I’m always spectacularly disorganised when it comes to Christmas time so I know what I’m talking about here – if you want to make an advent calendar don’t leave it until the last week of November.
(I actually made this advent calendar last year – about the last week of November, if I recall – and I didn’t finish until a few days into December, which is why I’m posting it this year instead of last year.)
So assuming that you have plenty of time (or love the pressure of a deadline) I’m going to break this tutorial up into several posts.
- Materials, layout and design [This post]
- Making the background
- Sewing the star
- Sewing the circle pockets
- Putting it all together
The advent calendar features 23 circle pockets in three different sizes. The smallest is about 6cm (just under 2 1/2″) diameter – big enough for a chocolate coin – and the largest is 10cm (4″) diameter – big enough for something more substantial! The final, twenty-fourth, pocket is naturally in the star at the top.
The background is just plain cotton layered with wadding, with a bound edge the same way you’d make a quilt; the pockets are sewn through all layers to hold things in place.
A small peg with a felt star can be moved from pocket to pocket to mark the current day. The pockets themselves are backed with felt which gives them a pleasing solidity so they don’t flop around. I make the circles separately, add the numbers and then sew them in position.
The smallest circles are decorative only and don’t form pockets.
This advent calendar is a little more tricky than your usual calendar because of the pockets – you’ll get lots of practice sewing circles! However, it should be achievable by a patient beginner – allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need.
These are the approximate amounts of fabric for my layout – see the next section for changing the layout.
- Approx 25-30cm (10-12″) square scraps of fabric in several colours for the circles. I used five different colours – four shades of green, and one red and gold for contrast. In total you’ll need just under half a metre/yard of standard-width fabric for all the circles.
- Approx 20cm (8″) square fabric for the star
- 75cm x 60cm (30″ x 24″) plain white for the background of the tree
- 75cm x 60cm (30″ x 24″) wadding
- 75cm x 60cm (30″ x 24″) plain fabric for the backing of the tree
- Approximately 90cm (1yard) plain fabric for backing the circle and star pockets
- Approximately 50cm x 1m (25″ by 1 yd) felt for the pockets – I chose a plain white felt just in case it shows through the fabric slightly
- 1m (1.1yd) fusible web
- 2.5m (100″) long by 6cm (2 1/2″) wide strip for binding and hanging loop – I used the same fabric as the dark green circles
- two 10cm (4″) squares in a plain fabric, for the dowel pocket
- 50cm (20″) length of wooden dowel
You’ll also need the templates – download the circle advent calendar templates PDF here.
My layout uses five different colours of circles – four shades of green, plus a red for contrast – in a range of different sizes. The layout is given in the PDF download, with the following key:
- A – green spotty fabric
- B – light green batik
- C – darker green batik
- D – dark green
- E – red and gold
The sizes of the circles are:
- 3 large 10cm (4″) diameter pockets
- 7 medium 7.5cm (3″) diameter pockets
- 13 small 6cm (2 1/2″) diameter pockets
- 10 tiny 4cm (1 1/2″) decorative circles
I found it helpful to plan out the different colours first: if you want to use more or fewer colours, then I’d recommend planning it out roughly first, so you know how many circles of each colour and size to cut.
I designed this layout in metric measurements, so the conversion to inches are only approximate – use the templates on the PDF for the exact sizes. If you measure them yourself in inches, then you may need to tweak the layout to get them to fit!
You could also change the layout to exclude the smallest decorative circles which will give a more spaced out design.
You could even change the size and number of the circles, or the size of the advent calendar itself, although if you make it much smaller you may find your pockets aren’t large enough to fit the fillings.
If you want to change the size or layout, again I recommend planning it out on paper first. Leave yourself a little bit of extra room around the circles to allow for inaccuracies in the cutting and sewing (Inaccuracies? You must be confusing me with someone else!)
Next: making the background.