Time for Advent!

The boys are super excited that tomorrow is December 1st and have been asking me to put up our Advent Calendar for the last few days.  It went up this evening.  Every year, I get such enjoyment pulling out the calendar.  It makes all the hours that I spent hand embroidering every one of those pockets so enjoyable.  I wish I hadn’t put the third row on crooked, but oh well, perfection is over-rated.  Here are all my posts related to the Advent Calendar over the years (I made it in 2008).  It is one of the boys’ favorite things about the holiday season.  I’m already making plans for the “make homemade doughnuts” day!

Completed Advent calendar

Advent Calendar – Day 1

We have been on vacation for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I’m still trying to get things cleaned up and organized after arriving home from the 10 day, 19-hour drive trip (through dense fog for the last 3.5 hours, fun!).  However, today is the first day of December, and J would not let me forget to put up the Advent Calendar.  He *ran* off the bus this afternoon to see what was in the pocket.  Makes a crafty mama proud to see such enthusiasm for the hours I put into that calendar!

You can never go wrong with Lego mini-figures!  I gave it a nice press with my steam iron and it looks great.  I need to make some adjustments to the floppy star though.  I should have done it last year, but never found the time.  Needs some sort of reinforcement.  If I were making it again, I’d probably reinforce it with some heavy interfacing.


It was a frosty morning today.  Low of 25 degrees last night, and I had to bundle up in my winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves when I walked the dogs this morning.  Time to put away the Halloween decorations and start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas!  I’ve actually been thinking about Christmas for quite awhile, but I’ve mostly been doing thinking and not a lot of doing.  Time to put things into gear!  In the meantime, I need to put the garden and yard to bed, and plant some bulbs before the ground gets too hard.

I dug up my carrot crop the other day.  I planted my seeds about 3-4 weeks too late, so they are all very tiny.  But, they are so sweet and yummy.  I roasted a bunch for dinner the other night, and will probably do it again tomorrow.  I’m definitely making sure that I plant them on time next year.  Hubby built a special deep square foot box for them (4′ x 4′) which is what put us behind this year.  No excuses next year!

And before I start talking about Christmas….if you missed it last year, this Montessori practical life buttoning felt turkey was a huge hit with all the kids in my son’s Montessori school (age 3-6 classes) last year.  Think about making one for your own little one!  It was really quite easy.

When I made the second and third ones, I switched to a zig zag stitch as I went around the outside of the turkey body and the feathers, and it looked a lot better.  The face is hand-embroidered.

Also, if you are really thinking ahead, I thought I would share my wool felt advent calendar that I made two years ago.  I just *love* it!  It was so worth all the time that it took to make each individual pocket.  If you start now, you can still be done by December 1st!

The chickadee pocket is one of my favorites.

Felt advent calendar

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Last year, I went crazy with this awesome hand embroidered/appliqued advent calendar.  I’m so excited to pull it out this year.  It starts on December 1, so if you want to make one, you’d better start now!  You can see my posts related to the advent calendar from last year, here.  Or you can see close-ups of each individual pocket on Flickr, here.

I’m currently working on my list of things that I’m going to put into the pockets.  The items generally fell into three categories.

1) Small toys/candy/items that fit into the pocket.

2) Notes that told the kids that we’d be doing something special that day, “Go pick out our Christmas tree!”

3) Notes that took the kids on a scavenger hunt through the house for an item that was too large to fit into the pocket.

I’ll keep you updated on my list!  My first step is pulling out my list from last year and starting from there.

Completed Advent calendar

Well, it’s finally all done and hanging on the wall in our foyer! Hooray! It’s beautiful. The one row of 4, 5, 6 is kind of crooked, but c’est la vie. That just proves it’s handmade, right? I just love how all the pockets turned out. I posted individual close-ups of each pocket in my Flickr account, Advent Calendar Pockets.

I ended up using some fusible fleece in between all the layers of the tree, star and tree trunk. It worked very well, and was easy to use. I definitely think it gave it enough stability. The tree trunk is just stuck in between the tree layers, and I caught that as I was sewing the front and back of the tree together. I hand-sewed the star onto the tree using a whip stitch in the back. Since the tree is pretty thick, it wasn’t too difficult to make sure I only caught the underlayer as I was sewing. I used a small D-ring attached with a loop of felt as the hanging device. It’s up near the top under the star. It would have been easier to sew the D-ring on BEFORE I sewed the star on, but I didn’t think of it. It still worked out.

I’m planning another post with what I’m putting in the pockets each day, but in general they will be a mixture of candy/treats, little toys, and notes with activities for us to do together. So far:

1) Hershey’s chocolate Santas
2) 2 Playmobil Roman guys
3) Little holiday note pads plus a note to “make chocolate chip cookies”
4) Hmm….haven’t decided what to do today yet

Saturday, we will be picking out our tree, so that will be the activity for that day. J was saying that he wanted to do more decorating, so maybe we’ll do that this evening. So far, I only have a few things up. I wasn’t originally planning on having a 25th day pocket, but because of the whole J, “where’s my wreath?” thing, I ended up with 25. I am going to have a special note from Santa in the pocket on the 25th.

Advent calendar – it will be done!

It’s moving along. I’ve finished all the pockets, embroidered numbers on them and am about to sew them to the tree base. Then, I just need to add the star at the top and the trunk, and sew on the back. And figure out how to hang it. But, as long as the pockets are on, we can start using it, right?

So, didn’t I say I was going to have 24 pockets, because why do you need a 25th one? Well, last night, I just had a few more pockets to make and so during bathtime, I asked the boys if they had any ideas for any more pockets. J said a wreath and K said a present. Well, as I was completing them, I made a present, but made a peace dove instead of a wreath. This morning, I showed them the finished pockets, and J was a bit put out that there was no wreath. He was adamant that the wreath should go right before Santa. So, I made a wreath, and now have 25 pockets!

I did not care for the embroidered snowflake that I made, so I decided that I should re-do that one. The hubby thought I should use felt instead of embroidering it. So, he made me a template, doing the old-fashioned cut-out-the-paper-to-make-a-snowflake routine. It turned out much better than the original one in my opinion. Those embroidered lines under the snowflake were sort of random.

Since I’m using wool felt, I decided to make the beard on my Santa using some wool roving and a needle felting technique. I think it turned out rather cute. I had originally had a smile on the Santa, but it just made him look creepy, so that came out. The ball on Santa’s hat is a little wool ball that I made with wool roving by wet felting it.

I think my favorite pockets are the Chickadee on the 18th and the Peace Dove on the 20th. Hubby’s favorites are the owl on the 6th and the cat on the 19th. Funny that he likes the cat because he is not a cat person at all! Okay, need to go sew on some pockets!

Advent calendar progress

As I discussed in my earlier post, I’m finally making the Advent calendar that I’ve thought about making for years. I was initially inspired by the one that they are selling at Pottery Barn Kids. So, I got all my felt from Prairie Point Junction. They sell mostly 20-80 and 35-65 wool felt (meaning it’s 20% wool and 80% rayon, etc.) It’s significantly less expensive than 100% wool felt ($8-9/yard instead of $20/yard) so I decided to use that in order to save some money. (It arrived super-fast, by the way, great service.) It’s definitely not as nice as 100% wool felt, let me say that right up front. However, it’s an Advent calendar that will be hanging on the wall, and since I had to buy so much felt, it’s fine for its purpose. I did soak the wool in hot water, and then dry it in my dryer until just damp in order to give the wool a more boiled texture, and soften it up a bit. That made the wool nicer to use, and I’d definitely recommend this step.

After cutting out my tree in a shape similar to the PBK one, I decided that I didn’t quite like it. I was concerned with the integrity of the tree structure. Was it going to be nice and straight on the wall, or would the end of the tree boughs be floppy? So, instead, I decided to just cut a straight triangular shape. I might still shore it up a bit with some interfacing, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. I still haven’t decided how it’s going to hang, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it! I’m thinking maybe some sort of dowel across the middle, but we’ll see how it looks when it’s done.

So far, I’ve made seven of the 24 pockets. I noticed the PBK calendar has 25 pockets, but personally I don’t see the need for a pocket for December 25th. Maybe that’s just me. But, it’s my Advent calendar and I can make it however I want! I’m really happy with the pockets so far. I’m doing a mix of felt applique and embroidery. My youngest son loves penguins, so the first pocket I made was of a penguin. I used his Magic Tree House Penguins and Antarctica research guide to design a penguin. It turned out great! I also made an embroidered snowflake and a tree.

Then, last night I made a Matryoshka doll, a cardinal, some holly and a mushroom. I still have plans for some more birds, a snowman, a bear, a lobster, an owl, and then maybe some simpler designs of just ribbons or presents or dots. I do have to make 24 after all, and December 1st is on Monday!

Advent calendars

I wish I had started my advent calendar project weeks ago, but of course, I didn’t! After some searching around on Etsy this afternoon, I finally committed to recreating the felt Christmas tree Advent wall hanging that was in the holiday Pottery Barn Kids catalog (now sold out). I did find this ultra-cool idea on Etsy of taking a 24 space mini muffin tin, then make little chipboard and scrapbook paper doors for each muffin spot, using magnets on the back. That would be so cool and fun to make. But, I have been really wanting to make a felt advent calendar for a long time, so I’m just going to go for it. It may not be done in time, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll make the little muffin tin one too! I just bought a ton of wool felt from Prairie Point Junction, so now I’m committed! I splurged and bought the wool felt sample pack of 78 6×6″ squares in every color that they sell. How can you resist?

So, I am going to go for their basic tree shape, and then I’m going to embroider and embellish the little pockets as I will. They have their number embroidered underneath each pocket, and that’s probably a good idea. I will hand embroider those of course. I think I will machine sew the tree to its backing, and the little pockets onto the tree, just to make things a little easier. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Right now, I need to go wrap some Christmas presents. I’m using fabric, using Japanese Furoshiki methods. Someone on a forum I read suggested using playsilks to wrap odd-shaped gifts. So, not only do you get the gift, you get a playsilk too. How totally clever is that?