Christmas · Pinterest Made Me Do It · Sewing

(A Very Belated) Advent Calendar

Confession: I just put away the last of my Christmas decorations. But I had a very good reason. I refused to put away my Advent ornaments until I finished the Advent calendar I’d been working on for weeks. (Years, if you count INTENDING to make said Advent calendar – I talked about it here in 2104, and here in 2012 – YIKES!)


Several years ago (maybe when The Boy was just a year or two old – we were still living at the old house), our lovely neighbors gave us an Advent calendar.


It was a box with little doors that you opened each day to reveal a tiny wooden ornament. They had two sets when their daughter (now in college) was small, and they wanted us to have one. We were thrilled with the gift, and over the years, both kids have LOVED getting to open the doors every day in December and place the little ornament on a miniature tree we bought just for that purpose.

Over the years (The Boy is almost 7 and the Girl just turned 4), the little doors have started falling off. There were always a couple of missing ornaments, which I’ve replaced with larger ornaments that just don’t quite fit into the windows. I decided a few years ago that I wanted to make an Advent calendar with pockets so I could move the ornaments out of the box and into a display that could hang on the wall during the season of Advent.

I had good intentions every year, but it just never happened.

Then back in early fall, my friend Molly invited people over for a Craft/Pinterest Night – a night to get together at her mom’s studio, drink wine, and make stuff. PERFECT!


I was inspired by several felt Advent calendars I had seen online. I decided to do a combination of my two favorites – little, colorful applique images of the season along with hand-stitched numbers for the Advent date.

I still had weeks to go until December, so if I started that night, I could make one pocket a day and be finished in plenty of time for the start of Advent.

Yes, well, um, that didn’t quite happen.

applique snowflake

So when Husband’s family came for Thanksgiving, and my mother-in-law and I found ourselves working on a jigsaw puzzle during one afternoon nap, I recruited her to help me.

By the time she left, we had all the felt pieces cut out, ready to sew. Surely I could just stitch them down quickly that last week of November and be ready to go December 1st.

Um. Have you seen the holiday season? What was I thinking? I stitched a little here and there and quickly realized this was a MASSIVE undertaking, and definitely not something I could get finished even by Christmas Day!

applique nativity

Epiphany! I’ll finish by Epiphany, I thought to myself. That’s “Old Christmas” anyway.

Side story: Have you ever heard it called “Old Christmas”? I didn’t really grow up celebrating the liturgical calendar – we didn’t even do anything for Advent until Husband and I moved to California, and only then because I went to a craft party and made an Advent wreath with candles. I’m all about candles and decor. But, when I was growing up, every year on Epiphany, my Appalachian Mammaw (my dad’s mom) would call my mom to remind her that it was “Old Christmas” and not to do any laundry because the owner of the clothing you washed would die within the year. What on earth?? I remember hearing it for the first time and being terrified. I wrote it down in my journal in hopes of remembering this date every year for the rest of my life so I wouldn’t make this fatal mistake. It didn’t stick into adulthood, and I’m certain I have washed clothes on EVERY Epiphany, especially since having children and doing laundry every. single. day. (I googled “no laundry on Old Christmas” and found this post about other Appalachian “Old Christmas” folklore – some of those are familiar but a couple are new to me.)

Epiphany was a great goal. I could spend my free time during winter break working on little bits at a time. When I wasn’t busy running the kids to and from school, when they spent hours playing together, I could finally finish.


You know what takes a really long time? Hand-stitching numbers. Wow. My mom taught me to cross-stitch when I was really young, and I loved doing it, so I figured I could finish all 25 numbers (41 digits, actually) in a day. Nope. It took 3 full nights of stitching on the couch (hygge-style) after the kids went to bed plus many other one-off stitch sessions to get it complete.


Then it was time to attach. I sewed a little hem along the top and bottom of the black felt for hanging. I spaced out the pockets before I did the numbers because I wanted to make sure the colors worked well together.


Doing all the maths here!


I attached the pockets color-by-color (all blue pocket first, then all yellow) to save time. This still took a few hours longer than I anticipated. Clearly all my years of sewing have taught me nothing about time planning.


And finally – FINALLY – it’s done! I put all the ornaments in their pockets (doing some Type A coordinating – angel in the angel pocket, nativity in the nativity pocket), added a dowel and ribbon, and displayed it in its full glory for about 8 minutes. Then I wrapped it up and put in the Christmas box. Because, for me, by the end of January, “Old Christmas” traditions or not, it’s time to clear the Christmas decorations and get on with the New Year.



6 thoughts on “(A Very Belated) Advent Calendar

  1. I love it! especially the nativity for December 25th. I made similar nativity calendars with pockets for each of my children’s families, but I didn’t do nearly that much handwork. Your children will treasure it forever.


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