Countdown to Christmas with Joy Margot’s handmade advent calendar!
Hello again! I’m notoriously terrible at leaving seasonal makes to the last minute so I thought that arranging to write a blog post about this advent calendar would help me finish it on time. Full disclosure: I still need to do a little hand-stitching, but it will definitely be ready to fill with tasty treats come December…
I had admired these advent calendar panels last Christmas, but I wasn’t sure that my sewing skills were up to the task. This year, with another 12 months of sewing experience and a fancy new machine under my belt, I fancied tackling something new! I’d love to have a go at quilting, and I thought that this would be a great introduction to some quilting techniques.
I couldn’t resist this thoroughly charming panel by Makower, which I got from Escape and Create.
This project is quite preparation-heavy. I started by cutting out the pockets with a rotary cutter, ruler and self-healing mat. The instructions didn’t say to finish the edges of the pockets, but I chose to do so. I don’t have an overlocker, so I used the overcasting stitch (10) and presser foot (G) on my Brother Innov-is A60SE:
As the overcasting stitch only uses two threads, it was really quick and easy to change thread colour for the different pocket colours. I have used cream, red and black threads throughout this project, and I think taking the time to switch threads has really added to the polished look of the completed project.
With the edges finished, it was time to get pressing! I started by pressing down the top of each pocket, following the lines on the panel:
Next, I used my blind stitch foot (R) to evenly topstitch the top of each pocket. These hems are really tiny!
With the pockets topstitched, I pressed the sides and bottoms of all of the pockets and pleated the double pockets. Thankfully, there’s a little diagram explaining how to do this at the top of the panel.
Once the pockets were pressed, it was time to attach them to the backing panel. I used a lot of pins to keep them in place while I stitched them on. Again, I switched between cream, black and red threads for the different pockets:
I stitched one pocket with my blind stitch foot (R) but felt that the stitching was too far in, so I switched to the zigzag foot (J) and stitched as closely to the gold lines of the pockets as possible.
After attaching the pockets, I needed to add the backing. The instructions suggest sewing the panel, backing and wadding RST and turning out, but I decided to treat mine like a mini quilt, and bind the edges.
First, I cut my backing fabric (I used plain black) slightly larger than the front of the panel. I then cut a piece of fusible fleece the same size and applied this as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Next, I added a channel for a wooden doweling rod to help the calendar keep its shape: I cut a long thin strip of backing fabric, sewed it a tube, turned it inside out and stitched it to the top of the back panel.
Once I had layered up my “sandwich” (advent panel – right side up – fusible fleece, backing), I added curved safety pins at 10cm intervals over the entire panel, and quilted the edge of the house to keep the layers together. This would be a great opportunity to use a walking foot if you have one! I matched my top thread to the image on the panel and used black bobbin thread so that my stitches wouldn’t show on the reverse.
Next, I trimmed the edges of the backing and wadding, and applied my binding using this method. I made sure I kept the doweling rod channel out of the way when attaching it to the top.
All that’s left to do now is hand-stitch the binding on the back which I’m looking forward to doing in front of a Christmas movie this weekend! I’ve never done a mitred corner with binding before, and I’m pretty pleased with my first attempt.