Sewing Bee Fabrics Tutorial
How To Make A Christmas Advent Calendar
This year I decided that I didn't want the usual chocolate calendar or have to think about how to fill a different pocket with something imaginative, so I thought what better than to make a calendar of epic proportions that once made can be used year after year with no extra thought! The daily gift is simply a new decoration to add to the Christmas tree so that by the time you get to Christmas day, you are just adding the star to the top of a perfectly decorated tree.
What you will need:
1m Green Felt
Assorted scraps of felt/mixed colour pack
I cheated and bought a set of 1-25 felt numbers but you can cut them out yourself if you prefer.
Heavy Iron on interfacing approx. 40cm x 75cm
2 metres of 4oz wadding
Enough backing cotton to cover your chosen door (front and back) (Mine was a total of 185cm x 150cm =75cm width panel once folded in half)
Extra cotton for making pockets / door fixings (approx. half meter in total)
Elastic (approx. 2/3 - 3/4 the width of your door depending on how wide and stretchy it is)
How to make it:
I made my decorations by first cutting up 24 squares of paper 7cm x 7cm to draw my designs on. I then cut them out in a backing piece of felt (one piece that will take up the entire pattern size.
I then cut out and stuck on any extra parts I wanted to decorate my advent tree pieces. For eyes and small dots, I rubbed a small piece of felt until it started to fluff up then rolled it into a tight ball before fixing in place with fabric glue. I flipped my pieces over and glued the ribbon to the back. I used 12cm ribbon for each decoration.
To make them stiffer and more durable, I used heavy iron on interfacing to back them with. For those with straightforward shapes, I lined them up on a strip, but for those that had pieces that came up higher than the ribbon attachment, I cut a notch out for the ribbon.
Once bonded, I trimmed off the excess. You may find you need to re-iron again if the edges aren't quite sealed. If you are feeling a little artistically challenged, I have put close up photos of each one at the bottom in case you need to cheat and print the picture to use as a rough guide for your template.
I made the star for the top of the Christmas tree a little differently to make it stand out more. I cut out 2 pieces of felt and a piece of 4oz wadding in the same shape and size. I then trimmed off 1/2cm from each side of the wadding so it would sit comfortably just inside.
I lined up the wadding between the 2 pieces of felt and pinned some ribbon in so that it would come out either side of the top star point. Using an over edge (overcast) sewing machine foot. I sewed a zigzag stich all around the sides of the star to seal it closed.
How to make the Christmas Advent Calendar Door Panel:
First, you need to decide how big your door is / how much of the door you want to cover, so go off with your tape measure to decide. My overall panel was 185cm height by 150cm width so once folded in half would be 75cm width (after seams 1/4 inch seams, approx. 74cm). I made up my panel from 3 different patterns - Holly on top, stars in the middle and poinsettia on the bottom. This means that to keep my 185cm height I had to add seam allowances to allow for the joins.
w150 x h12cm holly
w150 x h40cm poinsettia
w150 x h137cm stars
(-1/4inch for top and bottom seams for all = approx. 185cm)
I simply turned the pieces right side together, pinned them then have sewn the seams using a 1/4 inch seam guide foot to end up with one giant cotton panel piece. You may wish to finish your raw edges with pinking shears to increase durability.
I made myself a xmas tree template from sticking some newspaper pages together. My tree was 80cm high and 70cm wide. I folded my paper in half down the height and drew half a tree to get a symmetrical look when I cut it out.
I made a trunk from brown felt 17cmx17cm, and making sure I tucked the top of the trunk just under the bottom of the Christmas tree, I attached it to the backing cotton with just a top stitch as felt doesn't fray. Position your tree centrally on half of your cotton width (the other half will be your backing against the door).
Next, you want buttons all over your tree to be able to hang your advent xmas tree decorations on. I wanted mine to match and yet look like baubles all over, so I used 23mm self cover buttons and the poinsettia cotton.
I wanted my buttons to have a random placement look so I scattered my felt decorations all over the tree to see where to attach the buttons while leaving enough space. Sew them on by hand.
Next, you need to make somewhere to keep all your decorations for each day, so I made my pockets as 2 side strips. I took 2 pieces of the holly fabric in 110cm length and 10cm width. I hemmed the right side on one and the left on the other.
I then pressed the other edges under and stitched them directly on to the panel, so that the hemmed edge remained free as the pocket opening. I lined the top up with the top holly piece so that it looked like a continuous border, and centred the other piece so it would sit down the side once the cotton was folded.
Next, I marked both pieces at equal intervals to make 12 pockets, then just sewed straight lines through the holly piece and underlying star cotton to divide them.
I did the same for a large pocket at the bottom with a poinsettia piece that was 70cm x 40cm, by hemming the top, turning under the other edges, then stitching it on to the bottom part of the main panel.
This large pocket if left as it was would gape, so I decided to sew a mini-pocket into the centre so that the rest remained free for putting stocking fillers / xmas books in. I placed the star decoration over the centre of the pocket to make sure it would fit, then pinned a square around it to sew (leaving the top open to get your star in!).
Next I made the door fittings. I used 4 pieces of cotton h15cm x w12cm, and folded each in half vertically. I sewed close one short edge and the long edge and turned it back right side out. I also cut a piece of elastic that was approx 2/3 - 3/4 of the width of the door (you need it to fit snuggly when stretched so that it holds its position).
I took the whole panel and folded that in half vertically with right sides together, then pinned all around the top and side. I spread the door fixing pieces along the top seam, so the bulk of it was on the inside and the raw edge on the outside. I attached the elastic (also pointing inwards) in one of the side seams about 1-2 inches down (other side will need hand stitching later or the elastic pull will make it very difficult to quilt).
I attached the sides with a 1/4 inch seam then turned it back right side out. Your door fixings should now all be pointing outwards.
To get the perfect size wadding, I laid the panel over the wadding and cut the wadding just slightly smaller, then put it inside through the opening at the bottom.
I smoothed out all the surfaces, then with lots of pins, I attached the 3 layers together. As it was so big, I rolled some up as I went, but made sure to only ever roll up far enough away from the secure pins so that it would not make the fabric move.
I quilted the layers together by doodling around the stars with a free motion sewing machine foot on the centre panel.
I tucked the bottom raw edges inside and sewed closed with a top stitch, then carried this stitch on around the whole piece. I changed thread colours for the different sections to make it less obvious
I hand stitched the loose end of the elastic into the other side seam, then folded all the cotton flaps over the elastic and sewed a straight stitch across, making a channel for the elastic to move freely inside. The cotton pieces will sit over the top of the door and the elastic around it above the top hinge.
Lastly, I glued my numbers on to all the pockets.
Then I hung it up on the door ready to start the count down to Christmas!