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DIY Advent Calendar

Nov 16, 2012

by Nicole Smith handmade and vintage goods

How do you count down to the holidays? Today Etsy’s Nicole Smith will teach you learn how to make an advent calendar that just may become part of your seasonal traditions for years to come.

As a kid, nothing ignited as much joy inside me as the family advent calendar. The idea of having a special surprise to unveil every day of the month was almost more exciting than Christmas itself. I always dreamed of having a version that would allow for slightly larger surprises.

Spread the holiday excitement all December long with an advent calendar you can make yourself, equipped with pockets that house treats and surprises of all sizes. For the calendar shown, I created five vertical hanging rows of gift-tag pockets, but feel free to experiment with the shape — a horizontal garland, or even strips of different sizes would be fun.

Supplies You’ll Need:
1 yard felt in color A (teal)
1/4 yard felt in color B (sage)
1/4 yard felt in color C (cream)
19 yards of 7/8-inch-wide ribbon
4 yards of 3/8-inch-wide ribbon
1/2 yard buckram
25 extra-large eyelets
Temporary spray adhesive
Fabric glue
Hot glue and hot glue gun


1. Make the patterns. Download the gift tag back and gift tag pocket diagrams. Following the diagrams, create the pattern pieces. To create the buckram pattern piece, trace a second copy of the gift tag back pattern. Then, trim 1/4 inch off from all edges.

2. Cut out the tag pieces. For each gift tag, you’ll need two backs and two pockets cut from the felt in color A. To make 25 pockets, cut out 50 backs and 50 pockets from felt in color A. From buckram, cut out 25 pieces using the buckram pattern you created in step 1.

3. Cut out the numbers. To create your number patterns, print out each number using a computer and printer. Use whatever font you like; just make sure that the numbers aren’t any taller than 3 inches, so that they’ll still fit on the tags. I used Baskerville Old Face in 200pt. To make cutting out the numbers easy on your hands and eyes, cut around the numbers on the paper to create groups. Then, using the temporary spray adhesive, adhere the paper to the felt in color B. Having the paper on the felt acts as a temporary stabilizer that aids in cutting and handling. Cut each number from the felt, but don’t peel off the paper yet.

4. Add a contrasting outline to the numbers. Next, use fabric glue to adhere the wrong side of each number to the felt in color C. Cut around each number, leaving an approximate 1/8 inch wide border in color C. Once the numbers are cut out, you can pull off the paper from each number.

5. Make the tag backs. For each tag, layer two backs with wrong sides together and a piece of buckram sandwiched between the felt pieces. Top stitch around the edges using a 1/4 inch wide seam allowance, securing all layers together.

6. Assemble the tag pockets. For each tag, layer two pocket pieces with wrong sides together and raw edges even. Top stitch around the edges using a 1/4-inch-wide seam allowance, securing both layers together.

7. Add a ribbon detail. Cut 25 five inchlong pieces from the 3/8 inch wide ribbon. Use fabric glue to attach one piece to each pocket with the ribbon’s top edge aligned with the top edge of topstitching.

8. Sew the pocket corners. For each pocket, fold one bottom corner so that the raw corner edges are aligned and the wrong sides are together. Sew the corner with a 1/4 inch wide seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance, and then repeat for each pocket corner.

9. Topstitch the pocket edges. To add a little more dimension, I topstitched the folds in the pocket that were created after the corners were sewn in step 8. If you don’t like this look, you can omit this step. However, if you do like the topstitched look, I found it was easier to topstitch the bottom fold first and then the side folds once the bottom was done. Just make sure you stitch each fold edge very close to the fold with the wrong sides together.

10. Attach the pockets to the backs. For each tag, position a pocket on a back with the bottom edges aligned. Topstitch the pocket in place along the bottom and side edges using a 1/4-inch-wide seam allowance. Once it’s been stitched, trim the seam allowance.

11. Attach the numbers. Using fabric glue, attach the numbers to the pockets, making sure that they’re centered.

12. Attach the eyelets. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, attach an eyelet to each tag.

13. Make ribbon loops. From the 7/8-inch wide ribbon, cut 25 four inch long pieces. Loop each piece through the eyelet on one tag. Hot glue the ribbon loop, closed as shown with wrong sides together.

14. Make the bows. Cut 25 twelve inch long pieces of the 7/8 inch wide ribbon. Tie each one into a bow as shown.

15. Attach the tags to the hangers. To create the hanging ribbons, cut five 36 inch long pieces of the 7/8 inch wide ribbon. Attach five tags to each ribbon, making sure that they are in numerical order and evenly spaced. Use hot glue to secure each tag in place.

16. Attach the bows. At the top of each tag’s loop, hot glue a bow in place. This will hide each loop’s raw edge, finishing each tag.

17. To hang, I used adhesive strips and adhered them to my wall. To finish, fill each pocket with treats guests will enjoy at any age.

If you make your own advent calendar, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.

More Things to Make | Holidays on Etsy


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