My pal Trevor Dryer once told me he broke up with a girl because she was too crafty. By this he meant that she did too many crafts, not the other kind of crafty. Since then I have been quick to deny any crafty tendencies. I may have slipped up now and then and made the odd quilt top or party decoration, but nobody is perfect.
Today I must admit to having crafted. Some of you will recall last year’s laminator incident in which a few advent calendars were bedecked. That time I just bought “faux-made” calendars from Pottery Barn Kids and added scripture cards and presents. This year I started from scratch. The original intention was to make one advent calendar per year until all Kent’s and my sibling’s had received one. I ended up needing to make two this year so the pictures show both the country homemade look one for my older sister’s four girls as well as the beginnings of the steampunk one for my ultra-cool little sister. The steampunk one may well have a gear-faced baby Jesus by the time all is said and done.
I started by cutting six strips measuring 19” by 7.5”. Then I ironed a .5” seam allowance around all edges and turned the top down by another inch and ironed that. Then I basted all seams.
Next, I sewed the pom-pom or other cording onto the natural cotton tape, and sewed the tape onto the larger pocket strips. I had to cut off a few poms on the ends for the cording to turn around the edges. For both of these calendars I had two decorative trims alternating down the six pockets.
Next I used hot glue to fuse the die-cut numbers onto the pockets. I used a ruler to made sure I placed them at 4”, 8.5”, 13” and 17.5”. I used tweezers to hold the numbers, but I still burned my fingers a lot. If I were doing this again, I would place the numbers just under the decorative tape instead of at the bottom of the pocket. They look great now until the calendar is filled and some are obscured by the scripture cards or presents.
I then pinned the pockets onto the backing and marked the divider lines with pins. Then I sewed the pockets on at the sides and bottoms. Next I sewed three vertical lines where I had marked with pins through all the strips to make the individual pockets. They are sewn at 4.5”, 9”, and 13.5”. I reinforced the seams at all corners. In fact, I did a lot of reinforcing on the whole project. I expected it to be heavy and for the pockets to take some wear getting things in and out of them, so I tried to make it sturdy. Next time I will probably make the pockets wider.
Now came the element for which I undertook this whole project. I had wanted to make an advent calendar that had a nativity scene on it. The pre-fab ones are almost all secular and Santa-based. Okay, so how to make a nativity scene? I considered die-cut felt, but rejected that idea. Then I ran across needle felting. I had never heard of it before. All you do is take unspun wool roving, ball it up any way you like and poke it a bazillion times with a needle that has little spines on it. The needle catches fibers with each poke so that all the poking eventually binds and twists the fibers into felt. You can make 3D stuffed animals this way, fuse two pieces of felt together, or attach the roving to a piece of cut felt. It is very easy. I literally watched ¾ of a youtube video on it, ordered the needles and roving on Amazon and produced this nativity scene on my very first attempt. For the next ones I will draw a full-size pattern first instead of just free-handing, but I’m still pleased with the result. I am always 100% confident of my ability to learn any new crafting or artistic method. I am not always 100% right.
To make the stable, I cut a piece of felt 9” x 18”, and folded it in half. I alligned the ruler with the top of the fold and a mark 4” down the side, and sliced that section off.
Then I got out the wool roving and needles and sculpted this little scene on. Once I had the stable ready, I realized it needed a sky. I cut up a piece of heat-embroidered blue felt, pinned it to the backing and sewed it on. Then I sewed the stable on top of that.
To finish, I turned the sides under twice and ironed them, then sewed all the sided under and created a 1.5” pocket on the top. I bought a dowel at the craft store and sawed it down to size. When I put the dowel in the top pocket it helps the calendar hang flat. I cut four 8” pieces of ribbon, sealed their ends with fire, turned them under and sewed them on the sides both front and back very, very securely so the calendar can be tied and hung.
Then I printed up and cut out the scriptures, glued them onto 4” strips of three kinds of card stock so that the pattern would repeat every third day. I cut those out, laminated them, and trimmed the laminate so that the cards fit in the pockets neatly.
For my older sister who is not expecting this present, I bought little crafts, necklaces and candy, wrapped them in color coordinated paper and stuffed the pockets. I thought it would be rude to have a calendar arrive that required someone to shop for and fill it just before December started. Her four girls will have to take turns on the presents.
I had originally planned to have alternating rows of this blue plaid and a beige/navy/red gingham, but then I decided I didn’t like the look of them together so it would all be navy. That is why I did not have enough material to match the plaid. Otherwise it would have looked more tidy.
Here is the final fully loaded product. Sorry for the tilted camera angle. The calendar is not lopsided.
I did not make this from scratch to save money. I find it extremely difficult to save money on sewing projects. The margins are so slim now, it’s tough to compete with cheap Chinese and Bangladeshy products. I made it myself so I could get exactly what I wanted. The materials for one calendar were about $40 including the die-cut numbers I ordered from someone through Etsy, the presents were $25, the shipping another $40. To do two of these has taken me 1.66 seasons of commercial-free Downton Abbey and I haven’t even done the needle felting for Jenni’s yet.
I am happy to send anyone the document containing twenty five days of scriptures if you just shoot me an email. Indeed, Becca already did just that. I feel so relevant!