My latest project was sewing an advent calendar for the kids.
It is 6 feet high and completely fills our wall.
I was inspired by this calendar on Pinterest…
I thought it would be a fun way to count down the days until Christmas. Each day I could tuck something in to surprise the kids (hot chocolate packets, Christmas colouring sheets, craft materials, etc.)
I did a quick sketch in my notebook and designed pockets that would be wide enough to hold board books (I measured the width of books in our house). I decided on 10″x 10″ pockets. I knew the width and length of the canvas I bought from Fabricland and tried to work within those dimensions (I think I bought around 2 metres; 1 metre for the backing of my calendar and 1 metre for the pockets).
I went with five pockets per row because I like the look of things in odd numbers. And being the nerd that I am, I thought the calendar could also act as a large number chart for the kids. I hoped that by organizing it in 5’s, they could see patterns and sets.
I cut five long strips of canvas to act as my pockets, with a little extra fabric along the top and sides so I could fold and tuck in the rough edges. I pressed the sides with an iron to hold the fold and make it easier to sew later.
I wanted the pockets to have a pop of colour along the top of each, so I cut strips of cotton in various colours and prints. It would have been easier to do one solid colour across the top but I wanted a mixture.
I cut 2 1/2″ wide strips and, in hindsight, I would have cut them wider (maybe 3 – 4″ instead) to give the calendar some more colour.
Once I cut my long strips, I think I cut them into 10″ pieces and spread them out so the same prints and colours wouldn’t be next to each other. These pieces were then pinned together and sewn into five long strips (one for each pocket strip).
The tricky part with sewing the pieces together is knowing how wide your pockets are going to be and giving yourself a little bit extra on each side to account for how much you will lose when you sew them together (your seam width).
For the Christmas Eve pocket, I decided to include a piece of doily that my Grandma Beatrice had crocheted (she passed away when I was in grade 6). Going to her house for Christmas Eve had been a tradition for our family for many years.
On the pocket for Christmas Day, I used a piece of my Grandma Lainie’s red wool sweater. She loved Christmas more than anyone. She passed away just before Tate was born.
I won’t go into the details of how I sewed the cotton strips along the top of my canvas pockets because I didn’t take pictures while I was doing it (sorry!) And maybe it’s best because there has to be a better way than how I did it. However you decide to approach it, in the end, you’ll end up taking your nice long strip of cotton fabric(s) and sew it to the top of your canvas pocket strip.
I pinned one canvas pocket strip onto the large piece and sewed it along the edges and the bottom (remember not to sew along the top – you will sew your pocket closed). Then I moved on to the second strip. I learned the hard way.
I spent so much time arranging the strips to make sure they were straight and even. Everything was pinned. And then once I started sewing, the strips started to come off. There was just too much fabric that I was handling and moving around that they came loose. Just do one at a time.
Once I sewed my pocket strips to the large piece of canvas, it was time to sew the lines to create the individual pockets.
I would highly recommend using painters tape to do this. I was worried that my lines would go wonky and my pockets wouldn’t be square. All it took was running a piece of tape to help me sew straight lines.
I would also recommend sewing from the bottom of your pocket up to the opening. I learned this after my first strip when the fabric started to bubble and pucker as I reached closer to the bottom. The next strip I started sewing from the bottom of the pocket and up; I was able to smooth out the fabric as I went (it had room to move).
Once the pockets were done, I decided to add some dark grey canvas strips to the top and bottom of the calendar. In the picture you’ll notice a strip along the right side too; I was playing with the idea of creating a full border around the calendar but decided I liked the look of just the top and bottom.
To finish the sides of the calendar, I folded the canvas a few times to tuck in the rough edges and then sewed from top to bottom.
Then it was time to add the numbers to the pockets. It took FOREVER.
First, iron your canvas so you have a smooth surface to work with.
I decided to start by drawing out my numbers by hand with pencil. I could have bought iron-on numbers but I didn’t like the fonts that I found online and I didn’t want it to look produced (if that makes any sense).
I opened up a Word document on my computer and played with some different fonts. Once I found one that I liked, I typed 1 – 25 and enlarged it to fill my screen. This gave me something to look at as an example.
Once drawn, I used black fabric ink that I had and painted the numbers with a small paint brush. Let’s just say that one night I painted for 2.5 hours and was able to finish 7 numbers.
I painted the calendar over the span of a few days (while the kids were napping or in bed at night). Once dry, I pressed the calendar with an iron to set the ink (with a tea towel between the iron and the calendar). If something were to get on the calendar, then I could throw it in the wash.
We found a piece of wood from Lowe’s to help hang it. Eric drilled a hole in either end so we could run twine through it to hang up the fabric. I should have also mentioned that I sewed on the top piece of canvas (in the charcoal grey colour) as a sleeve, so a piece of wood could slide through.
Because our wall is brick, we decided to use an Elephant Ceiling Hook from Home Depot to hold the twine. It worked like a charm and was $8.
I thought this project would be quick and easy to do. It took a lot longer than I thought. I probably worked on it over the span of a week and a half.
The kids LOVED it. We enjoyed it for the few days leading up to Christmas (they are all under the age of 4 and a countdown of 5 days seems like a lot to them!)
Once Christmas was over, I folded it up and tucked a letter inside to the kids. I hope it tells them the story of why it was made and the significance of the materials incorporated.
What I learned about this project is that done is better than perfect. I didn’t have time to start the project until mid-December (which might seem to defeat the whole purpose of an advent calendar), but I wanted to do it. With the kids being little, I just worked towards getting it done a few days before Christmas. I’m glad that I did; now it will be ready to go for next December 1st!