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:
Brief discussion on what kind of felt to use
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.