The Mohawk Valley's Largest Crochet Christmas Tree

Facts and Figures 

November 17, 2023:

 After 11 months of work, John Ossowski (left) and Mike Beehm (right) installed the tree at the Little Falls Public Library.

Summary of Fun Facts

About the Project

Where did the idea come from?

We both have a passion for art and yarn crafts. We also had a lot of old yarn on hand - leftover from finished projects and even some from John's grandmother's considerable stash.

We created a crocheted wreath with a knitted bow that was displayed at the First Annual Pop-Up Yarn Shop as part of the 2022 Christmas in Little Falls celebration. Then we found a picture of a crocheted Christmas tree using granny squares...and basically started crocheting! A lot of this project was making it up as we went along, with design decisions being made in response to how the project was unfolding and how the materials behaved.

One of several concept sketches, this one also outlines the edging of each layer of the tree.

Crocheted wreath with knitted bow (approximately 3 feet in diameter.)

What inspired the work?

The tree is really more of a 'present' because we wanted to share this with others from the start. We thought it would be an inspirational and beautiful gift to our community - and reflect a dialogue between tradition and innovation which seems to be going on in the world generally. So often, tradition and innovation seem at odds with each other. We see them as part of a necessary process of change that happens regardless of whether we want it to or not. Every tradition starts out as an innovation - we are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

The Central New York area itself was once a hub of textile manufacturing and it provided a means for sustaining our community economically for decades.  John's grandparents, who came to the U.S. from Poland after WWII, were able to create a modest standard of living from jobs they had in these factories. We mention this not to romanticize factory work - this economic tradition is fraught with obvious problems - but we want to acknowledge the importance of textile manufacturing to our region (and John's family, in particular). After the decline of manufacturing in our region, it seems we've been struggling with innovating a new chapter in our economic history.  This work explores this larger conversation, and some things to consider as we find our way.

In this project, we used crochet to create an art object we hope others find inspiring to their own creative practices, regardless of the materials or methods they use.  Fiber, generally, is viewed as 'craft' and placed (artificially) outside the sphere of what is considered 'art.' We wanted to break down that boundary and uplift the value of human creativity and expression that is accessible to every one of us

The tree's methods also join us in time to people past, present, and future. The motions that made the tree's stitches were taught to us by our grandmothers (who probably learned it from their mothers) and it could have been their hands on this work as easily as it was ours, or yours...or the hands of generations yet to come.

John's grandmother, Joanna Ossowski, crocheting on a car ride. 

Mike's grandmother, Virginia Matteson (aka "Grandma Bunny")

We used...a lot of yarn.

We repurposed most of the material for this tree including yarns and lumber. One tradition that our grandmothers practiced was frugal stewardship of resources (as in: "waste not, want not"). We think this is a tradition needing to be revisited in a world seeking innovations. One of the most basic things we can all do is to reduce waste by reusing or repurposing the materials and products we already have. The tree embodies values of sustainability and inspires us to find value in the things we might not otherwise question throwing away. What meaning and value can you create right now in your own life, in your family, in your community - with what you have and who you are?

This project was our way of bringing some beauty into the world, to inspire people on their own creative pursuits, to question the artificial distinctions between 'art' and 'craft', 'wealth' and 'waste' - and to innovate new traditions, whichever giants' shoulders we stand on. 

The Making

The original plan called for about 350 squares arranged in a sector of a circle.  There was a bunch of math (especially geometry) used in the design of the tree.

So you want to make a ten foot Christmas tree...

We changed our minds a lot throughout the process. We started out thinking we were making one big skirt. Then we started making it...and realized it would be better to have layered skirts instead.

The First Granny Square

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step...or, in our case, a single granny square.

Keeping Track

We kept squares in bundles of 20...but then things got a little out of hand and we started filling bins with them.

More and More Squares

After a while, we started laying out the squares on our dining room table to see how they would fit together.

Designing Along the Way

We decided to lay out the squares in a diamond pattern for each layer. Above is a test of the edging pattern for each layer.

Joining Squares

Once the squares were completed, we joined them into long strips that would become the layers of the tree. We both had fun putting the edging along the bottom of each layer. The layer shown above is the bottom layer, about 19 feet long. That was a lot of edging!

Building The Frame

For a while, it looked like we were building a wooden communications satellite in our garage. We repurposed most of the wood for the frame, but needed to buy some plywood and hardware for each ring, which supported the layered skirts. 

Testing it Out

The picture above is the first test of the design concept we eventually settled on. It also inspired the need for an edging between the layers so that each layer would stand out.

Finishing the Layers

If you don't like sewing in ends, this would not be a project for you...each color represents two yarns to sew in, as well as ends for the crochet holding the squares together and ends for the edging, too. 

Creating the Topper

Using scrap wood and styrofoam balls, we developed the form for the tree topper.

A Tribute to Little Falls, NY

Here's a picture of the topper itself, before we made the lace skirt you see on the finished tree. The color purple was chosen as a tribute to the City of Little Falls. The purple yarn was donated by Paca Gardens, a local business featuring yarns and goods made from alpaca wool.

Creating the Skirt

We designed and crocheted the skirt using 3 strands of worsted weight yarn (for most of it) along with an edging that looks like peppermint!

The skirt could double as a cape - we included this picture for scale. It's massive and heavy!

Dress Rehearsal

Frame Assembly

We invited over our friends and neighbors to get a look at the project as we were finishing up. It was also a chance for us to make any adjustments before installing it in the library. Here's the frame painted flat black, so it is as invisible as possible under the tree layers.

The First Glimpse

This was the first time we saw the finished project as a 3-D sculpture. We recognized we didn't have a ladder tall enough to test out the top of the tree... John modeled the top of the tree himself!


Starting with the Frame

First, we set up the frame - thankfully we had help from our neighbors Mary (pictured above) and her family, as well as Joann, and Allie (who helped us move the frame with her truck). 

PS. Allie's shop is amazing - check out Main Street Mercantile!

Avoiding the Ceiling

The Little Falls Public Library is located in a historic building - full of amazing architectural details that we didn't want to damage when putting up the tree (especially the topper). We made sure to measure VERY carefully so the tree would fit in the space.

Finishing Touches

It took about 2 hours to put up the entire project. Here we are doing some adjustments to the layers we hung from the frame. And then we put down the tree skirt.

Finished Tree

Where can I see it?

You can enjoy the tree - and some great books - at the Little Falls Public Library during their regular hours. The Library is located at 10 Waverly Place, Little Falls, NY. 

The tree will also be on display during the Second Annual Pop-Up Yarn Shop on December 9th from 10AM - 3PM.