Meg Makes: How I made a knitted Advent calendar of tiny socks, sweaters, hats and mittens
I've been promising myself for a long time that I will make some sort of durable Advent calendar that marks every day in my favorite liturgical season.
When I was little, we used a homemade calendar my mom made that dispensed a candy cane for every day in December. I wanted something similar, although I didn't really want it to revolve around food.
I finally got motivated this October to make one, after seeing this hat and mittens Advent calendar available for sale. I could make that, I told myself.
I started by checking out a book on knitted Christmas ornaments from the library, just to get inspired. I also made sure I had at least four colors of yarn to make my tiny pieces of winter wear: I decided on red, green, royal blue, white and yellow
After some thought, I decided I wanted my Advent calendar to include tiny sweaters, socks, hats and mittens. I made six of each, to create 24 items to hang between Dec. 1 and Christmas Eve.
The library book, "Little Christmas Decorations to Knit and Crochet," had the cutest pattern for a cable-knit sweater ornament, so I started there.
However, after making my first sweater, I realized two things: I wanted to embroider numbers on the fronts of the sweaters, and the cabling didn't allow much room for that.
The pattern also has you knit the tiny sweater flat, and then sew it together, which creates a lot of finishing work. I needed to keep things as simple as possible, so I redesigned the sweater to be knit in the round. The pattern I created is toward the bottom of this blog post. If you're not used to using double-pointed needles, it's a challenge to learn, but you'll have much less work at the end if you use them.
I also had trouble finding a hat ornament pattern I liked, so I adapted a pattern I found online for preemies. My adaptation is also below, with full credit to this blog, Hissy Stitch, for the inspiration. I'd originally wanted to add tiny pom-poms to my hats, but I ran out of time. My pattern does give the hats a little point at the top, so they're still pretty cute.
For the mittens, I basically used this Red Heart pattern, with worsted-weight yarn and size 3 needles to keep the gauge consistent with the other ornaments. For the socks, I used this pattern from the-leaky-cauldron.org. It allows for striped socks, but I followed the striping directions once. The rest, I just worked in one color.
These are all just suggestions for patterns. Obvious, there are many more out there, and you can even find some on Ravelry that allow for knitting the number into your ornament using a fair-isle technique. I knew I couldn't go there, because it would get too complicated and I wouldn't finish all 24.
After I knitted all the ornaments, I laid them out to make sure there was a nice variety in style and color, and took a photo so I'd remember their order. Then, as I have time, I embroider numbers on them. I still have five more to embroider, but that's the nice thing about this project - you can finish these as the days in Advent progress.
I started displaying each item by pinning it to a tinsel wreath on the corresponding day. However, it soon became obvious that I'd run out of space.
So, I bought small craft clothespins and hung a ribbon garland-style from a shelf in our dining room. The clothespins are perfectly in scale with my tiny knitted items, and I like that you can see each one individually. They're pretty cute.
I started this project in October, but I definitely noticed the knitting going faster as I got used to each tiny pattern.
Using size 3 double-pointed needles and worsted-weight yarn, cast on 32 stitches and join in the round.
Knit two rows of K1, P1 rib. Then, knit 16 rows in the round to create body of sweater.
This part is a little tricky - it involves binding off both shoulders of the sweater. The shoulders are obviously on opposite sides, and you'll maintain 16 stitches in the middle to create the turtleneck.
Organize your needles and stitches so two needles next to each other have four stitches each on them (you'll want the other 24 stitches to remain on the two other needles).
Pull the needles with four stitches through the tube of your sweater, so the underside is facing (this keeps your seam on the inside). Using your crochet hook, pull one stitch off of each needle. Then, pull the next stitch off each needle and slip-stitch these two through the first two on your hook. (It might be easier to sew them together, instead, but I didn't consider this as I made my sweaters).
Once you have only two stitches remaining on your crochet hook (one from each needle), pull back through the tube of your sweater and place one stitch back on each remaining knitting needle. Then, you'll want to slip-stitch the next knitted stitch on the needle through the stitch you just placed on the needle. The goal - to bind off eight stitches total on this side, to create the shoulder.
Then, reposition your stitches and needles so four stitches each are on two needles on the opposite side of your first shoulder. (This leaves eight stitches each on the two other needles in the middle).
Repeat the process of the first shoulder: pull the needles through so you're working on the underside, bind them off by slip-stitching them together, and slip stitch the final two remaining stitches through the closest knit stitches on your two remaining needles.
When you're done making your shoulders, you should have 16 stitches remaining. (For a couple of my sweaters, I knitted the turtleneck and sleeves in a contrasting color. Switch yarn to CC here if you'd like to do that, too.)
Knit eight rows in K1, P1 rib in the round and bind off. Fold this over to create a turtleneck look and weave in loose ends.
To make sleeves, cast on eight stitches and join in round. Work in K1, P1 rib for two rows, then knit four rows.
The next row, knit four, M1, knit four, M1 (For a total of 10 stitches). Knit four more rows and bind off. Make two, and sew these onto the corners of your shoulders and weave in ends.
Tiny Hat Ornament
Worsted weight yarn
Size 3 double-pointed needles
Tapestry needle for finishing
Cast on 27 stitches and join in round. Work two rows in K1, P1 rib. (If you want your brim to be a different color than the rest of your hat, switch yarn now.) Knit in the round for about two inches.
Next row, knit in a K1, K2tog pattern around. Then knit the next row around.
Next, K2tog around, then knit the next round.
Then, K1, K2tog again, and six stitches will remain. (If you want a rounded top, cut end and weave through remaining stitches now. For a pointed hat, read on:) Knit around the next row.
Then, K2tog around, for three stitches remaining, which will make your hat pointy. Cut yarn and pull through last three stitches. Weave in ends.