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How to Make an Advent Calendar

Frugal Crafts and Homemade Gifts (featured column)
by Alicia Klepeis

Homemade Advent Calendar

My kids love Advent calendars. Over the years, we’ve have had glittery paper versions depicting Santa, thicker ones full of snowman-embossed chocolate, and even fancy Playmobil® Advent calendars (when an aunt splurged on them). But we parents know that if you spend lots of money at the start of the holiday season, there isn't as much for the Christmas dinner or gifts to friends and family.

In my quest for a new holiday ritual, we made our own Advent calendars, complete with various-sized pockets. You can get as fancy or keep them as simple as you want. You can use materials that are in your house already or buy a few things to add details.

Here’s how we made our Advent calendars:


Fabric (roughly 1/3 yard per calendar, plus more for pockets)

Glue gun or needle and thread

Fabric marker or fabric crayons

Wooden dowel (1/4” x 48”)

Buttons, beads, or sequins to decorate (optional)

Ribbon or string to hang the calendar


1. Before investing in materials, it’s a good idea to brainstorm. Do the kids want to use colorful fabric or design their own Advent calendar backgrounds? How big should the calendars be? What materials do you have available? This project can quickly turn into a recycling or scavenger hunt -- See what gems you have lying around in your craft box, junk drawer, etc. In our case, the only material we paid for was the wooden dowel.

2. Using a ruler, mark the edges of your fabric with chalk or pencil before cutting. Our calendars were roughly 13” x 13.” Think about the size of the trinkets that you plan to put into the calendars. Bigger pockets will require a bigger piece of background fabric.

3. If you are not using printed fabric, have the kids use fabric markers or fabric crayons to color their calendars’ background designs. When we made ours, my kids were small enough that they wanted me to draw the outline of something – an angel, a snowman, and a Christmas tree – which they could color in as they pleased. Older kids may want to create their own masterpieces.

4. Next, you'll need to plan out the pocket layout. Do you want all the pockets to be the same size? Or do you prefer a variety of pocket sizes so you can put different sized items in over the course of December? We used some square and some rectangular-shaped pockets. Our smallest pocket was about 1 ¾” square and our largest pocket measured 3” x 2 ¼”. One idea is to cut out 24 pieces of paper and play around with the location of the paper “pockets” on the background fabric. Once you are happy with their sizes and locations, you can cut out the fabric pockets, 24 per calendar.

Note: Remember to leave an inch of space at the top of the fabric to roll around the dowel.

Attach top of Advent Calendar onto dowel

5. You can attach the pockets to the background fabric using either a needle and thread or a glue gun. We used a glue gun, which I wielded. This is often a job best left to an adult – the glue can be extremely hot. You only need a thin layer of glue on three sides. Avoid using too much so that you leave room for treasures to fit into the pockets.

6. Once the glue is completely dry, the kids can use a fabric marker to write the numbers 1 through 24 on the pockets. They can also embellish the calendar at this time with sequins, beads, etc.

7. Cut the dowel into sections that are at least two inches longer than your fabric. For instance, each calendar was 13” across and we cut the dowels to 16”. We used a branch cutter to divide the dowel into three 16” sections. (Many hardware stores will also cut the dowels, perhaps for a small fee.)

8. Roll the top of your calendar’s fabric around the dowel, leaving an even amount of dowel on each side. Again, you can sew the fabric or use the glue gun to secure the fabric around the dowel.

9. Cut some ribbon or string and tie a knot around the top edges of the dowel. Hang them up, and admire your handiwork!

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Copyright © 2012 by Alicia Klepeis.  All rights reserved.

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