When I was a kid, we had these chocolate advent calendars. Every night, we opened a little door and got a piece of chocolate for the evening. It was lovely, and gave us something to look forward to each night. The holiday season was always a busy time, and this was one thing that we could count on being the same each day. I've always loved the idea of advent calendars. For children, it's some semblance of routine in the madness. For adults, it's a daily reminder of what the season is all about....and no, it's not about the gifts behind each door.
As a new mother, I wanted to create a lasting family tradition. I had a large box of scrap cloth and took a notion to make our own advent calendar. This isn't your average one, either - this thing is about 3' x 5' long!!
We had just moved into our first house, and hung curtains. The living room curtains had to be cut down, and this was a leftover piece of one of them. So, the backing is made of curtains, but you could start with a larger, sturdy piece of cloth - fold it over about 2" and sew across the top to create room for a hanging dowel.
I started with the month, at the top, but you can use whatever header you'd prefer. Everything on this calendar is free-handed.....I drew it out on the cloth first, and then cut it carefully. When you're sitting in front of CSI, or The Voice, or whatever keeps you boob-tubed at night, is a good time to be drawing and cutting.
Cut out twenty-four different squares approximately 4" x 4". Pick a different design for each square and sew them to the front of the squares. (I made sure to dedicate a square to each of the kids, and used both religious and secular images.) Cut out your 24 numbers and sew those onto each square as well. Sew the header onto a large piece of fabric to go across the top. All of this hand-sewing will take some time, but done carefully, will last a lifetime. Do not sew down any of the larger pieces until all of the fine-work is done!
You're going to want to piece the squares onto the fabric in a somewhat orderly fashion. I recommend playing around with a ruler and some chalk to draw a grid of where you want them sewn. Each square is going to open up to create a pocket, like the one above. The top edge of each square needs to be folded over and sewn, about 1/4". This will prevent fraying.
Once you have figured out where to place each square, use pins to pin everything into place. Start by sewing down the header at the top of the calendar. Then start on the squares. Fold the other three sides of each square over 1/4", and sew down onto calendar fabric. Take it one square at a time...don't rush! When you're sewing, switch your machine from a straight stitch to a sturdier stitch (choose from whatever options your machine has). This will help ensure that excited hands don't rip the pockets off!
It took some time, but your advent calendar is done! Instead of getting their treats at night, we do the advent calendar each morning. This way, if there is an event that night, such as caroling, they get to look forward to it all day. On November 30th, we hang our calendar and the "elves" fill the calendar with the following goodies :
- lollipops & small candies (usually from Halloween)
- event notices (if we're going Christmas caroling or to see a play)
- one thing from the Christmas bucket list (free printable)
Don't want to make your own, but want a neat advent calendar.....try the Lego Advent Calendar.