As I shared earlier this week, I love the way my reusable advent calendar turned out! I had so much fun making it, I thought others might enjoy making one, too, so I wrote up a tutorial. Check it out below!
A couple notes:
- This tutorial walks through two different construction methods, starting with the more involved patchwork-style calendar and then looking at a simpler, non-patchwork calendar.
- My calendar was designed with 25 days, rather than the more traditional 24 days. For this tutorial, I depict construction for 25 days, though I also include details & dimensions for 24 days and share a completed version after this tutorial.
For the patchwork-style advent calendar with 25 days
- 25 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 3.5” wide for windows
- While I used many different fabrics, you could easily select just two fun prints or solid colors and alternate them.
- Fabric with numbers for each day; while these can be as large as you please, they should be cut to a minimum of 1.5” square (including a ¼” seam allowance on each side)
- 1/2 yard fabric for the pockets
For a non-patchwork calendar with 25 days
- 5 cuts of fabric 5″ tall x 15.5″ wide for the ‘windows’
- 5 cuts of fabric 6.5″ tall x 15.5″ wide for the pockets
For all 25 day calendars
- 2/3 yard (approx.) fabric for the backing, facing/binding, and hanging sleeve
- I used one fabric for the backing and a second for the facing and sleeve
- 2/3 yard thin quilt batting or cotton flannel
- I used three colors: light grey for piecing, red and green for quilting
- Dowel for hanging (I use 3/8”)
- Ribbon for hanging
- Rotary cutter (recommended) or scissors
- Quilter’s style see through ruler (I use 6.5” x 24”)
- Self-healing cutting mat
- Sewing machine
- I used two needles: sharp for piecing and general construction, twin for quilting
- Needle for hand sewing
- Hera marker
- Water- or air-erasable marking pen (optional)
- Fabric safe tape (I like to use artist’s tape)
- Quilt basting pins
- Drill for adding holes to the dowel (optional)
Finished dimensions: 22.5” tall x 15” wide, each pocket finishes at 3” x 3”
Seam allowance is 1/4” throughout. For all piecing, sew fabrics with right sides together.
PATCHWORK STYLE CALENDAR
Prepare your windows
If you are creating the patchwork style calendar, you will need one 5” tall x 3.5” wide cut for each day.
1. You will make five rows of five windows. Determine layout for the rows.
2. Using a 1/4” seam allowance, sew together the five pieces of each row along the 5” long side, pressing seams open. Set rows aside.
Prepare your numbers and pocket pieces
Some great ways to make your numbers include embroidery, cutting out and appliquéing felt numbers, using a number print fabric (either store bought or printed at home), painting numbers by hand, or using rubber stamps and a fabric ink pad. Numbers can be as big or as small as you like; I recommend somewhere between 1” and 2.5” in either direction.
3. For the patchwork style calendar, you will need to cut out each number so you have at least 1/2” on every side of the digit; each number should be a minimum of 1.5” in both height and width.
4. Begin piecing your numbers to the pocket fabric.
I will walk through the steps, but a quick view of order of construction will look like this:
5.You will have to do some math based on the raw (unsewn) size of your numbers, but the aim is to have 3.5” wide raw pocket fronts for each number.
- For example: if your individual unsewn number pieces are 1.5” square, you will need two 1.5” squares cut from the pocket fabric, in addition to a 1.5” x 3.5” rectangle (this allows for 1/4” seams on all pieces).
- If your raw number pieces are 2.5” square, you will need two cuts at 2.5” x 1” and one 1” x 3.5” rectangle.
- If your unsewn number pieces are 2” tall x 2.5” wide, you will need two pieces 2” x 1.25” and one 1.25” x 3.5” rectangle.
Basic quilt math: raw piece measurement – 0.5” = finished size. When in doubt: cut the raw pieces too big and trim after sewing.
Note: Keep track of the height measurement of the base piece you add to the number/sides.
6. Once you have cut the side and base pieces, sew the sides to your number, using a 1/4” seam allowance. Press seams toward outside. Trim, if necessary.
7. Sew base piece to bottom of number/sides. Press seam down.
Repeat steps for all 25 numbers.
8. Lay out the framed number pieces in rows of five (1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25). Sew the five pieces of each row together, pressing seams open. Trim top of row, if necessary.
9. It’s time for a little more math as you finish piecing the pocket panels. This next piece becomes the top of the pocket front and the pocket lining. Add the height measurement from the base piece to 3.25”. Cut five pieces that are this new dimension by 15.5” wide.
- For example: if the base piece for framing the number is 1.25” tall x 3.5” wide, you add 1.25” to 3.25” for a sum of 4.5”, so you would cut five 4.5” tall x 15.5” wide pieces.
Sew each row of pocket fronts to one of these pieces. Press seam allowance toward the larger piece.
10. Turn full pocket panels face side down. Measure 3.25” up from the bottom front of the panel and use your hera marker to draw a line along the full width; this creates a crease that will allow you to fold the pocket panel with ease. When folded, there will be slight overhang on the bottom of the pocket panel back.
11. It is time to pad the pockets! If you are using quilt batting for your quilt, cut five pieces 3.25” tall x 15.5” wide. If you are using cotton flannel, cut five pieces 6.5” tall x 15.5” wide. For this tutorial, I am using batting.
With pocket panel laying open face down, place your pocket padding on the backside. If you are using batting, nestle one long edge along the crease you made with the hera marker.
***If using cotton flannel for padding, it is helpful to use the hera marker to draw a crease in the flannel just as for the pocket panel. At this step, nest the folded edge of the flannel inside the fold of the pocket piece.
Fold pocket around batting and pin in place.
12. Sew through all layers close to the folded edge. I sewed my panels using two hues for additional cheer.
13. Measuring from the folded edge, trim pocket panels to 3.25” tall.
Trim side edges of pockets panels, if necessary. Each pocket panel should be 15.5” wide.
14. Place each pocket panel over its corresponding window panel, aligning bottom raw edges and pin in place.
Baste the pocket panels to the window panels along the bottom edge.
15. Sew the pocket/window rows together, ensuring the seams are aligned.
16. To create a little depth to the pockets, we are going to press the seam allowances ‘up’. To start, press the seam allowances flat to set the stitches.
Starting with the top row, pocket front face down, use your steam iron to press the windows up.
Next, understitch seam allowance to the base of the windows.
Using your steam iron, press the pocket panel up. Pin into place to prevent flapping.
Repeat for rows two, three, and four; the bottom row should be left flat.
17. Next, create a quilt sandwich:
Cut the batting or cotton flannel so it is somewhat larger that your calendar front; cut the backing fabric so it is larger than the batting/flannel.
Lay your backing fabric (right side down) on a clean, flat surface. Smooth the fabric and secure the perimeter with tape. Layer your batting or cotton flannel over the backing fabric, smoothing so it lays flat, then layer the calendar front (right side up) over the batting.
Starting in the center of the calendar front and moving outward, pin baste through all layers.
Quilt sandwich: ready to go!
18. To create the individual pockets, quilt straight lines from the top to the bottom, centered between numbers.
The seam lines between windows and numbers double as excellent guides, but it may be helpful to mark your quilting lines. Columns should be marked as 3” wide.
I used a twin needle with thread in two colors to achieve a festive look.
19. Trim the quilted calendar so it is 23” tall and 15.5” wide.
- Finish the edges by adding a facing. This tutorial from Victoria Gertenbach offers very clear step-by-step instructions.
21. In order to hang the calendar, you will need to sew a hanging sleeve to the back. I like this tutorial from Jacquie Gering, though I cut my piece 4.5” tall (the sleeve will finish as 2”, which is more appropriate for a quilted piece of this size).
22. Cut your dowel to the finished width of your calendar and drill two small holes for your ribbon (I like to drill just beyond the width of my finished hanging sleeve).
23. String ribbon through the holes…
…and hang it up!
Enjoy using your reusable advent calendar for the first time!
Prepare your windows
For the non-patchwork style calendar, you will need five cuts of fabric 5” tall x 15.5” wide. Iron and set aside.
Prepare your pocket pieces
For the non-patchwork calendar, you will add your numbers directly to the pocket fabric. Begin by marking guidelines on the five 6.5” x 15.5” pieces with the marking pen:
- Measure 3.25” up from one long edge and mark the full 15.5” width
- Measure 7.75” in from one short edge and lightly mark on each edge and on the marked line
- From center point, measure and mark 1.5” to the right, along the full 6.5” height.
- From this new line, measure 3” to the right and mark the full height
- Repeat last two steps to the left of the marked center point
You will have two rows of boxes; on the bottom row of each piece, add your numbers inside the guidelines using your preferred method. The five pieces should be numbered 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25.
After preparing all fabric pieces, follow steps 10 through 23 as for the patchwork style calendar.
24 DAY ADVENT CALENDAR
I reworked the layout of my 25 day calendar a bit for those who prefer a more traditional 24 day advent calendar.
This is the layout for the 24 day calendar, made following the non-patchwork instructions. The numbers were cut out of felt and stitched to the pocket fronts with embroidery floss.
Alternate dimensions, supplies, and directions are as follows:
For either style of calendar (patchwork or non-patchwork) with 24 days
Updated row layout is four rows of six numbers (1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24).
Finished dimensions of the 24 day calendar are: 18” tall x 18” wide (pockets still finish 3” x 3”).
SUPPLIES (24 days):
For the patchwork-style advent calendar with 24 days
- 24 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 3.5” wide for windows
- Fabric with numbers for the 24 days, can be as large as you please though they should be cut to a minimum of 1.5” square (including a ¼” seam allowance on each side)
- 1/2 yard fabric for pockets
For a non-patchwork calendar with 24 days
- 4 cuts of fabric 5” tall x 18.5” wide for the ‘windows’
- 4 cuts of fabric 6.5” tall x 18.5” wide for the pockets
All other supplies and tools as listed for 25 days calendar
For 24 day patchwork calendar
Alt.9: cut the pocket lining piece as calculated height x 18.5” wide.
For either 24 day calendar
Alt.11: cut batting as 3.25” tall x 18.5” wide or cotton flannel as 6.5” tall x 18.5” wide.
Alt.13: pocket panels should be 18.5” wide.
Alt.16: follow the steps for rows one, two, and three; row four should be left flat.