stitches and the next. I’ll call this the “slot.”

The length of your arm slot should be roughly 1/3rd of the total width of the sweater. Mainly, it’s important to be sure that the slot is a minimum of half the circumference of the sleeve. For example, my sweater was 9 inches wide, so I made the slot 3 inches wide. Since the sleeve circumference was 3 inches, the slot needed to be a minimum of 1 1/2 inches.

I knit another 2 inches in stockinette, then 3 inches in 2×2 rib for the turtleneck, and bound off.

Next, the sleeve. I knit a 3 x 3 inch square in 2×2 rib, and bound off.

Now, the assembly. I folded the sleeve in half, and set the fold into the inside edge of the divide. Picture setting in the sleeve for the one-armed man – you want the open end to face towards his back, so you fold up the sleeve and slide it into the slot. I then attached it using a fake graft, but I have to admit that the inside of the slot looked a little bedraggled by this treatment, so I stitched it up a little bit from the reverse, to strengthen the inside edge.

Time for the finale! I pocketed a digital camera, pre-threaded two yarn needles with about 5 feet of yarn, and grabbed an extra ball of the yarn (best to be prepared). I put the sweater on the tree, tacked the bottom edge of the main seam together with a figure-8 stitch, and proceeded to seam it up with a mattress stitch.

This was the trickiest part. I found that I could apply the mattress stitch to the reverse side (as you usually would) by flipping the edges out and down, and keeping the stitch fairly loose. However, because of the way the light was falling, I had to stitch the right side with my left hand, to keep from blocking all the light. Also, it was cold out, and my fingers started getting stiff, but I prevailed, because the whole thing was just too funny.

I stitched up the main seam from bottom to top, then stitched the sleeve from the cuff to the armpit, and then the secondary seam from the armpit back to the main seam. Once I got down to the last inch or so, I had to fall back on a basic whip stitch. I knotted off the ends, took a minute to weave in the yarn ends, then stepped back and snapped some pictures.

Voila! Tree sweater!

7 comments to If knitting little tiny sweaters for sad urban trees is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.