The first advent calendar I remember having must have been from when I was four. It was not much bigger than a piece of A4 and behind each window was a Christmas picture. I think Christmas Day had a bigger window. Apparently, my parents started my advent calendars a few days later than everyone else because I got far too excited during the build up to Christmas Day. I was even prescribed medicine to help me sleep on Christmas Eve (yep, that’s the 80s for you)!
What Is Up With Advent Calendars?!
Thirty-one years after my lovely pictorial Christmas countdown, advent calendars are just ridiculous. Where a tiny piece of chocolate was once considered a decent treat for every day, you can now get an advent calendar with pretty much any product in you like. Because what’s the countdown to Christmas without Pringles, Kellogg’s cereal, gin or socks? (Please read that sentence with extreme sarcasm).
Full disclosure: I am not religious, and our Christmas is a far more secular affair. For us Christmas is about spending time with loved ones and making happy memories. However, have we all seriously lost such sight of the festive season that we feel the need to “treat” ourselves with 24 bottles of booze? Or give our kids 24 pieces of plastic crap?
I love the tradition of having an advent calendar, although it’s a long time since I’ve had one myself. What I really don’t love about them is the amount of unnecessary waste they produce. Yes, even the chocolate ones.
Fabric Advent Calendars
A few years ago, I made some fabric advent calendars for my daughters. They’re fantastic and very easy to make if you can sew. Essentially it’s a printed panel and all you have to do is cut it out and sew a lot of straight lines! The panel creates the front and the printed pockets. You need to also have some fabric for the back, some quilt wadding for the middle, bias binding to finish the top edge and ribbon for hanging.
Originally when I made them, my sewing skills were very basic. I didn’t do the best job on them and wasn’t so happy with the result. We still used them even though I’d messed up the pockets! This year, possibly feeling emboldened by sewing a wedding dress, I decided to start again. I unpicked them and started from scratch.
Second Time Around
I’m really glad that I did. It took me a quite a while, but they look so much better. First time around I didn’t bother quilting either of them and as a result they just didn’t hang quite right. They felt quite floppy. This time around I quilted around each row of pockets and around the border and they feel a lot sturdier. I took the time to pleat the pockets properly and it’s a huge improvement!
To finish the top edge I used some lovely green polka-dot bias binding I had hanging around. I think it look quite festive! The ribbon loops are something I re-used from the first time that I put them together.
I really love how they look on these sticks! The sticks are just ones that the girls have collected on a walk. They have quite the collection. Andy peeled off the bark, cut them to the right length and then put them in the oven to dry out. They were put on a really low heat for about four hours and when they came out they were completely hard. I think they really finish them off nicely and they’ll last forever too!
Aside from the fact that these advent calendars are something I made, what I really love about them is that they’re completely plastic-free. They’ll last the girls basically forever (although I’m not sure I want to be filling them when they’re adults!) and every year they could be filled with something different.
I realise that not everyone has the time, or inclination, to sew an advent calendar themselves. I do think though, that there are plenty of ready-made products like this available and it would be really easy to re-use the same plastic-free advent calendar every year. There are also some really lovely wooden ones which can be filled as well. Here are a few suggestions:
How do we fill our advent calendars? Find out in my next blog post!