The Washington Post

Advice on the 2011 Crafts Contest from last year’s winner

After Jill Yutan won the Holiday Crafts Contest last year with needle-felted trees, readers inquired if they were for sale. Not yet, says Yutan, but maybe soon. “I’ve been contemplating getting an Etsy site up,” she says. (Jahi Chikwendiu/WASHINGTON POST)

It’s been almost a year since Jill Yutan’s 13 needle-felted trees made her the winner of The Washington Post’s first-ever Crafts Contest.

Readers are still taken by them: “. . . was wondering if you know if Jill Yutan’s needle-felted trees are for sale. My mom collects Christmas trees, and a few of these would be a wonderful addition to her collection,” said one reader in an e-mail this month.

The trees aren’t on the market yet, says Yutan, but that could soon change. “I’ve been contemplating getting an Etsy site up,” she says, “hopefully by the end of December.”

Since winning the contest, Yutan, a landscape architect and Arlington resident, has added decorative pillows and blankets to her line of crafts, Knitting Pretty.

We asked the self-taught artist to share advice for people entering this year’s contest, which is taking submissions through Dec. 5, and to tell us about her favorite holiday decoration.

Where in your house did you display your award-winning trees?

I put them up on my mantel. I think I’ll put them back up this year.

If someone would like to enter the Crafts Contest but is stumped about what to make, what do you suggest?

Think about one big idea that’s done in a simple, bold way. Come up with a new way of interpreting a traditional holiday element.

What are your latest projects?

I’ve been making animal-shaped pillows. I’ve [used] patterns for a rabbit, sheep, an elephant, turtle, giraffe and a fish. Things that have a distinct profile to them.

The front of the pillow has . . . an argyle or cable color, then a complementary color on the back. I hand-stitch them together with embroidery floss. [They are] made out of recycled thrift store sweaters. They have to be 100 percent wool.

I have all of my sweaters stored in bins. I have a bit of a reserve stash. You keep saving them until you have colors that look nice together.

What is your favorite holiday decoration?

Glass bead garland, usually just strung on one string in one color. I take them all apart and restring them in interesting ways. I get it from flea markets and antique shops. They’re not very expensive. Usually they come in 6-feet length on an old string. You can make them longer. I usually use fishing line so they’re sturdier. Some of the beads are bigger. Some are smaller. They come in different sizes. It’s kind of like a new way of interpreting something. Repurposing it so that it’s more current.

I would hang them not only on the tree but at the top of your wall where it hits the ceiling.

What did you do with the prize money?

I think I treated myself to a little shopping spree.

Holiday crafts contest

Submit entries for the Holiday Crafts Contest until Dec. 5. Upload photos of your handmade creation at before it’s too late. Crafts can be sewn, woven, knitted, molded with plain paper or papier-mache, or created with any materials you like. Include your name, phone number and e-mail address with your entry. Contact information will not be published online. The grand prize winner will receive a $200 American Express gift card.



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