Advent Calendar: Background, Background w/Pillow Figures, Background after 2.5 year old plays w/it!
I remember having several advent calendars growing up - paper ones, cloth ones, ones with pockets - but they all disappeared when I moved out of the house! Grama cannot find them. Well, with a little one in the house and another one the way, I decided we needed one! We looked a little in stores and on Etsy - there are many cute ones on Etsy - but they were not what I wanted. I didn't want literal drawers/doors to open, my child doesn't need more candy/toys, I wanted flaps to flip or magnets to move - something child-friendly to play with unsupervised!
Pillow Figures: child-friendly advent calendar counters!
So what did I do? I decided to make my own calendar this year! So with Grama's help, we designed and sewed this fun, child friendly countdown to Christmas calendar! Materials are simple - felt, patterned fabric, velcro, time, and patience! Oh, and a sewing machine greatly speeds the process along....try choosing thread colors that blend into your other colors for a neater look in the end. Using red on the bobbin, and other colors on the spool, for example, made the back of the calendar look almost as nice as the front!
First I decided on a size - I chose 2x3 feet. I wanted room for my little one to play! I cut the background (red) and stitched a border around the edges. This helps prevent the felt from stretching a little, but also distracts from, ahem, uneven edges! Plus it looks nice, right?! The next step was to determine how many tabs I needed to hang the calendar up. I used 3, but 4 or 5 would NOT have been too much! I chose to hang mine from a bamboo rod from a ribbon on a door. Works great so far!
Tabs & Border
I free-handed the background felt pieces and edge stitched them down to the background next. Cut everything out and lay it out. Move/trim as needed until you are happy with the background design! Then start sewing the pieces down - I suggest one at a time. Sky, snow, tree trunk, tree bottom, tree middle, tree top, & star was the order I went in. Also consider sewing curving lines throughout the large felt pieces to help tack them to the background - otherwise when the velcro pieces are pulled from the background the felt will pucker/pull away from the background (red felt in my case).
Next comes the numbers! We chose a font on the computer, printed out the numbers in the size we wanted them (about 2x3 inches), and traced them onto the felt. Grama decided to try "gluing" the numbers down with an iron-on adhesive. This worked for placing the numbers and tacking them down, but this is not permanent on felt. There just isn't enough packed fibers to really grab onto the numbers! So we tacked them down, then chose a wiggly stitch to finish the numbers off with - they aren't going anywhere now!
Embroidered "Merry Christmas" & some other decorative elements....
While I worked on the embroidery (my sewing machine does it, thank goodness! I'm horrible at hand sewing....), Grama cut out all the figures. We perused the fabric stores for cute prints with largish (1.5-5 inch prints) figures on them. We chose snowmen, Santa Claus, penguins, snowflakes, and ornament-like prints. We looked high and low for reindeer, but didn't find any! After cutting them out, we cut out matching felt backgrounds, sewed on a piece of velcro to the felt, then sewed the background to the print (outsides together). We turned the pillows right-side out, filled with stuffing, and stitched closed. I chose the stitch all the way around the figures to give a more finished look....
The embroidery took a little planning, and as you can see, it still didn't end up centered! That's okay - I purposely stitched letters up and down from the center line because I knew I would never have them perfectly inline, and then adding other elements distracts from the fact that Merry Christmas is a bit off-centered...maybe I meant it to look like that.....My machine had several patterns on it already, but other embroidery patterns are from Ann the Gran and Embroidery Designs. They have a nice *free* selection too!
Reindeer Embroidery from Brother Designs
We had a lot of fun making the Advent Calendar and now my children can have fun playing with it! It's holding up well, I'm happy to report, and getting a lot of use. In another year or so she might actually use it to count down to Christmas! I don't think I'll be making another one any time soon, however. The two of us worked together for a week, and I worked another several days alone, before finally finishing it! I think it should make a lovely "heirloom" piece, though!