I made a quilted advent calendar this year for my sister.
I didn’t use a pattern but I pulled some techniques from different projects I’ve learned to make a DIY advent calendar using scraps and remnants of Christmas fabrics.
Below is how I made it so you can use the instructions to make a personalized version for yourself – I made mine up as I went so I don’t have exact measurements for everything – but I have explained the important things to measure and how you can make a calendar like this to whatever size you want!
I forgot to take a photo when I finished it (planting hand on face now…) so this photo was taken after my sister opened it – after being folded up to send from the UK to Canada – thus the wrinkles!
For anyone who isn’t sure – a fabric advent calendar like this one is used to count down from December 1st to December 24th.
Unlike the paper version where you open a window to see a picture, a fabric advent calendar has numbered envelopes or numbered pockets that can hold small gifts or delicious treats.
The idea is that a child will get a little treat every day of December in the run up to Christmas.
Also in case you weren’t sure – you only put one treat in at a time so we don’t have to worry about weighing the whole thing down!
Christmas Advent Calendar – Materials Needed:
Note: measurements are going to depend on the space you are making your calendar for and I’ll explain all that in the instructions.
- Christmas Fabric Scraps (plus optional solid scraps)
- Leftover Batting Scraps
- Backing Fabric
- Wooden Dowel
Note: There is a video tutorial and printable version of the instructions at the end of this post!
What size to make your Advent Calendar?
My sister gave me a maximum width of 30″ for her advent calendar because she had a specific wall she wanted it to go on.
She said it could be longer in terms of height so I made mine about 30″ x 50″(it might have been a little longer but I didn’t measure it properly before I sent it to her!).
I knew I kind of wanted to do a rough Christmas tree-shaped kind of idea but beyond that, I didn’t have a complete plan going forward.
To determine what size to use for the backing panel I cut out pieces of paper in different sizes to represent the pockets and laid them out on the floor in the layout I wanted.
Because of the specifics my sister gave me about what she wanted to put in her pockets, I made mine no smaller than 3″ x 3″ and no bigger than 7″ x 7″ (More about how to make the pockets below!).
Planning Your Advent Calendar
I had a piece of scrap fabric with lots of numbers on it, so I cut out numbers 1-24 to use as the numbers on my pockets. [You could embroider or sew on numbers if you can’t find something like this.]
When I had a rough idea of the background size, I confirmed it by cutting out a piece of construction paper that was the same size as the finished size I wanted my advent calendar to be.
I then laid out the paper pockets I had cut out earlier on to the backing paper mock-up to come up with a rough layout and make sure that the sizes of pockets I wanted to make would all fit in the way I was imagining.
The photo above is me repeating this exercise after I had quilted the background fabric.
Making the Backing for Your Advent Calendar
Before I started on the pockets I pieced together some batting scraps to make a big enough piece for the calendar (click here for how to piece together your batting scraps if you aren’t sure what I mean).
I used two larger Christmas fabric remnants – a glittery silver one for the top half and a black and white snowflake design for the bottom.
You can use anything you like but if you want to use lots of colours for your pockets I would suggest going with something more muted for the background.
I quilted it with straight lines using a walking foot WITHOUT the backing fabric – we’ll add that later.
Cutting Guide for Advent Calendar Pocket Fabric
Once the backing was quilted and I’d done another trial run of the pocket sizes using paper, I started cutting out my fabric.
BEFORE you cut your fabric you need to make a decision about whether you want to do kind of concertina-style expanding pockets or flat pockets.
What I call concertina pockets are the ones that expand when you put something in them – so they have the ability to puff out a bit from the backing if that makes sense!
Flat pockets are just that, they will be pretty much flat onto the backing so they won’t be able to hold things that are very deep or thick.
So, for example, you could use an expanding concertina pocket to put a small soft toy or if it’s a long enough pocket a rolled-up kid’s magazine, but for a flat pocket, you are probably talking about a candy bar or a hot wheels car or something small like that.
For Concertina Expanding Pockets: Cut 1 piece of fabric and 1 piece of batting at least 4″ wider than the size you want the front of the pocket to be.
For Flat Pockets: Cut 1 piece of fabric and 1 piece of batting 1/2″ wider than the size you want the front pocket to be.
For Both: the height can be whatever you like as long as you’ve worked out that it will fit on your backing with all the other pockets!
For Both: Cut one piece of fabric & batting for the front of the pocket and one piece for the lining. The lining piece should be 1″ higher than the outer pocket piece (see my video tutorial for a video of how to cut for directional fabric).
For Both: Since we will be quilting our pockets before we fully construct them it is best to cut your outer fabric and batting slightly larger than you need and then trim down when you are finished quilting and you are ready to add the lining piece. Don’t cut the lining piece until you are finished quilting the outer pocket.
I folded back the sides of the pockets that I decided to do concertina-style to check if everything would still fit. I did a mix of flat and expanding pockets.
Quilting Your Pockets
I used this project as a way to try lots of different quilting techniques on a small scale.
Some pockets I did with classic straight lines with a walking foot and for some I practiced different free motion quilting designs. If you mess it up its only one pocket and you can easily swap it out for another so get creative!
Just like the backing we are quilting just the top fabric and the batting, the lining fabric comes next.
I attached my pocket numbers using raw edge applique AFTER I finished quilting each pocket and BEFORE I added the lining fabric.
Adding the Lining Fabric
Trim your finished quilted pocket front to the desired size (see guide above) and then cut your lining fabric to the same size but add 1″ to the height.
Place the pocket and lining fabric right sides together and sew from the top of the outer pocket around to the opposite side using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Trim your corners and turn your pocket right side out – use a chopstick or other pointy blunt object to push out your corners.
Now fold over your lining fabric so the raw edge meets the raw edge of the outer pocket and then fold again to create a binding for your pocket (see video below if you need a better visual!).
Top stitch as close to the edge of the pocket binding as you can.
If you are making a flat pocket you are now ready to attach it to your advent calendar.
For an expanding pocket read the next section.
To make an expanding pocket (the ones I keep calling concertina style), you need to fold each pocket to the back at the sides and stitch in place to form the ‘corners’ of the expanding pocket.
I’m afraid I forgot to take photos of the flaps from the back, but you can see what I mean in the video below.
At a minimum you want the folded flap to be an 1″ so that you have space to sew your 1/4″ seam to attach it and to create the corner.
If you make the folds deeper, then your pocket will be deeper.
I didn’t use exact measurements when I was doing this, I just folded the pockets and kept going back to my backing and testing if it would fit in the space I’d allocated for it.
When you are happy with your fold lines pin in place and stitch down the side twice – at approx 1/8″ and 1/4″. Do the same to both sides.
My Advent Calendar was a bit of an improv style project so I didn’t methodically plan out the size of the pockets, I just went with my rough size guide and adjusted and shuffled the pockets around as I went.
I constructed all of the pockets and pinned them in place before I attached any of them to the backing so I could move them around to get that Christmas Tree shape I was after.
I did a mixture of flat and expanding pockets for mine.
Attaching your Pockets
Flat Pockets: Simply pin to the desired location on your calendar and sew two lines around the outer edge (obviously leaving the top edge open!) at as close to an 1/8″ and a 1/4″ as you can get. Don’t forget to backstitch when you start and stop and I find it looks best with a longer stitch length.
Expanding Pockets: You need to fold the flap that is now to the back of your pocket in half and position your pocket on your backing so that the fold sits directly under the front of your pocket – this will make the fold invisible from the front.
Pin in place and stitch down each side at an 1/8″ and a 1/4″ – backstitching at both ends.
Finally sew two lines of stitching along the bottom of your pocket (sewing through the side stitching lines you just did) again at a 1/8″ and a 1/4″ and again using your backstitch.
Adding the Backing Fabric
I used an old duvet cover for the backing but you can use whatever you like.
Just cut the backing fabric slightly larger than your calendar if you intend to do additional quilting – you can trim it down after.
I played with my new Bernina quilting rulers to make the outline of a Christmas Tree and to add some ‘twinkles’ around the star pocket at the top.
Adding the Hanging
Before you attach the binding to your Advent Calendar, let’s add a way to hang it up!
To do this I cut two squares (the size depends on the size of your calendar, but somewhere in the region of 5″-8″ should work for most wall hangings) and folded them in half so that each one formed a triangle.
Pin them to the top corners of the advent calendar with the raw edges lining up with the raw edges of the calendar.
Sew in place along the raw edges only.
Measure the distance between the two corners and buy a wooden dowel that is about a 1/2″ shorter. This will slot into your two corners and you can hang your calendar on a nail or hook on the wall.
Lastly, add your binding. I used 2.5″ binding strips and I did it by machine on both sides.
Video Tutorial & Printable Instructions
How to make your own Advent Calendar to any size using Christmas Fabric Scraps!
- Holiday Fabric (Scraps and Remnants are fine!)
- Fabric for Lining (Scraps and Remnants in solid colours work great for this but you can use prints too).
- Quilt Batting (again this is a perfect project for using up batting scraps)
- Sewing Machine
- Rotary Cutter
- Decide on the finished size you want for your Advent Calendar.
- Make a paper version of your final size and cut out paper pockets to your desired sizes and test that you can fit all 24 pockets on your background.
- When you are happy with your test layout, prepare your background piece by quilting the top fabric to a piece of batting (no backing fabric at this stage).
- When your background piece is complete, test your paper pockets again and then cut the fabric and batting for your pockets.
- For flat pockets cut 1/2" wider than desired size. For expanding pockets cut 4" wider than desired size (can be wider if you want it deeper). (You may want to cut this slightly larger initially before quilting and trim it down after).
- Quilt pocket fabric on to batting and attach a number for your pocket using raw edge applique or another method.
- Trim your quilted pocket front to size as indicated in step 5.
- Cut a piece of. lining to the same width as your pocket front and add 1" to the height.
- Sew lining and pocket front right sides to right sides around the sides and bottom. Trim corners and turn right side out.
- Fold lining fabric in so raw edge hits the raw edge of the front pocket. Then fold again. Pin in place and topstich near the edge of the folded lining.
- For flat pockets attach to background with two lines of stitching at 1/8" and 1/4".
- For expanding pockets, fold the sides of each pocket to the back of your pocket so that the folded 'flap' is a minimum of 1" wide (can be more for deeper pockets). Sew down the front of your pocket to secure the fold at 1/8" and 1/4".
- To attach an expanding pocket fold the 'flap' in half and position it underneath the pocket front. Pin in place and sew two lines down each side at a 1/8" and 1/4". Finally sew along the bottom at a 1/8" and a 1/4".
- Once all pockets are attached cut backing fabric for your calendar and secure in place with any additional quilting you desire.
- Before binding use two squares of fabric, each folded to make a traingle on te top corners of your advent calendar. Sew the raw edges in place along the raw edge of your calendar.
- Purchase a wooden dowel that is 1/2" less wide than your calendar.
- Finish with traditional quilt binding as desired. I did mine by machine with 2.5" strips.
Other Posts you might enjoy: