Advent calendars are fun for the whole family and you can customize one for yours with these easy instructions.
The advent calendar is all about anticipation! And, it’s not just for kids. I too like the idea of counting down the days until Christmas since I think we are all just kid’s at heart!
Our family has had the cardboard, store bought boxes with the little doors that open and relinquish a piece of candy for only 1 of us. Because of this, the countdown became a countdown to who would be mad first!
Then, we got my son a Playmobil advent calendar where each day you add a new piece to a scene of Santa and his sleigh. Fun, but he’s 10 now and it was time for a change.
So, this year, I made an advent calendar of my own out of felt and buttons and scraps of ribbon and embroidery thread. It was a labor of love and we’ll see how it fairs this December.
If you are interested in making one for your family, here are the general amounts of material you’ll need and the steps to make a tree like mine. Please keep in mind that you could make this as a large stocking, a Santa Claus a sleigh or whatever design you like. Children’s books are a great place to get inspiration and ideas for the background of your calendar.
- Large piece of background felt, enough for a front and back
- Quilt batting, enough to fit between the front and back felt design
- Additional felt colors for the “pockets” and the hidden “ornaments”
(you may decide to insert candies, toys or even quarters)
- Decorative materials for embellishing like buttons, ribbon, fake fur, sequins
- Scissors, pinking and regular
- Thread, needle and sewing machine
1. Start by determining what your advent calendar is going to look like. Is it a tree? A Santa Claus? Maybe a sleigh or stocking? Determine what shape you will make the pockets and what you want to put in them. For the tree, it made sense to me that little ornaments would be hidden in the pockets and then they would be used to decorate the tree. Thus, the buttons were needed to hang the ornaments. Also, each year I can move the ornaments around and it will be a surprise which one pops up out of each numbered pocket each year. I’m sure we will all have our favorite ornaments and will be looking for them as the month progresses. (This is all my dream at this point, like I said, we’ll see as the month progresses!)
2. With design in mind, lay out the large piece of felt and fold it over so you are cutting two.
3. Pin the two pieces together, making sure the felt is flat, and draw your design in pencil or pen. (You can eliminate the markings when you cut it out.)
4. I used pinking shears to cut out the large tree.
5. Once you have your base design cut out, start drawing, measuring or tracing to create the pockets for your base. I used a glass bowl to trace around to make the ornament pockets for my tree. Notice I cut these out with regular scissors. This was just a design choice of mine. I wanted the tree to be pinked and zigzagged around the edges while the ornaments seemed like they should be smooth and round.
I also played around with star shapes for the top of the tree. Interestingly, I decided on the curly cue star when I started the project, but by the end, I chose the more traditional star shape. Enough was enough with the curly cue!
6. With nearly everything cut out, (I hadn’t thought about a trunk at this point) I laid out the ornaments dividing up the colors as best I could to give it a fun, yet even appearance.
7. The next step was to number the pockets. I don’t really have the right sewing machine for this project, but aside from fabric paint, I couldn’t think of an economical, durable way to keep numbers on the felt ornaments. I started by drawing them on in pencil and measuring them to keep them consistent from one ornament to the next.
8. I used my zigzag stitch and gave it a whirl. I had to do a lot of stopping and starting and raising of the presser foot to move the ornament around to get curves and change direction.
Just running through the stitches once wasn’t enough to really fill in the number. I could tell it looked sparce and there were some spaces between the stitches – probably from me moving too quickly or turning too sharp!
Going back over my stitching made a real difference, and so that was the method I used from there on out!
9. Once the numbers were on the ornaments, I place them in position and pinned them in place. I grabbed my embroidery thread box and started matching threads as closely as I could to the colors of the ornaments.
I used the blanket stitch to attach the ornaments so there was a bit of detail here however I didn’t want to contrast the color thread because I didn’t want it to stand out and make the tree any busier than it was already going to be.
10. When I found these buttons I was thrilled. They would match the ornaments and look fabulous. Once I placed them on the tree I personally though it was too busy. My kids loved all the colors so I kept them. If they were thrilled – so was I!
I tried to sew the buttons on in places where the large round ornaments wouldn’t be covered up when the little ornaments from the pockets were removed and hung on the buttons. It worked out pretty well. I did stitch them on in exactly the same way each time, with the thread holes facing the same direction and the sewn thread also lined up….anything to make it seem less chaotic!
11. Before you pad the calendar and put the front and back together, add anything else you might want to add to the front piece. I could have stitched on ribbon garland, embroidered snowflakes, or any number of things. Once it is padded and put together, adding to the front gets more difficult.
Place the back of your design on the batting, (I even doubled my batting) and cut around it.
Cut an additional ½” off of the batting to make sewing the front and back together a bit easier. Also, this keeps the batting from showing around the edges.
12. I realized I needed a truck to my tree and that I wanted it to be inserted between the layers of the tree and batting so I whipped one up from a brown rectangle, folded, sewed and stuffed!
13. To put the tree together, I did iron the back and front of the tree then place the back down on the table, added the batting and lined everything up, the added the front.
I pinned the edges together very securely, inserting my tree trunk at the bottom.
A simple running stitch seemed like the best method to sew the tree together. I did do my stitching line right along the outer edge of the batting so none would show along the edges.
14. The last step in the design is any finishing touches that you want to attach to the front. For the tree, it was the star. I stitched this up quickly using the blanket stitch again because it is somewhat of an ornament and then tacked it to the top of the tree.
I probably should have thought about how to hang this crazy thing before I got started making it, but we live and learn, right? Well, I ended up stitching a plastic hanger to the back of the tree which allows it to hang and also adds some rigidity to the non-rigid stuffed felt.
Embroidery thread works great to attach the hanger. I may even add another one toward the bottom since one of the large “branches” wants to fall forward. This will also be helpful for storage. Hang it from another hanger and place a dry cleaning bag over it to protect from dust during the other 11 months of the year!
The last step is the most fun, creating the little felt ornaments! I made a list of items that would be appropriate and I’m working my way down the list. Four done, twenty-one to go!