Advent Calendar
January 12, 2014 posted by littlewhitecottage

How to make a family heirloom advent calendar part 1 – what you will do, what you will need.


 My mission with Little White Cottage is to experiment and make lovely things for my family that we need and will use (and love) for years to come but also to take my skills and pass them on to others. A large part of what I do is inspiring those who want to make but lack confidence, skills or knowledge to get started but just need a helping hand. My teaching background I’ve found is really helpful in sitting down and working out how best to show and explain something someone wants to learn. My ‘How to make a patchwork quilt’ set of tutorials has been very well received by those that have used it and I love it when followers send me pictures of finished projects they’ve completed for their family and friends which then inspires them to go on to have a go at making more fabulous things for their home. I always say to people ‘go on, have go! What’s the worst that can happen -you might need to unpick something?’

This set of tutorials will show you how to make the advent calendar that I made just before Christmas for my family. We are a large and growing family so the idea of having 4 advent calendars on a windowsill where the focus was purely on the chocolate didn’t really fill me with enthusiasm -though it did my boys! I wanted to make something special that they will have fond memories of just as Hubbie has about the hand made advent calendar his grandmother made that his family used each year. Despite what society might think of boys they can be quite sentimental…

Our advent calendar was filled with lots of different things for the boys to eat, play with and do which kept the element of surprise and anticipation there for the whole of December. I would hear them whispering around the corner where it hung, Hubbie and I would sit in the kitchen to hear them rustling in the pocket to see what was in them and this all added to the excitement that advent brings. I bought little plastic toys, chocolate coins, I bought a voucher for a chocolate shop where they could see the chocolate machine and choose some for themselves. I put in little written notes telling them they were going to the pantomime with school (my boys forget specific days of things), going to see the lights in London and going to see Grandma and there were also craft activities too such as making paper chains so it really wasn’t based purely on chocolate but there were a fair few treats.

I based my calendar on the design in this book as it was Christmassy without being over the top and as green is my favourite colour I loved it instantly. I needed and wanted to change a few bits though as we have 3 boys already and another little one on the way the dimensions were just too small for us so I made it a lot larger. I also made the border between the pockets the same width as that, for me, is more balanced. I added my own gingerbread man design as the boys wanted him in -this made it more ours as the gingerbread man features heavily in my work and there are lots around the house. I made the pockets slightly differently as I felt my way was less complicated and I like the look of it and I added my own design of a picture of a house with us as a family as stick people round the outside of it with our name. It’s certainly our advent calendar! So many people commented on the advent calendar before and after Christmas that although it took a long while (and I’m still in the process of backing it as I ran out of time though we could still use it so we did) it’s been well worth the effort.

What fabrics did I use? I recycled one of the boys cot bed duvets as I’d always like the green polka dot design (I use it on my blog!) and 2 old cot beds. I like the vintage look the brushed cotton sheets give the finished look as it’s bobbly and aged and doesn’t scream ‘brand new!’

So. Here goes. It’s always best to start off with what you need so supplies can be got ahead of making.

We will start with the pockets. You will need 25 (or 24 if you want to finish Christmas Eve, I had 25 to include Christmas Day as it balanced the whole design but it really is up to you) rectangles of white cotton measuring 24cms x 12.5cms (this includes a 1cm seam allowance so you don’t have to add any extra on). I used an old cot bed sheet and the dimension was 120cms x 170cms of white fabric. You can find the template by clicking in the link at the end of the blog, just print it out on card if you have any, if not draw round the printout onto an old cereal packet and this will do.



These will be the front of your pockets that have the white, felt border with the main design embroidered onto the front.

I padded the pockets using wadding so you will need roughly 1/2m of cotton curtain interlining.

You need to use the scalloped border and cut 25 of these out of white felt. You can buy a couple of felt squares from a craft shop or buy 1/2m from a roll of felt if you’d rather. Don’t worry about the embroidery I will show you that in next weeks tutorial.


This is how they will look as part of the pocket.

12For the embroidery I use Perle cotton size 8 as it’s thicker than embroidery thread and doesn’t need to be split before you sew. The Perle thread is tricky to thread needles with so I would recommend a needle threader to help you while you get used to it. (If you need to a job lot order for all the threads needed for the advent calendar, have a look at the finished picture at the top to see what you’ll need) For the scalloped edge you will need a green and a red.


This tutorial has introduced the advent calendar and how it can be used and I have listed the materials you’ll need to make the pockets. In the next tutorial I’ll show you how to hand embroider the scalloped edges as this may take a little time especially if you’re a beginner.

You can find the pocket templates here…

These are actual size so just print them out onto A4 paper and you’re ready to go…

Click on this link for part 2 of the tutorial.








  • Thank you for taking the time to hare this. I bought the book after seeing this on your page last year but as a beginner will find your tutorial very helpful. Many thanks

  • Thank you for taking the time to share this. I bought the book after seeing this on your page last year but as a beginner will find your tutorial very helpful. Many thanks

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