Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tutorial: Making the Christmas train Advent Calendar

 Last year I talked of the advantages of making an advent calender. Since then we have had requests to create a tutorial for those perhaps new to sewing and quilting for making these calenders  I'm mainly a dressmaking and pretty new to quilting and craft projects myself. As a result this is a true beginners step by step guide. As ever with these little projects I've chosen a festive film to keep time with. In honour of the Christmas Train Calendar, I picked Polar Express.

To begin with you will need

An Advent Calendar Panel
Thread Snips
Sewing machine needles
Craft Cotton or Calico for the backing.

The panel actually has sewing instructions written on them which is a great help to begin with.

Step one. Cut out the main panel AROUND the holly edge of the boarder. Top Tip. Always cut so the panel is on your left and the excess is on the right (if you are left handed reverse this) That way you can see the edge of the boarder clearly as you cut. The Panel is cut out by the time the Polar Express shows up

Step Two. Cut out the Calander pockets for the treats. These are in blocks of three. Here it is VITAL to read the instructions carefully to make sure you cut the correct line. In this case it's the SOLID lines, the dotted lines are used later for pleating. The instructions on the panel will tell you which to cut.  When cutting out small sections it's advisable to check the following

1) That there are no other pieces of your sewing project UNDER what you are cutting that could get caught up in your scissors  and cut where they would not want to be cut (yep, I've done this before)

2) If cutting by your computer always ensure your mouse cable is not UNDER what you are cutting (yep, cut the 'tail' off my mouse before as well)

Step three. Put on some Hot Chocolate for the Hot Chocolate song

Step Four. Press over the seam allowance for each pocket (or group of pockets). In this pattern   the seam allowance is at the solid gold boarder.  This takes time, it is better to do it correctly than to do it fast (and possible burn yourself in the process) This takes a good chunk of the film.

Step Five. Press in the box pleats.  Place  one solid gold line to the center dotted line and press. then do this for the second line.
And the Polar Express is at the North Pole. The visuals on the screen are inspiring, helping me to decide on metallic top stitching and beading.

Decisions!. At this point you can sew the pockets in place, and line and back of the calendar. However if you want to embellish things NOW is the time to do it. You can add beads to the design of the pockets. You can also add a wadding to the back of the calendar and top stitch along the designs of the pattern.

In this case I've added a red nose bead  onto Rudolph And padded the outline of the train.
To have a padded outline on the train sew wadding onto the back of the panel and then top stitch over any lines you wish to emphasis. I used Metallic Thread for this. IT is Vital to use a metallic thread sewing needle for this. Metallic thread requires a larger eye than normal. Using a regular needle will make the thread split.

The film is almost over, however the hard parts of the project are complete. I would have been much faster but I liked the padded outlines of the train.

Step Six. Top stitch the pockets onto the panel. With single pockets just top stitch the sides and bottom. On groups of pockets stitch along the bottom and the outer edges. Spread the box pleats apart for a moment and top stitch along the dotted line.

Step Seven. Cut calico to back the panel. on what will be the outer side of the calico or craft cotton  sew ribbon to the edges. Then right sides together sew the calico and the panel together. Pinning the ribbon to the calico (or craft cotton) will stop it getting sewn into the side seam by accident. Leave a gap at the bottom to turn the calendar right side out and finish with a ladder stitch

And you're finished :) You can embellish  this project as much or as little as you like. Beading  sequins and glitter can be used as little or as much as you like. It's worth noting the holy part of the boarder on the panel is 5/8 of an inch, perfect seam allowance guide. This then leaves the other layers of the boarder on show. Now all you have to do is fill it with nuts and treats, or if giving to a crafting friend little bits of Haberdashery.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and feel able to have a go yourself now. I must stress I am very new to craft sewing but enjoyed this immensely and I am very  proud of the end result. IT must also be said I am gifted with the grace and dexterity of a baby hippopotamus .  If I can create something like this, anyone can

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  1. It is so great to see you making an Advent calendar and posting about it! I make Advent ornaments. http://www.etsy.com/listing/109692943/advent-felt-jesse-tree-ornaments-set-of?

  2. Very cool ornaments:) Are you on twitter by the way? we are at @Fabric8Online