Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent calendar (with tutorial)

December 1st always marks the official start of the Christmas season to me. As is traditional in Norway where I grew up, we have an advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas. And as is traditional, the mother of the house (me) stayed up until midnight finishing it up. We actually have four  advent calendars on the go this year: a chocolate calendar for Espen (because those were The Most Coveted calendars available when I was a kid), one that a friend made for Espen, a Norwegian 24-episode advent calendar on DVD (Skomakergata!) and the home-made one that the whole family shares:

You're going to have to use your imagination a bit as far as presentation is concerned; I did buy a cute basket for it last year, but that has been misappropriated as our kitchen counter catch-all. So the punchbowl gets the job for now, until I find something better. Maybe a white old-timey enamel basin?

I actually made most of this calendar last year, but being the slovenly crafter that I am, I started reusing the empty bags from the beginning of the month rather than sewing up the last six bags. There's only so much blanket stitch a girl can handle! I finished it up yesterday, though, and took a few photos in case any of you are interested in a tutorial of sorts.

(If not, stop reading now, because this is going to be long!)

Advent Calendar Tutorial

You will need: 
  • Red felt. Seeing as you decide the size of your bags, how much is up to you, but 2 yds. should be plenty. 
  • White felt. I just bought a couple of the 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheets of cheap felt and used that, although a heavier felt might fare a bit better longterm. 
  • Needle, thread and scissors. OK, here is where we all see why I should not be doing a sewing tutorial, especially a year after buying my supplies. I used a heavier white embroidery thread and an embroidery needle. Stitch School is smarter than me, and can point you in the right direction on that. 
  • Pretty ribbon, and plenty of it! I like my bag ties short and poky, but if you're going to be doing 24 (or 25, if that is how you roll) pretty bows, you're going to need a lot more. 
  • Glue. Use fabric glue if you're feeling fancy, I just used Elmer's glue and everything is still sticking just fine one year later. 
  • Numbers 1-24 (really, 1-9 will do) cut out from felt. More on this later. 
  • Hole punch.


I made mine a year ago, so my photos are a bit limited. The process here is pretty simple, though: 

1. Cut out numbers in red felt. If you're fancy and have a cutting machine, you're golden. If you're a ghetto crafter like me, here's what I did:
      • Choose a clear, open font (I used CK Frosting) and print out the numbers 1-9 on plain old paper.
      • Carefully cut out the numbers. 
      • Trace them onto some red felt, making sure that you trace the numbers backwards so you don't get visible pencil marks. 
      • Cut them out, and repeat until you have enough for the numbers 1-24. 
2. Take your white felt, and cut out 24 rectangles. Mine measure about 2x3 inches (5x7.5 cm). With an 81/2 x 11" sheet, you can fit 4 by 3, 4 if you get a bit squidgy on the height of the tags. It doesn't really matter if they're not all identical.

3. Cut the corners off one side of your rectangle to make it tag-shaped. 

4.  With the hole punch, make a hole for your ribbon to go through.
5. Glue the numbers onto the tags. Tadah! (Bonus points: stitch the numbers into place with red or white thread. I haven't done mine, but I keep thinking about it.)


1. Cut out 24 strips of fabric in varying widths and lengths. Fold them in half widthwise to determine the size of each bag. Think about the things you'll be putting inside to determine the size and shape of the bags. A few pieces of candy can go in a very small bag, but a DVD needs a pretty tall bag. Take into account that you will need enough fabric at the top of the bag to tie a ribbon around it.

2. Fold bags in half and stitch along the two long sides. Stitch School has a great tutorial for blanket stitch here, although as I look closer, I appear to have invented my own bastardization of blanket stitch on my bags. Oh well. I told you I shouldn't be making sewing tutorials! 
3.  Repeat and repeat and repeat until you are done! 

To finish

1. Fill your bags with goodies. 
2. Slip tags onto lengths of ribbon, and tie onto corresponding bag. 
3. Slap bags into a vessel of your choice, and you are done!


  1. Ohh så koselig med helt hjemmelaget :-) Flinka.. kos dere i førjulstiden..

    Klemme på

  2. WOW! I'm so impressed, that is such a great, cute idea. I love the Norway traditions you have, too.

  3. Looks great! Maybe I'll make something similar for next year.

    (Visiting from Ravelry)

  4. "And as is traditional, the mother of the house (me) stayed up until midnight finishing it up."

    You crack me up. Glad you got them finished. They look great.

  5. For ten plus years I have been looking for a 'real' advent calendar for my Grandchildren as I had years ago for my kids. Not a count-down on the days of December with candy and toys. In other words we celebrate the four Sundays of Advent with readings for each day from the Old Testament prophecy and the Gospel. Any ideas where to find one? We also alternate years with 3 dark blue & 1 light blue candles[the 'new' color for Advent] and the taditional 3 purple and 1 pink.