Monday, 9 November 2009

How To: Count Down The Days Christmas Advent Calendar

Your kids can count down the days until Christmas with their very own Christmas Advent Calendar. I'll show you how to make one step by step.

Here is the final result. Pretty sweet eh? It counts the days from December 1st to December 24th. It fits on any standard door or can hang in your child's room. Appoximate size is 24" tall and 15" wide. All you gotta do is move the pretty ornament to the correct day and stick it on with Velcro. Making one, however, is not as easy as that. Here we go!

Length of time needed: My first one took me 4 hours.

Sewing level: easy. Just zig zag stitches that may take some slow going depending on how intricate your design is.

Materials needed:
- 1/2 metre green felt
- 1/2 metre white felt
- scraps of brown and black felt
- plastic beads, brads, buttons etc (anything you want for decoration)
- hot glue gun and glue sticks
- festive ribbon
- 2 18" dowels. I ended up cutting one 36" dowel in half
- red and green thread
- pinking shears (optional)
- 1.5 metres of soft sided Velcro
- scrap of hook sided Velcro (I just bought 3 metres of each side of Velcro and then used mostly the soft side for one calendar and mostly the hook side for another)
- festive cording about 1.5 metres

Step Number 1:

Cut two pieces of green felt 26" by 15"
Lay the two pieces directly on top of one another and pin the bottoms and tops over 1". This will make sure that you don't place your design on the part of your calendar that will have dowels in it.

Step number 2: Planning, Planning and More Planning

- Basically this is the step where I took the white felt and began playing with the design of the snowman. I used a pencil crayon to sketch a design onto the felt before I cut it. Then I tweaked it a little more to make sure it fit onto my working area. Felt is very forgiving, so it was easy to figure things out. The edges don't fray, so you can cut the shapes to the exact size you want.

I began laying the pieces onto the working surface to have an idea where they would go. DO NOT start gluing or sewing anything down at this stage!

I then laid out the soft sided Velcro in rows on top of the snowman that I had cut out. I also planned where I wanted to put the number and cut them out of black felt. I just winged the drawing and cutting of the numbers, but you can print out a stencil or use one that you have on hand if you'd rather have more uniform numbers. Lay them out on the surface where you would like them to go.

At this point, I also laid out some ribbon at the top for decoration. Don't worry if things are hanging off the edges. We'll clean all that up later.

Step number 3: Gluing and Stitching

First, glue the numbers down where you want them. I used a hot glue gun, but I'm sure regular craft glue would work too. Felt sticks really well!

Carefully unpin the bottom and top edges and remove the bottom layer of felt. Pin the Velcro and other decoration only to one layer of felt. That way the stitching won't be seen on the finished product.

Then I pinned the Velcro down and the snowman and the hat and arms and ribbon- Anything that I wanted to sew down. You can opt to glue the ribbon and the snowman parts down, but I would recommend sewing the Velcro down just because it's going to have to most pulling and wear and tear on it.

Sew everything down. I used a zigzag stitch with red thread for added decoration (and to make sure the Velcro was really sewn down). If your machine has some fancy decorative stitched, you could try some of those. Have fun!

I decided that I wasn't a good enough machine stitcher to sew down the "stick" arms, so I opted to glue them down. But everything else turned out great!

At this point, you can also tack on brads, beads, ric rac, whatever you like!

Step number 4: Edges

Now that you've got everything where you want it, take the bottom layer that you put aside and pin it underneath your beautiful creation. Sew along the both long edges. I used a zig zag stitch again for extra decoration. Fancy machine stitches would look really pretty along the edges.

Take your pinking shears and carefully trim the edges. My pinking shears are terribly dull and I need a new pair (something I should ask put on my Christmas wish list I suppose), so this was a needlessly difficult task. This is why I say it's optional. It looks nice, but it's not needed.

Turn the top and bottom edges over about an inch and stitch along the edge. Make sure you leave enough room to thread your dowels into.

Step number 5: Dowels

I took my 36 inch dowel and Terry's saw and went to work. I sawed it in half (one for top and one for bottom of calendar). Then I took the sandpaper and took out all my frustrations on those dowel ends. It's actually quite cathartic to sand them down. I felt much better afterward. Make sure that you sand those ends really well. This calendar is for children! They don't want tiny slivers for Christmas!

Cut three divots in the top of your calendar. Two for tying the cord for hanging and one for hooking your ornament to.

Step number 6: Make your ornament

There are plenty of ideas for what kind of ornament you might want to put on your calendar. A candy cane (I used it for the snowman calendar here), a stocking (pictured below), a snowman, a gingerbread man, a Christmas tree etc. Make a tiny little stuffy using your imagination, or a pattern that you can find online. I found several searching through Flickr. Make sure to attach a lenth of cord that will reach all of your numbers and a scrap piece of hook sided Velcro.

I decorated the ornament with beads and things too.

Step number 7: Cording

Thread your dowels into the top and bottom
Thread the cord that you attached to your ornament into the middle divot and tie it solidly. I dabbed a bit of glue over the knot to make sure it was secure.

Cut a piece of cord that will act as your hanger. thread each end into one the end divots and tie it off. Again dab a bit of glue onto the knot to make sure it's secure.

And Voila! You've got your very own Advent Calendar. Now you can play with other designs. I tried a Christmas tree one next.

Check it out!

I would love to see your final products if you try this out. I have a group set up on Flickr for all of the Tawny Bee How Tos. Join up and share your photos!

And if you really don't want to try making them, you can always visit my Etsy shop and purchase one.