Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Advent Calendar

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I pinned this advent calendar on Pinterest a few months ago:

Cloth advent calendar  1

but couldn’t afford the $85 + shipping + duty (= arm & a leg) price tag.  So I decided to attempt to try to sew it myself. What you should probably know about me is that I bought my $60 costco special sewing machine solely for cardmaking and haven’t actually sewn fabric since my grade 7 home-ec class.  Thankfully, there’s a youtube video for everything these days, and once an 11 year old taught me to thread a bobbin, I decided to wing it without a pattern. 

If you’re looking for directions for the pockets, I highly recommend Aunt Louisa’s Pleated Pocket Advent Calendar tutorial.

If you’re starting without a pattern, like I did, the easiest way to do it is to use cardboard to figure out how big you want everything to be.  I wanted my pockets to be 4x5” and 1.5” deep, so I started measuring strips of white canvas that were 29” long and 6” high (7” of fabric per pocket, 4 pockets in a row, with excess on the edge to attach it).   I then sewed the edge detail onto the tops of each strip.  Then, using the cardboard pieces as a guide, I followed the pleated pocket tutorial above and ironed and pinned each pocket into place, sewing the pockets onto the canvas backing and securing the pleats all at once.

Once all the pockets are sewn on, fold the top and bottom edges of the backing over and sew, leaving enough space for a wooden dowel inside (we had some left over from other projects that we used).  Attach a ribbon to the top dowel, and you’re done (we used thumb tacks, but finishing nails would work too).

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For the numbers, I designed them using random fonts I thought went well together.  Originally I laid the design out in Illustrator (you can use MSWord), and then printed and taped the numbers in place to make sure that’s what I wanted before finally printing them on to Avery iron on transfer paper and affixing them permanently (follow the instructions on the package).  You can download the printable numbers I used below.

The final product ended up being 18x50 inches.

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A few things I learned:

  • Sewing in a straight line is a lot harder than I thought.  I had to rip out more than a few stitches, and the top seam for the dowel still looks like it was sewn by a drunk.
  • You don’t need to use super industrial outdoor fabric. While I thought it would make it more durable, my El Cheapo sewing machine couldn’t handle it and I went through 7 sewing machine needles trying to get through the multi-layered pleats.  (I also don’t recommend trying to replace said needles at Michaels during a sale weekend while caring for 2 tantrum-prone children…send wine).
  • The hotter the iron the better, for all tasks.  It gets the pleats crisp before you sew them, and helps the iron on transfers stick faster.

The packages were provided by Grandma.  I have no idea what they contain.  My only rule was that they were task-based or educational; I didn’t want it to be a month of presents.  Grandma even learned how to use Pinterest for this.  I hope it went much better than when she learned to use “the Twitter”.

Download the Advent Numbers

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