Winter is coming…! Bringing with it cosy evenings indoors and the desire to hibernate from the seasonal elements. This time of year is perfect for getting crafty and with Christmas on the horizon, there’s no end of festive projects to inspire and invigorate your creativity!
This month, we’re taking a look at ideas for homemade Advent calendars. The beauty of a homemade calendar is that you can tailor the gifts to your family. One family can share the calendar and, once made, the advent calendar can become part of your Christmas decor, taking pride of place in your home every year. Being homemade, means you have the option to not only choose sweet treats to fill your calendar, but also change the contents for alternative ideas – such as handy pocket-sized gifts and family activity suggestions. Your activity ideas could be anything from visiting a local Christmas fair, watching a festive film together, making gingerbread or taking a tour of the local Christmas lights. Your advent calendar starts to become part of your family traditions, creating memories for you & all the family to treasure, as well as creating an heirloom to pass on to future generations.
Making a DIY advent calendar can be as simple or elaborate as you wish – from a garland of readymade envelopes clipped to twine to a quilted pocket wall hanging. Here are a few suggestions to inspire your creativity!
Garland Advent Calendar
This is an easily adaptable project that can be made quite simply or more complex, to suit your time and resources. You’ll need either small readymade pocket envelopes or drawstring bags that you can attach to twine to be draped as a wall or mantelpiece garland. You can follow our drawstring bag tutorial, if you wish to make your own bags. If you’re working with readymade pieces, you can involve the family by decorating each pocket or bag together, making this a true team effort!
Starting with either envelopes or bags, plan your design – the options for decoration are endless! You can embellish with festive ribbon, jingle bells, motifs, stickers and gift tags marked with the dates. Once you have planned your design and collated all the elements you need, decorate each pocket with the numbers 1 to 25. You can download number templates and cut the numbers from fabric, use number stamps and enamel paint or use our fabric paint pens to draw the numbers freehand. Once your pockets are ready, fill with your chosen contents – you can combine sweet treats, mini gifts and activity ideas. For the makers in your family, we have plenty of pocket-sized gifts – such as thread snips, glitter glues, fabric pens. Take a look at our stocking fillers page for more ideas!
Finally, attach your pockets or bags to your cord by tying with ribbon or clipping with mini pegs. Hang your advent calendar garland in pride of place - either by zig-zagging across a wall or draping along a mantelpiece.
Quilted Big Pocket Calendar
The big pocket Advent calendar is perfect for families, as it can accommodate multiple small gifts each day and you don’t need to be an experienced sewist to make this project. Additionally, you can find detailed step-by-step patterns available online, if you’d like visual instructions and guidelines.
Start by planning the size of your calendar based on the size of each pocket – we recommend five rows of five pockets. You may wish to create a wide panel at the top to add the family surname, as well as a generous quilted border around the sides in a complementary print. Now, plan your design by considering the border, backing and front fabrics to complement your pocket fabrics. You may wish to keep it simple with a print and a plain cotton poplin or you could use our charm packs for the pockets for an eclectic, fun finish! Think about how you will display the numbers - either by attaching readymade numerals or sewing fabric numbers onto your pockets.
Begin by either sewing your charm pack squares into rows of five pockets or cutting a strip of fabric to the desired length and width for five pockets. Next, fold over the top of your pocket fabric, press and sew the top seam. Ideally, the pockets should have box pleats so that they can hold multiple gifts, so simply fold over the sides of each square and press to create the pleat, allowing a small width of fabric between each pocket. You will need to measure the folds accurately, to ensure the pockets remain the same size. Fold over the bottom seam and use a clip at the base of each box pleat to hold in place. Carefully tack or baste stitch along the bottom seam.
You should now have five rows of five box pleated pockets, ready to attach to the front of your Advent calendar panel. If you wish to add a complementary fabric border to your calendar, attach the border pieces to your front and backing fabrics now, ready for the final steps.
Position and pin your fabric pocket rows onto the front panel of your calendar, then attach your pockets by stitching along the sides and the bottom seam of your pocket rows then in the centre of each box pleat. Remove the tacking stitch at the base once finished.
Create a simple hanging sleeve with a strip of fabric, slightly shorter than the width of your calendar. Add seams to either end and then fold in half lengthways ready to sandwich between your fabric layers.
Now it's time to put your calendar together. Neatly stack your pieces starting with your chosen wadding, followed by your backing fabric facing upwards, then the long edge of your hanging sleeve and lastly your front panel facing down onto your backing fabric. Pin and stitch your pieces together around the outer edges, leaving a ten centimeter gap at the bottom so you can turn your calendar the right way out. Once turned out, hand or machine stitch the gap together and lightly iron the finished calendar. You can add more quilting stitches between the calendar rows if you wish to secure the wadding in place and add some pretty finishing touches.
Slip a piece of dowel through the hanging sleeve, that measures the width of your calendar and tie a wide festive ribbon to each end of the dowel. Your big pocket quilted Advent calendar is ready to hang and delight your family for the festive season! All you need to do now is add the treats!