Introduction: Tiny Christmas Sweaters
A recent tradition I have started in my family is making keepsake Christmas ornaments that the entire family works on together. We then gift the ornaments to the grandparents of my son, so they can proudly display them on their trees. This year I saw a video by Doug Linker where he made some hand carved Christmas sweaters and I though that would be a great idea for our yearly project. I also decided to take it to another level by adding some magnets to the sweaters so they can also be used on the fridge once the Christmas tree has been taken down.
Check out the video above if you want to see me make these tiny sweaters while some Christmas music plays in the background, and read on to see each step on how I made them.
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
Bandsaw (optional tool: jigsaw or scroll saw)
Various hand tools
CA glue (optional)
Note: The links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Making the Basswood Blank
I went to my local hardwood dealer and picked up this giant slab of basswood for $25. Comparing that with prices I saw on Amazon for small blanks I thought this was a steal. But it also meant that I needed to process the slab into smaller bits in order to make this project.
The slab I have is about 2" thick, 6 1/2" wide and way longer than I needed.
I first cut a piece off that was about 3" long using my circular saw. I used my speed square to ensure the cut was somewhat straight.
I then went to my bandsaw and sliced off (resawed) pieces that were approximately 1/2" thick. This left me with a piece big enough two make two sweaters.
Step 2: Drawing the Sweaters
I found drawing the sweaters the hardest part. If I was going to be making a lot more of them than I would probably print out some templates from online.
You can change the collars a bit, between the regular curved, or a vee-neck. If you want to do a turtle neck style you won't be able to put a hanger in during a later step, so keep that in mind.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Sweaters
Using my bandsaw I cut out the sweaters. It was pretty simple and I just followed the lines. You don't have to worry about being to perfect as you will be carving away the edges later.
For the curved collars I would first make some relief cuts (picture 6) and then I could more easily cut the curve. If you are using a scroll saw you may not need to take this precaution.
Step 4: Stropping Your Knife
Having a sharp knife is paramount when carving. If your knife isn't sharp you will have to put more effort into the cuts and that can lead to mistakes and potential injury. I found that I stropped my knife after each sweater and it kept things cutting really nicely.
If you don't know how to strop your knife, I suggest checking out this instructable for more details
Step 5: Rough Carving
When I start rough carving a sweater, the first thing I typically do is remove all of the sharp edges. This will make it much easier on your hands.
I then work at removing all the bandsaw marks on the edges. Around the collar and in between the sleeves are the most challenging bits, but with some determination all of the bandsaw marks can be removed.
For the sleeves I tended to extend the cut lines a bit to create a bit of a V shape where the sleeve meets the body of the sweater. While I don't have any good in action shots, I do have a picture that shows the fruits of this labour (picture 6 above)
Lastly I just kept removing material until I got a shape that I liked. It is more of an art than a science, so just experiment until you like the way the sweater looks.
Here are a few tips for carving:
- Always make sure your knife is pointed away from you and none of your digits (or other body parts) are in the path of the blade.
- Of course there are exceptions to this, such as picture 5, the way that I am holding the knife it is pointed towards me. However I am using my fingers to pull the knife towards me by closing my fist. This ensures that it would be impossible for the path of the knife to go beyond my closed fist.
- Use one hand to guide/steer the knife and use your thumb from the other hand to power the knife.
- Listen to the grain of the wood. If the knife starts digging in, stop cutting and go from the other direction.
- If you are not comfortable with a knife, use a cut resistant glove. They help stop slashing. but they can still be cut with a poking/jabbing motion, so be careful.
Step 6: Drawing Collar/Cuff Details
If you want to get fancy with your sweater you can add cuffs on the bottom or on the sleeves and you can add a collar.
In order to draw those details I just held my pencil at a consistent depth from the edge and made a mark. Because you are trying to mimic fabric, it doesn't need to be perfectly straight.
Step 7: Carving Collar/Cuff Details
To cut out these details it takes two steps. The first is to trace out the pencil marks using the tip of your knife. You want to cut down about 1/16". However deep you go will be how pronounced the details will be.
The second step is to carve away material up to the cut line. You can either carve along the line (as shown in the pictures 2 and 4) or carve from the middle towards the cut line (picture 3).
Step 8: Adding Ribbing
If you are interested, you can also ribbing to the cuffs and collar. On the shirt I am showing here I have chosen to only add it to the bottom cuff. It is very simple to add, you just make two cuts that create a V in the wood. Then you pop the chip of wood out. Repeat for the length of the cuff.
Step 9: Adding a Fun Christmas Design
This is where the creative part starts to come into play. You can add anything you want to the center of the shirt (for example, you could put Bruce Willis on the shirt in honour of Die Hard being a Christmas movie). I choose to keep it a bit less creative than that and just went with traditional things like Christmas trees, snowmen, Christmas balls, and stockings.
First I drew the design on the sweater. I then traced that design out with the tip of my knife, again going in about 1/16". Using the same techniques as before I carved out the space around the design.
Step 10: Painting
I enjoy painting miniature things (like board game pieces) so this was a fun step for me. I pulled out my acrylic paints and added some colour to the sweater. I did a couple just to show people what would be possible, but then I called in the professional.
Step 11: Letting the Professional Paint
This was arguably the most fun step, seeing my two year old son have fun painting the sweaters. We gave him a few different colour choices and just let him do whatever he wanted. He might have put a little extra paint than was required in some spots and then others were left bare, but that's the fun!
Step 12: Making the Coat Hanger
To make the hanger I used 18 gauge mechanics wire. The stuff I have is black, but it is also coated in oil, so I first had to remove that.
I then cut some pieces about 3" long (don't worry they can be trimmed shorter at a later step)
I bent them at the halfway point to about 45 degrees.
I then placed them in my vise and made sure they were overlapping. I used some pliers to twist them around 3 times. I had to make sure they were twisted really tight or else they would just fall apart when I took them out of the vise. The result is an X as shown in picture 6.
I then cut one arm off of the X using a the wire snip part of my pliers. I used needle nosed pliers to round over the corresponding arm and make it look like a coat hanger.
Step 13: Attaching the Hanger
To attach the hanger I put a 1/16" drill bit into my drill press and drilled a couple of holes into the edge of the collar. I did this by eye and tried to mimic the angle of a normal hanger. I drilled about 1" into the wood.
I then slid the hanger from the previous step into the holes. You may need to bend it a bit, but it can be bent back after it has been slid into place. If the wire is a bit too long and it doesn't sit right, it can be trimmed using wire snips until it fits nicely.
Step 14: Adding Magnets (Optional)
Adding magnets is a very simple process. I just used my drill press with a 5/16" drill bit (same size as the magnets) and then attached the magnets using super glue.
Step 15: Adding a Message (Optional)
I had my wife do some wood burning on the ornaments. She added a simple Merry Christmas and a 2020 on one of the sleeves.
Step 16: Display or Gift Your Sweaters
The best part of every project is getting to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Family members have already started to receive their Christmas sweaters and I am certain there are smiles all around. If you plan on making them for yourself, you can always build a tiny wardrobe like I did to store them until next Christmas. I think my favourite thing to do is transform the summertime pictures that were hanging on the fridge into nice festive winter pictures!
I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did. If you want to see more from me, feel free to follow me on other social media:
If this project inspires you to make your own tiny sweaters I would love to see them. Please share them on here and if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.
Participated in the
Anything Goes Contest
2 years ago
These are really special. Because "Ugly" Christmas sweaters have become so popular, you can now buy cookie cutters in the shape of sweaters. That would make it easier for you than having to draw them. You could also use a gingerbread man cookie cutter and use the body and arm area to get the right sweater shape. These ornaments would be great for a crafting get-together or a birthday party. For variety, the sweaters could also be made from clay. Kids or adults could each decorate their own sweater. I especially like your idea of designing a customized miniature wardrobe for storing them. If you were giving them away in sets, the wardrobe would certainly add a personal touch to the gift. Friends and family members could also look forward to filling their wardrobes.
Reply 2 years ago
Great ideas! Thanks for sharing ☺️
2 years ago
I love these!
Reply 2 years ago
Thank you ☺️☺️
2 years ago
These are really cute and I love that it can be a family activity :)
Reply 2 years ago
Thank you 😊 it was fun to see my little guy paint them. And he is so proud when the grandparents open up the little sweater presents 😊😊