Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pottery Barn Inspired Christmas Tree Advent Calendar { FULL Tutorial}

Last year at this time, I was hard at work creating a Christmas Tree Advent Calendar for my family. It is inspired by the Pottery Barn version from a few years back. This is among my Top 5 projects I've ever made, mainly because of its sentimental value. Would you believe me if I told you I gave this to my sister last year for Christmas? Yup :) I need to make a new one for my family! I might change a few things this time around. I posted five separate tutorials for this (I did a sew-along). I thought it would be nice to combine everything into one post, start to finish, so here you go! If anyone makes this, I would LOVE to see a picture!!!

 I just love love all the detail that went into this advent tree.

Before I get to the tutorial, let me share with you a few thoughts....
This beautiful calendar was sold at Pottery Barn a few years ago. They don't sell it anymore, which is why I decided to make it. The original price was something like $150, which I thought was outrageous. It cost me roughly $20 to make this. But in all honesty, now I understand the high price. Why? Because it took me nearly 30 hours to make this!!! If I had known it would take me so long, there is no WAY I would have made it! I think I could have been just as satisfied with a store-bought calendar on 50% off, or a much easier homemade idea. (Ok, maybe not. I am pretty proud of it)! I really am so excited to have it, and to use with with my family for years to come. I'm just glad its done!!!

Mine and Theirs:
A lot of my squares are different than theirs, so its not a total knock off. :)

Supply List
--2 yards green felt (I used expensive wool for the front, and cheap felt for the back)
--1 yard muslin (to practice tracing your tree's shape)
--1 yard quilter's batting (to save money, i bought Christmas snow for $3)
--1.5 yards interfacing
--craft glue
--thread and embroidery floss
--needles (we will be hand sewing and machine sewing)
--sheets of felt (lots of colors... green, red, pink, white, blue, black, yellow, cream... get different shades of each of these)
--embellishments: googly eyes, ribbon, buttons, puff balls, white glitter paint, etc
--numbers (what's your plan? I'm going to chain stitch mine).
here's the Christmas "snow" that I purchased.

Part 1
  1. Think it over in your mind. What colors do you want your squares to be? What types of decorations will you be doing? Exactly like Pottery Barns'? Or a few with your own spin?
 Here's what I'm doing....
I cut 25 squares 4inches by 3.5 inches. You can get 6 squares out of one piece of felt using those measurements. I used brown, dark red, cream, green, yellow, turquoise, and light blue felt.

2. Then lay them out on your piece of green felt, so you can get a feel for what it'll look like. I used the same spacing that Pottery Barn did, 7 rows of 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, and 6 squares. *The way I have them laid out here is too close together! I forgot to add space for the numbers that I will be embroidering underneath. This is just a rough draft.
3. I figured out the spacing of my squares, by turning them lengthwise on my felt. Now I have plenty of room for everything. Now its time to cut the tree. I placed a piece of muslin over my squares, and free handed the shape of my tree. I referred to the Pottery Barn picture many times to get it just right.
If you mess up, just cross out the marks that you don't like, and keep going until your shape is just right.
4. Fold your muslin in half, and cut it all out.
Then place it on your tree, and cut it out. I love it!
*You will want 2 layers of felt for your tree. I used the expensive, pretty, real wool felt for the front of my tree, and a cheap felt for the back of it.
Here's the general shape so far.
8. Cut out a tree stump and a star. I want mine both to be 2 layers thick. I used one sheet of brown felt and folded it in half. For the star, I used 2 sheets of felt. (I free handed a star on a piece of muslin before cutting).
9. At this point, it is a good idea to come up with a "list" of pocket decorations you plan on doing. I got started on the easy ones first.

Part 2
Time to design your pockets!
 I used this tutorial for a lot of my ideas.
Basically, the only step is....
put on a good movie and start cutting!

Here is a close up of each square so you can see the details that went into each one.

Part 3
Now it is time to embroider all your decorations. I used a combination of backstitching, chain stitching, french knots, and just "eyeballing it." I won't take the time to explain how to embroider, but look on youtube if you don't know how to thread a needle or do these stitches.

In random order, here are my finished pockets.

I unpicked the zigzagging and re-sewed the edge over with a straight stitch.

1. After all the squares are embroidered, iron interfacing to be back to protect your stitching.
Here's my stack!

2. I forgot to take a picture, but for this step, you need to fold each pocket over 1/8 an inch and sew a straight stitch. This will protect the top edge of your pocket when you are taking objects in and out.

3. Arrange the squares on your tree. Then pin those puppies so they stay put. This is a big job! I zig zag stitched mine, but if you're feeling ambitious, you could hand sew them all. (Pretend the numbers aren't here yet).

4. Now its time to add the numbers. There are several ways this can be done. I embroidered mine by back-stitching. I didn't do a perfect job (i.e. some look like a 3rd grader could have done them, haha).

5. Time for the back layer. (It's a different color- this felt was cheaper. It won't matter at all).
First, I added a pocket to mine. This way I can store the pieces of paper that have our activities written on them. Next, I cut out my batting, using the back layer as my pattern. I used Christmas tree "snow" as my batting.
Here's how it looks.

6. Now attach the batting to the back of the back layer. I did little pin tucks in a few places, then basted the edges together with my sewing machine.

7. Now, for the nerve-racking job. Place right sides together, and stitch around the tree. I followed the edge of my presser foot. Make sure to leave a large opening at the bottom so you can turn it right side out!
We're sewing 3 layers together- front, back, and batting.

8. Now my sewing is done. Make sure you left a large opening! Clip your corners of the swirly parts of the tree, and turn right side out.

9. Make you star and tree stump. I sewed mine together, turned them right side out, stuffed with cotton, then top stitched.
(Remember top-stitched around this after stuffing it with batting).

10. Now we need to top stitch around the entire tree, while adding the tree stump, and closing up the bottom. Pin the bottom opening together, and layer the stump in there.

11. Final touches: Remove your basting stitches. Figure out a way to hang it... I can't find my D-rings, so for now, I just hand-sewed a temporary hanger. Then, sew some cute snowflake buttons through all 3 layers (this will help keep things in place).

Holy Moly, it's done!!!!!!!!!!!

It's 56 inches tall, bigger than my 5 year old daughter!

Oh, the memories I look forward to!
If you'd like to see my list of advent activity ideas, here they are.

Advent Ideas
1. Set up Christmas decorations
2. City Christmas Tree lighting ceremony
3. Write letters to Santa
4. Christmas cards
5. Christmas Shopping
6. Make a holiday craft
7. Visit Santa
8. Attend a Christmas concert, play, recital, etc.
9. Attend a Christmas concert, play, recital, etc.
10. Ugly Sweater Party at our house
11. Church Christmas party
12. Service: Spread Holiday Cheer
13. Read Christmas books
14. Wrap presents
15. Make gifts for teachers
16. Family Movie Night with treats
17. Decorate Gingerbread houses
18. Play in the snow
19. Hot cocoa and look at Christmas lights drive
20. Make Christmas goodies
21. Take gifts to neighbors
22. Christmas Caroling
23. Service: Spread Holiday Cheer
24. Act out nativity scene, special Christmas presentation and dinner
25. Special breakfast and dinner, Write thank you notes



  1. Your tree is amazing! It looks beautiful and I loved seeing all your little pictures up close. It's bound to be an heirloom for sure!

  2. WOW!!! It looks exactly the same. Great job.

  3. Wow, that looks like an insane amount of work! But, just think, it will be a treasured family item for so so many years to come!

  4. It looks great! all the work was worth it, I'm sure your kids will love using it each year!

  5. The advent calendar is amazing! Even though it took you 30 hours to make, you will have it for a lifetime and be able to pass it on to your kiddos.

  6. I love it. I think all your hard work paid off! I would be honored if you shared this at my Ginger Jamboree Link Party!

  7. WOW -- this is a major project, and it turned out fabulous! In fact, I think in some ways yours is even cuter than the pottery barn version! Great job!

    And thanks for linking up with us!

  8. Oh my goodness gracious. That is simply UNBELIEVABLE. Wow. You put so much work into that. And yes, even if you had spent $150 on the original, I guarantee this one means infinitely more and is destined to become a family heirloom for sure. You should be so very proud of your work. I know I am! Well done!
    P.S. I found you over at I Heart Nap Time

  9. I found this site from Pinterest. I was so inspired by your work that I made one this week. I agree. It is definitely a lot of work!!!! It took me 5 crazy days to do. i have no idea how much time i spent on it, but it was a lot!!! So happy it is done!!! I hung it up just in time for December 1st. It will definitely be apart of our holiday traditions for a long long time!!!

  10. Wow you did an amazing job! Thanks for sharing! I recently made a felt campfire playlet and learned the joys and woah's of working with felt! I want to try this one!

  11. Hey Rachel! found your project via knock off decor. I LOVE IT!!!!! What an insane amount of time and work went into it, but wow - what a treasure for your family. Thanks for sharing. I don't know if I'll be brave enough to attempt this, but if I am - definitely coming to your tutorial!

  12. I am so happy to have found this project... about 35 years ago I had made one very similar for my children. I have a 20 month old granddaughter and I was thinking about making an Advent Calendar. When I saw this I almost cried. I LOVE IT! thank you for posting even dough it will take almost two days to make it is worth it!

  13. I made this! Couldn't believe how good your tutorial was. It's the nicest thing I've ever made and it's for my little girl so I'm really proud. Thank you so much.

  14. I so want to make this! You did a great job! I'm curious how you hung this up and if it is stiff enough to lay flat on a wall? Will you share please. :)

  15. I so want to make this! You did a great job! I'm curious how you hung this up and if it is stiff enough to lay flat on a wall? Will you share please. :)


Thanks for your comment. Have a great day!
♥Rach H