Advent Calendar

Growing up, my mom had this wonderful Advent calendar that came out every year right after Thanksgiving. It was entirely made of felt, and she’d put it together when I was tiny and we were living in Germany, so it had a delightfully subtle European influence. Deep blue background, with a jute braid winding up the center as the street through the center of a little town. At the top of it all, and at the end of the street, a sweet village chapel with a star burning bright above it, welcoming the arrival of Christmas. Along the sides of the street were felt houses, one for each day from December 1 through Dec 23, and pinned to one all during the month was a paper doll family–one for each of us. The family would move from house to house all month long, a different house each day, finally arriving at the chapel on Christmas Eve, beneath the shining star. Some years, when we all remembered, we’d move the family to the star itself on Christmas morning.

I loved seeing this scene replay itself each year, and it has become such a permanent part of my memories of childhood. I’ve been through shops and seen other Advent calendars, some good–hand carved pieces from Guatemala in one–others not so much–paper cards with a candy for each day that had creepy woodland creatures on them, some sort of Easter/Christmas mishmash. None of them, not even the bestest handmade ones, really could hold a candle to the one I grew up with. In my mind, it is larger than life, and holds so much more than the bits of felt that went into making it.

And for me, that’s what handmade really comes down to: not the cache it currently holds, but the connection it creates and the past-joined-to-future aspect. I want to pass that on to my own children, and have waited entirely too long to grab the dog by the ears (as the Romans used to say) and make it happen.

If I learned nothing else from the yard upon yard of gorgeous hoarded wool that I lost to the Great Flood of 2009, it’s that waiting hardly ever pays off in sewing. Do it NOW, I say.

So I am.

This week’s major project: a modern re-creation of this 70s epic masterpiece. I’m thinking 3D applique on a felt background. Anyone else have suggestions? What do you do (if anything) for an Advent calendar in your house?

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving, and looking forward to spending the Christmas season with you!

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  • Meredith
    November 30, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I have been in love with this advent calendar ever since I came across it on a blog a year or two ago:;

    After seeing yours, I'm inspired to integrate some sort of midcentury architecture into those houses and make it a bit mod! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Serendipity Handmade
    December 1, 2009 at 12:04 am

    I love it! It's like no other advent calendar I've seen. You wouldn't happen to want to offer a tutorial once you've made yours, would you? *hint* 🙂

  • dana
    December 1, 2009 at 12:08 am

    ooooo. I can't wait to see what you come up with!
    I had plans to do one this year but well, time has come and gone. But next year I'll be making it:
    Little felt christmas trees, shaped in a cone, like an upside down sugar cone or a teepee. Each tree will have a number and a treat inside.
    And they'll be part of a larger "christmas village" that I'll one day create. Hmmm…maybe I need to DO IT NOW, as you wisely shared.
    I'll just pretend that Next year is NOW 🙂

  • Chief Chick
    December 3, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I love the 3-D felt appliques, especially little houses. We have a large collage (in Ohio) consisting of about two dozen tiny houses on a painted background-the houses are constructed of fabric, ric-rac, buttons, sequins, etc. There is also a great quilted white fabric used for snow, clouds, etc. It was the inspiration for this:

    Lauren's classmates collaged the birds and I created the background. Terrible picture, but it was darling, really. Anyway-sadly, we're doing chocolate advent calendars this year, which arrived Monday from my father, who I think just may have bought them on sale LAST Christmas. That's how bad the chocolate is. Other ideas? Hmmm…seems to me that Martha did one using baby socks-cute random ones you couldn't find the matches to? Not the kind that came in a three-pack from Target. Oh, let's face it, you know Martha doesn't lose socks. Or have babies.

  • subha
    December 3, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    i love this idea! my daughter is only 11 months….so not sure i'll start it this year, but definitely something for her 2nd christmas! looking forward to seeing what you come up with!


  • 36 Days Until Christmas — Whipstitch
    November 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    […] up some projects for my family and devoting my hours just slightly less strictly to work.  Our Advent calendar is nearly done (and just in time), and our eldest needs another stocking (last year’s was […]

  • Advent Calendar Sew-Along — Whipstitch
    November 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    […] 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 […]

  • Diane Christy
    December 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Last weekend I took 1.5 hours to do what I hadn’t done for 35 years, sew down the houses and trees on the Advent calendar pictured at the top of this page. All the years of unrolling it and finding some of the houses looking post-tsunami are over! I steamed the whole darn thing after the stitching was finished and added a new jute rope to hang it.

    I have to say I resisted the temptation to add some stuff to the calendar, realizing that it was perfect just the way it was.

    The moral of the story is that IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. Not too late to enhance, re-conceive, finish, or even to begin.