Advent Calendar Sew-Along

I am, at heart, a planner.  I tend to make lists and sketches and diagrams and schematics, and wrestle endlessly with ideas–talking them out loud to myself as I bring them to life–before I act on my plans.  Sometimes this looks like procrastination, sometimes it looks like too many ideas, but it’s where my best work gets done as often as not.  There are occasions, though, where I get an idea and it takes hold of me and I run with it.  This is one of those times.  Better yet, it’s one of the times when I get an idea from a plan I’ve been dreaming up, and the two have wild hairy babies and take off into the wild world, breeding huger plans that involve all of you, too.  So, I’m kind of excited about this today, and hope you’ll play along with me.

Here’s what happened:

Yesterday, I was sort of lazily looking around the (messy) studio, thinking to myself, “What should I sew next?” in the lackadasical way of someone who has something to do but has forgotten about doing it.  And then it hit me: Advent calendar.  How many days left until December?  Ooops.

Last year, I planned to sew an Advent calendar based on the one my mother had made when my sister and I were young.  It never happened.  So this year, at the Sewing Retreat, I was working through plans and deciding what I wanted it to look like, determined that I would get it done this year.  I didn’t get it done yet.  I had a vision of a patchworked and semi-quilted project that would last until my own children have children, very much in the style of the one my mother still hangs every year.

Last night, before I taught my class at the shop, I mentioned all this to Diana, our intrepid manager extraordinaire.  I lamented how challenging it would be to make this calendar in one-and-a-half days, but was determined to see it happen this year.  The design is a village path leading between houses, with a chapel at the end, twenty-four buildings in all.  A (fabric) paper doll family moves from house to house over the course of the Advent season, arriving at the chapel on Christmas Eve to await the birth of the baby Jesus.  The foundation of the whole thing, which is designed to hang on a door or wall, isn’t the challenge–it’s all those little houses!  Diana, who always says just the right single word or phrase to fire off a million ideas in my head and make the final details click, says, “You can make one house a day.”  That was all. And the light went on: What if I make one house a day?  Like, through the Advent season?  And this year, as the little family makes their way to the chapel, the village grows–and then next year and every year after, the calendar is done and ready to enjoy?  Brilliant!

But of course, being me, I continued to think about the plan, and it began to take on a larger form all of its own: what if as I make each house, I blog each house?  And share them with you, like an Advent house-of-the-day as December moves along?  Fun!  But then, I have some other really cool stuff I want to do on the blog this December, and I don’t want to pepper everyone with multiple posts per day.  So maybe the houses go on their own page?  And I link to them from the main page?  But wait!!  Wouldn’t it be cool if we could make little houses together?  Like….like…like an Advent Calendar Sew-Along!

The fabulous wreath featured on this button is available from georgiapeachez in her Etsy shop–love those vintage bulbs!

And now here we are!  I’m delighted to invite you to join me in sewing my Advent calendar this December, bit by bit, all of us together so that we can finally, finally get it completed and share it with our families.  It’s such a great tradition, and one I loved so deeply as a child, and I hear and read so much about so many of us wishing we’d found the time to make one.  In the spirit of our 2010 Sewing Goals, let’s make the time and sew them alongside one another.

You’re certainly not limited to making a calendar like mine, although I’ll be sharing details, tutorials and templates as we go along if that’s what you want to do.  I’ve compiled a list of amazing and modern and inspiring Advent calendars to sew all over the web for you to pick from–just making one while the rest of us do is enough to share the spirit!

I’ve placed a button in the sidebar to click each day and see the newest little house go up on the background.  I’m super looking forward to seeing all the many, many variations out there, and can’t wait to see this one finished and drinking in the buzz and the warmth of Christmas!

Advent calendar designs, tutorials, and inspiration:

  • The Whipstitch Village Path Advent calendar! Follow along each day starting tomorrow, and see the circa-1975 inspiration here.
  • Embroidered felt Advent calendar on Purl Bee
  • Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson! shows a quilted calendar on Sew, Mama, Sew
  • Jenny B Harris of All Sorts does a pocket-style calendar
  • Wouldn’t these stacked fabric Christmas trees make a sweet Advent calendar display on a table top?  From the Small Object.
  • Liesl Gibon’s lovely mitten calendar on Oliver + S
  • Wool stars Waldorf-inspired calendar from Heirloom Seasons
  • This blanket stitch garland from Anna Maria could be a super cute Advent garland, too!
  • Super sweet felt calendar from Inchmark (via The Long Thread)
  • Teeny tiny stocking calendar from Trillium (love this one!)
  • Miniature Santa sack Advent calendar from The Mother Huddle (via CraftGossip)
  • House of many windows Advent calendar tutorial from See Mommy Sew
  • Little Birdie Advent calendar from Skip to My Lou
  • Modern quilted Advent wall hanging from Freshly Pieced
  • String of Lights Advent calendar garland from Elsie Marley
  • Updated 12/1: I just learned through Dana of MADE that Homemade by Jill has been hosting an Advent Calendar Sew-Along, too!  See all the posts here.
  • Fairytale Pumpkin has Advent calendar kits available for purchase.
  • Pocket Advent calendar from Noodleheads
  • Did I miss a really great modern Advent calendar?  Add the link in the comments and I’ll update the list!

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  • Belinda Gelhausen
    November 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Here’s what I did last year with Jennifer Harris’ Advent pockets. My nest is empty but my husband & I had a lot of fun with this last year 🙂

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  • liveacolorfullife
    November 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    My daughter-in-law has made kits with verses and something for each day’s pocket, and her friend made the cool calendars:

    I’ll be sewing along with you!

  • Zoe B
    November 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Loving the sew-along idea!

  • Mel
    November 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Love this idea & can’t wait to see it as you progress! (also loved that wreath from your friend’s etsy site so much that I bought it!)

  • Lee
    November 30, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Here’s my advent calendar tutorial! Mine is made with a header and calendar numbers I designed myself, now available from Spoonflower.

    • Deborah
      December 1, 2010 at 6:51 pm


      Thanks so much for linking to your tute–love! Spoonflower inspires me with so many ideas that I haven’t tried yet, and now you’ve added one more… Can’t wait for the New Year to try some of them!

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  • Danielle H.
    December 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I love the inchmark one and had the goal of completing one like it by today. (Sadly mine is no where near done). I found this great tutorial/sewalong for one inspired by hers. They even templates for the felt ornaments

    • Deborah
      December 1, 2010 at 6:50 pm

      I just saw this on MADE today, too! How did I miss it before now? I might’ve gotten mine done sooner! Still, there must be folks out there like me who are running late, and hers looks like it’s wrapping up. I’m happy to lead the procrastinators to craft victory! 🙂

  • ra_life
    December 1, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    I’m sewing along 🙂 and as an added challenge I’ve decided to only use materials I already have.

    Day one is safely in the bag.

    • Deborah
      December 1, 2010 at 7:39 pm

      Love this!! The fact that the envelope opens and has a teeny letter inside is SO great. Am glad to have you sewing along!

  • Heidi
    December 2, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I’m going to sew along with you! I’ve never done this so I’m really looking forward to it. I would love to get more info on what exactly you do with it. I have three children (8, 6, and 3) so any ideas/suggestions would be welcome.

    • Deborah
      December 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      Just pick a project and get started! We’re planning on having the kids move the paperdoll family from one house to the next each day, but because I’m working on it as the season progresses, won’t do that this year. By Christmas Eve when it’s done, we’ll have our little family in place and all move the family to the chapel to await the baby’s birth!

  • Zoe B
    December 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I am sewing along…. one of my houses has already “spilled” over and will be behind some of the binding…. OOPS! I was a bit relieved to read your post today stating that you may “plan” on this anyway. 😉 This is the very first sew-along I have participated in. I already have visions of passing it down to my youngest daughter. 😀

  • Zoe B
    December 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I LOVE the mailbox and would LOVE if you could scan it in and post it???

  • dorothy @ christmas felt kits
    October 17, 2011 at 11:59 am

    this is really great. i want to try this for this year to add to my christmas craft collection.