Making an advent calendar


This time last year, I decided I wanted to make Arthur an advent calendar. I wasn’t keen on him having a chocolate one – and besides, that’s always been a bit of a minefield with my nut allergy – but I wanted a way to make the countdown to Christmas special.

I looked at the various ideas available online, and whilst there were lots of great designs none of them felt quite right. So the only thing for it was to come up with something myself.

After paying a visit to our local haberdasher I came away with this gorgeous fabric by Makower. It reminded me of the winter skies above Torbay, and that’s what got me thinking… Why not create a design which celebrated where we lived? A Christmas boat sailing on the Devon seas.

I’m going to take you through my process in this post, but you could use it to create any design that suits you and your special little person. A Christmas train was my other main idea, or maybe a wintery woodland scene. As long as you can work out where to fit in the pockets then the only limit is your imagination.

You will need:

– Paper and pencil for sketching out a design

– Sewing kit – I made mine by hand but a machine would be handy too!

– Two large pieces of fabric for the base – mine were approx 110cm x 80cm

– Smaller pieces of fabric for the details – remember you’ll need extra for the pockets!

– Embroidery thread

– Finishing touches (ribbon , bells etc)

– A wooden dowel the width of your calendar with two screw in hooks for the ends

– Cord for hanging

Step one: Sketch out your design

Keep it bold and simple, and remember to incorporate the all-important pockets.

Step two: Create your ‘canvas’


I split my scene into the sea and the sky, and backed it with some sparkly tweed I found online. The thicker fabric was pretty handy to help give the finished product some solidity. Sew around three edges of your canvas but keep the top edge open – that way you can hide all your stitching. Alternatively you could leave the backing until the very end – maybe easier if you’re using a machine…

Step three: Start to add the detail



Depending on your design you may wish to create templates for some or all of it. I freestyled the boat but created paper templates for the smaller elements.

Step four: Create the pockets


Again depending on your design these may be intrinsic to the design elements (for example the sail pockets and the portholes) or added on later (like the stockings and the fish). You will need to decide on the best order to sew the different parts together!

Step five: Add your numbers


I actually left this until the very end, but in retrospect it would probably have been easier to add the numbers before sewing everything on to the base. I looked at various patches/ pre-made numbers, but in the end decided that embroidering them on would be the best way to get the effect I wanted. I just used a simple back stitch, but you could really go to town with this if you have the skills!

Step six: Put it all together


Once you have all of the elements of your design ready then all that remains is to sew them on to the base. This would be way quicker using a machine, though I did find the hand sewing quite therapeutic on dark November evenings!

Step seven: Get ready to hang


Once the design was complete, I folded over the top and created a space for the pole to go through for hanging – because of your double layer, you should be able to stitch the back in such a way that it doesn’t spoil the front of your design (the little robins *may* have come about because I messed this up at first…). Then slip the dowel through, screw a little hook to each end, tie on the cord and you’re ready to go.


The next challenge is to find twenty-four little gifts to go inside the pockets – but that’s a story for another post… Suffice to say, Arthur loved it. I can’t wait to get it out again this year!


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10 thoughts on “Making an advent calendar

  1. veronica

    Oh, it’s lovely. I’ll show it to my mother-in-law because I make ceramics but I can’t sew at all. I love your blog. And nice to meet you, I’m Veronica.

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