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Advent Calendar

My husband’s mom has a really cool advent calendar. She made it from a Busilla kit when her kids were babies (they’re both in their 40s now). Dave said he wanted that advent calendar when she died (she encourages us to tell her what we want when she dies), but I knew that his sister would want it as well. I actually thought that she’d somehow snagged it last year when she said she had it, but it turned out my mother-in-law had only loaned it to her. When Dave’s mom dies (hopefully not for 30 or more years — that would put her over 100), I don’t want to start any wars or bad feelings over any thing. Material possessions are not worth losing family over, so I decided to make an advent calendar myself!

My inspiration started over at homemade by jill. She did an advent sew along that has great instructions, some tutorials, but best of all, a LOT of pictures from people who did the advent sew along. Here’s her instructions:

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Brief discussion on what kind of felt to use
Ornament templates

I scoured Jill’s Flickr group to see what ornaments people had made. I needed inspiration for colors, details, and unique ornaments. I wanted this advent calendar to be special to my family, which is why we had to have a football. Football is a big part of our family and part of the Christmas tradition, so that was a must. If I could avoid it, I didn’t want to have any duplicates such as ornaments or presents.

I started on this project back in February so there wouldn’t be any pressure to finish it at the last minute. I purchased felt from Heather Bailey and got to work on the ornaments. All of the ornaments are hand stitched and stuffed, even the candle.

This was my biggest advent calendar inspiration! I copied the shape of her tree and really made an effort with my ornaments. I wasn’t going to machine stitch them, but if something wasn’t as close to perfect as I could get it, I did it again.

Inspiration for the acorn and the color of the pockets came from Jeanetics, Rudolph is from See Suzy Spin (and despite the fact that she says the wreath is super easy to make, I couldn’t do it and am bummed. Her wreath is super cute!), and the tilted hat on the snowman was inspired by this one. I made the sleigh from a picture I found online, as well as the rocking horse (though there’s a good template here). There’s a few ornaments I want to redo, and since we’re hoping to have another baby someday soon, I’ll be making a stocking for the advent calendar for that child. I’d like to have a few extra ornaments, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! I’ve tried and failed at making a wreath, holly is an option, but other than making another ornament or present, I’m at a loss. The nativity ornaments seem like an obvious choice, but my husband would rather not have them.

I realized after sewing on almost half the buttons that you really need a button with a shank. They do not make green buttons with shanks. Trust me, I googled the heck out of that question. You can make a shank, though, either with the thread that you use to sew on the button or with a bead. I found some green beads that seemed to be perfect, and I initially thought I would have just one bead in the center of the button, but I couldn’t make the button sit correctly on the bead. I eventually figured out that I could have one bead under each hole, not only giving the beads the perfect lift off the felt, but also allowing them to sit just right. Bonus: they add a little bit of sparkle of you happen to be looking at the calendar from the side!

The snowflakes and the candy cane bias tape were my husband’s idea, both of which I balked at and have since become my favorite parts of the calendar. The snowflakes add some interesting dimension to areas that would otherwise be bare, and the candy cane striping makes the calendar so much fun! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find red and white striped bias tape. I don’t know if it’s a seasonal thing or if it even exists. What I found was on Etsy and was handmade by someone. I ended up needing about 3.5 yards of the bias tape, which I only found out after I bought 3 yards of vintage red and white striped bias tape. The tape that is on the calendar now is what was handmade and was bought after I got the vintage tape and realized I didn’t have enough.

Binding the back and front together took more skill than I currently have, so I owe a huge thanks to Amanda for helping me out with it. She patiently sewed the two pieces together when I was afraid to and never made me feel like I was intruding, even though I was there for 6 hours, 4 of which was spent finishing the advent calendar.

As part of the advent calendar, I want to make a tradition of having things we do in the days leading up to Christmas. I want it to be a time of year that we not only slow down and enjoy time as a family, but that we focus on being thankful and kind to others. I thought about having activities in each pocket, but what if you can’t do the activity that day? So instead I will have a list of things to do that will go in the pocket on the day that we do them. Things like, “Enjoy mugs of hot chocolate in front of the fire.” “Find the home with the best Christmas lights and take them a thank you note.” That last one is from here, which really inspired me! It’s not just about enjoying the Christmas lights because you thank the people that put up your favorite display. How kind and thoughtful! Maybe one will be, “Open the door for everyone today.” Nothing monumental, but something that takes us outside of ourselves. I haven’t made up my full list, but I will soon! More inspiration for activities can be found here.



20 Responses to “Advent Calendar”

  1. bermudaonion(Kathy) ()

    Wow, I’m very impressed! I want one!


  2. Susan

    I want one too! That is gorgeous, and I love the ornaments. Very personalised for your family, and perfect for Christmas and traditions. Lovely! My mother made my two youngest children each advent calendars without the ornaments, that I buy candies or chocolates or toys and stuff on Nov 30th, and then each day they get a little surprise. I love advent calendars! I hope your family loves yours.


  3. Laurie C ()

    That is a beautiful family heirloom you’ve made! Don’t have too many children or you’ll have to make an Advent calendar for each one! 😉


  4. Sandy ()

    I love this! You are very creative…I would not be able to pull this off I’m afraid. I have an advent thingy that I got at Costco…big wooden house with little doors for each day. It has turned into quite a THING with the kids. A little piece of chocolate each day just won’t do I guess.


  5. Beth(bookaholicmom)

    That is gorgeous! It so much nicer than the ones I have seen in stores. You are so creative!


  6. Lesley

    LOVE this!! Can you give me a ball park idea about how much felt you bought? I was checking out the website you linked to and there are so many options! Did you plan and then order or order a bunch and have extra bits? I am very inspired.


  7. Word Lily ()

    It turned out really well, yay! I would have a hard time deciding on what ornaments (and activities) to include, I think.


  8. Laurie @ What She Read

    You are a wonder. How lovely, and what a lucky family to enjoy this beautiful calendar for decades of Advents to come. Good on ya, as we say up North.


  9. Beth F ()

    Oh, oh, oh, oh, I’m so impressed. I love how personal it is to you and what an awesome tradition for your family. You were so smart to start early so you had time to do it right, and I love the activity idea. When the kid(s) are older they can help come up with activities. FUN.


  10. Marg ()

    Wow, this is awesome! And I am sure that it will prompt treasured family memories in the future.


  11. Danielle ()

    What a sweet gesture for you to make this to relieve the tension over your MIL’s! This is so beautiful, great job!!


  12. Nadia ()

    I love your new advent calendar – wow! I’ve always liked them, but never really considering making my own – maybe I will now 😉 Also, love the idea of your list – definitely something I want to do. Great post!


  13. Howard Sherman ()

    My lttiel one is six but there’s talk of a second little Sherman being added to the family. On that joyful day I’ll have already made it a point to have read Brain Rules for Baby. Mrs. Sherman too. Thanks for the excellent suggestion!


  14. Stephanie ()

    Wow! This is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing the pictures.


  15. Jenn's Bookshelves ()

    Oh my goodness! I love this!! You’ve inspired me to do something similar!


  16. carol

    That is beautiful! And I love that you personalized it for your family.


  17. Belle Wong ()

    This is so beautiful! You’ve gotten me into the spirit of Christmas now. I don’t sew, but we have one of those wooden Advent calendars where you fill the spaces with personalized things. I’m going to have to get started on those! My little guy (he’s nine) has already started talking about Christmas (mainly, “so, where are we going to put the tree this year”).


  18. Lisa Munley ()

    Trish, what a treasure you are to your family, and what an amazing heirloom you’ve created. It’s just beautiful, and the love and care that went into it makes it that much more special. I can see why your husband and sis in law would be trying to claim your MIL’s, so when more babies come along for you, you’ll need to think about that!! Merry Christmas 🙂


  19. Deanna ()

    Oh, Trish! That is a fantastic Advent calendar! I remember you mentioning that you were working on one (in one of our TLC emails), then when I googled Advent calendar, you were on the first page of results. I can’t imagine how many hours you put in on that, but I’m sure it will be a family treasure for a long, long time!!


  20. Kristen ()

    Truly gorgeous Trish. Ethan will always treasure it I’m sure.


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