It was the winter of 1988 when my sister-in-law showed me an advent calendar in a magazine. Both the calendar and ornaments were made entirely of felt. At the time I had what was called a “cottage industry” sewing business, tailoring, mending and sewing grad dresses. I’d only ever made 3 quilts and had no idea about “walking feet.” I decided to give the advent calendar a go as I had two boys aged 3 yrs and 18mths & thinking it would become a family Christmas tradition. I decided to start with a fabric background and make the tree, ornament pockets & ornaments out of felt. I tailored the ornaments of the tree to things relating to our family.
The first year I didn’t get all the ornaments made and so used Christmas broaches and bows to fill the empty pockets. Over the years we replaced a few of the ornaments with plastic canvas. We had 3 stockings for 3 kids, a few trains, a fish and fishboat. We started out with two dogs and added another dog & bunny rabbit as they joined the family. I never did get Sean’s guinea pig made. Every December 1st the calendar was hung and the boys took turns putting the ornaments on the tree. I got to “work” the calendar for the first time in 2008 after Ryan was married and Sean was away at college. But one day after Christmas break started I happened to notice that there were too many ornaments on the tree. Turns out, Sean, who was home from college, automatically started decorating the advent. He is now the keeper of the calendar.
Since we had so much fun with our calendar I decided to make one for each of my sisters and their families. I still had no idea about machine quilting and walking feet! The one to the left is Joan’s family’s. Even though the pockets and tree are totally out of whack, it still gets used every year. In order to have it delivered to the girls on time Granny and I made a day trip to Tsawwassen from Nanaimo to make the delivery and were still putting finishing touches on it when it was time to ferry home. I think the Santa sleigh is the original from our family advent calendar. This one has a little Spark & Brownie representing the girls and they also got a Ninja Turtle…hooked on turtles thanks to Ryan & Sean. I’m pretty sure that Pat’s and Judy’s are just as wonky!
I started to get a little smarter when it came to machine quilting. I actually owned a walking foot and could free motion quilt too when I made the one to the right. This one was a little different in that I used tiny white buttons for holding tiny little ceramic ornaments. Felt is not the best choice when you are using velcro to attach the ornaments so I switched all the trees and pockets to cotton. I’ve made 4 others using this tree with a variety of elves doing the decorating. The last time I made one of these was in 2000 along with my junior scout leader, Melissa. I made two quilted calendars and she made the plastic canvas ornaments for each one. The batting is 80/20, rotary cutters were used along with the proper quilting feet…the technique is honed! And this gets me to thinking that perhaps I ought to make one for myself!
I found the following site fun to look at…50 different advents to fit into any decor http://www.shelterness.com/50-cool-diy-advent-calendars/pictures/14458/
Happy quilting…Valerie Raye