An advent calendar is a wonderful way to extend the fun of Christmas over (almost) the whole month. And what better way to introduce the tradition of counting down the days until Christmas than with a homemade advent calendar.
There are a whole heap of ways you can make an advent calendar, but what I like about a sewn one like this is that you can make it once and use it for many years to come and it rolls up nicely, making it easy to store throughout the year. Originally I was thinking about making a calendar on a canvas, but then I thought about storing the thing and quickly shelved that idea.
The whole project will set you back around $15 – $20 if you’re buying from scratch at Spotlight. Everything on my calendar happened to be leftover from other projects, so it didn’t cost anything ‘extra’.
You don’t need to use Christmas fabric, anything would look great, so check out the fabrics you’ve already got on hand. A single colour for all pockets and lettering would look really nice too, especially if you were matching your calendar to a particular colour scheme.
I used felt to make the numbers so I didn’t have to worry about them fraying. I just happened to have some white scraps that someone gave me (thank you). Use fabric or even scraps from the calico backing instead of the felt if you prefer or even paint them on if you have some fabric paint at hand.
I’ve given centimetre measurements, but as a quilter, I sew nearly everything in inches, so I’ve given the inches measurements also.
how to make a sewn pocket advent calendar
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What you will need:
- 2 metres calico
- Iron on interfacing to stiffen (optional)
- Applique paper/paper backed fusible web
- 2 – 4 fat quarters
- Felt (optional – for the numbers. Use fabric if you prefer.)
- Dowel rod to hang
- Sewing Notions
- Templates: numbers and ‘countdown til Christmas’
How to do it:
To make the calico back of the calendar:
1. Cut calico to measure 2m (78”) long by 55cm (22”) wide. Cut interfacing, if using, 1m x 55cm (39”x22”). Iron interfacing onto half of the reverse side of your calico.
2. Fold calico in half, right sides together, and pin (it should now measure 1m (39”)). From the folded end, measure down 5cm (2”) on each side in the seam allowance and mark with a pencil.
Starting at the pencil mark and using a 1/2” seam allowance, sew down the long sides of the calico, leaving the 5cm (2”) gap that you measured from the top (folded end) on each side. This forms the rod pocket for your calendar.
3. Using a 1/2” seam allowance, sew the bottom of the calendar 3/4 of the way across the bottom, leaving a gap open to turn the calendar the right way out. Reverse to secure the stitching so that it doesn’t pull apart when you turn the calendar in the right way.
4. Turn the calendar right way out and press the seams well. Turn under raw seams at the rod pocket and at the bottom and press well. You can use a little glue to secure the seams in the rod pocket if you wish.
5. Top stitch 1/4” around the sides and bottom of the advent calendar (still leaving the rod pocket open), enclosing the open seam at the bottom. Press well.
To make the pockets:
6. Cut Christmas fabric into 24 x 12.5cm (5”) squares. To hem, turn all four sides under by 1.25cm (1/2”) and press well.
7. Top stitch around all four sides of your square pockets to secure hem.
8. Using the template provided, trace the numbers 1 – 24 onto felt or fabric of your chosen colour and cut them out. Tracing against a bright window works well.
9. Secure numbers with a little glue (a glue stick works fine). This prevents them from slipping around when you sew them and makes everything a whole lot easier.
10. Stitch numbers on by following the shape. You don’t need to stitch around the edge of the numbers, as the felt won’t fray.
Constructing the calendar:
11. Measuring 2.5 cm (1”) from the left and about 18cm (7”) from the top, place your first pocket and pin. Sew the pocket to the calico part of the calendar by sewing down one side of the pocket, across the bottom, and up the other side of the pocket, leaving the top open. Secure the pocket well by reversing at both the start and end of sewing (at the top of the pocket on both sides).
12. Measure 2.5cm (1”) to the right of the first pocket and pin the next pocket in place, making sure it is level with the first pocket. You can pin all the pockets in this way and then sew them, if you wish, until you’ve sewn all four in the top row.
13. Measure down 2.5cm (1”) from the top row and pin and sew the next row of pockets, making sure the row is level and that they line up with the pockets in the row above. Continue until all pockets are attached. Snip all threads, if you haven’t already.
14. Using the template provided, trace the words ‘countdown til Christmas’ onto the transfer paper. Cut roughly around each letter and then iron the letters to scraps of coloured Christmas fabric. Now cut carefully around the outline of each letter.
15. Peel the backing paper off the letters and position the letters above the pockets. Press letters in place with a hot iron.
If you like to applique the letters on, you can do that now (alternatively, you can applique the letters onto the backing right at the beginning before attaching the interfacing, if that’s easier for you).
I ‘cheated’ (read: ran out of time, need to move onto the next project). Instead of sewing around the edges, I painted them with a mixture of white paint and PVA glue to prevent fraying. The picture doesn’t do it justice but it looks really funky with the white painted outline.
16. Insert dowel, add your special advent treats to each pocket, hang and you’re done!
Ideas for what to put in your advent calendar
Get the most out of your advent calendar by not just filling it with sweets!
Here are some other ideas of what to put in your advent calendar.
First, check your diary and fill in special events you already have planned. For instance, if you’re taking the kids to a work Christmas function or a school Christmas function or a special Christmas church service, add those to the advent calendar (no need to make life fuller than necessary).
Once you’ve filled in your planned Christmas events, fill the gaps with some of these ideas:
- Do a special Christmas craft project
- Write a letter to Santa
- Make a hamper for charity
- Watch a Christmas movie as a family
- Read a Christmas book together
- Make Christmas Cards
- Decorate the tree
- Drive around looking at Christmas lights
- Go Carolling
- Back some Christmas treats / Christmas gifts
- Have a hot chocolate (ok, ice cream) evening
- Choose a special ornament for the tree
Then on the really busy day or days that you can’t think of something to do, put in a little chocolate Santa (or a place card holder and leave Santa hidden in the fridge) or a similar treat. We don’t do treats all the time in our house and my kids love the chockie Santa as much as any other advent idea.
An advent calendar is a wonderful way to extend the joy of Christmas throughout the month. Make your own advent calendar that you can bring out year after year – a special homemade calendar that will become part of the memories.
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