It’s officially here… my first Christmas blog post of 2017! (Well, if you don’t count Christmas in August, that is). I’m VERY excited to finally share my DIY fabric Santa advent calendar! I’ve been working on this guy on-and-off for a fortnight. If you’ve seen any of my Instagram Stories recently, you might have caught a few sneak peeks… but I’ve been dying to show you more!
I’m so happy with how my Santa advent calendar has come out. He’s probably one of the most involved sewing projects I’ve ever done; there’s a lot of steps involved. That’s also why I’m sharing the DIY tutorial a teeny bit early; I wanted to give you plenty of time to make one for yourself. It’ll be December before we know it – so make sure you’re prepared with an awesome DIY advent calendar! 😎
DIY Fabric Santa Advent Calendar
What you’ll need
- Several metres of red fabric (I’d recommend a medium weight cotton)
- A few sheets of white craft felt
- A small amount of black fabric (I’d recommend a medium weight cotton)
- A large rectangle of skin-coloured fabric (I’d recommend a medium/heavy weight cotton or canvas)
- Toy stuffing
- Cotton threads in black, white and red
- Black embroidery thread
- Sewing machine
- Hand-sewing needle
- Embroidery needle
- Bulldog clips
- Lots of pins
- Good fabric scissors
- Strong fabric glue
What to do
Part 1: Cut out all of the fabric shapes.
There are a LOT of pieces involved in this tutorial! You can either cut them all out at the start, or cut them as you need them (I did the latter). Either way, you’ll first need to decide on how large you want your DIY fabric Santa advent calendar to be. For simplicity, all of the measurements in this tutorial will make it approximately 2 metres high, from head to toe. You can of course make yours bigger or smaller, just adjust the measurements as appropriate.
- Firstly, cut out the main body shape from the red fabric. You’ll need two large triangles (the sides should measure 70cm each, and the base should be 40cm).
- The pockets are made from long, horizontal strips of fabric with a width of 12cm. The lengths will differ (as they will each be added to a different section of the triangle body) – they should measure: 80cm, 75cm, 70cm, 65cm, 65cm, 60cm and 55cm.
- Cut out two smaller triangles from the red fabric, for Santa’s hat. They should measure 20cm on the base, and 32cm on the sides.
- Next, cut out rectangular strips for the arms and legs. You’ll need two of each, both cut from the red fabric. The legs should be 55cm x 12cm and the arms should be slightly shorter, at 50cm x 12cm.
- Cut out four boot shapes from the black fabric (two for each leg), using a simplified design (basically a curved, banana-like shape). This should be half the width of the legs; approximately 6cm.
- Cut out four mitten shapes from the black fabric (two for each arm). They should be approximately 6cm, like the boots.
- Now for the felt… start by cutting out six strips of white felt (two for the legs, two for the arms and one for each side of the hat). The leg and arm pieces should be 3cm x 10cm, whilst the hat pieces should be 3cm x 20cm.
- Cut out Santa’s beard and moustache. Start by sketching the beard/sideburns shape onto an A4 piece of paper, aiming to take up as much of the paper as possible (see my photo for reference). Cut this out and trace round it onto the felt, then cut this out as neatly as possible. Then repeat this process to cut out a little moustache.
- Finally, cut out two circles for the face of your DIY fabric Santa advent calendar. Use the skin coloured fabric, and cut large ovals (approximately 20cm wide).
Phew! That was a lot of cutting, right?! But don’t worry; here come the actual “making” section (the fun bit!).
Part 2: Make the pockets.
The pockets are made from long strips of fabric, which are hemmed, pleated and stitched directly onto the body triangle. Since they are the central focus on your DIY fabric Santa advent calendar, it’s worth taking your time to get this bit looking good.
- For each of your red fabric strip, hem one of the long edges. To do this, fold the long edge over by 1cm, then again by another 1cm (so the raw edge is enclosed within itself). Pin this as neatly as possible then sew it permanently in place, removing the pins as you go.
- Starting with the longest strip of fabric, make small marks in it every 11cm. These marks will be where the pleats will be added. To make a pleat, fold the entire strip twice down the small width, aiming to make a Z shape. Do this twice at each mark (trying to keep the mark in the centre), so that it looks like my photos. Use a bulldog clip to hold it in place, and repeat for every pleat needed. The number of pleats for each strip of fabric is equivalent to the number of pockets, minus one. So the bottom strip, which has six pockets, will need five pleats. Whereas the top strip (hidden by Santa’s beard in my photos!), which has just one pocket, will need no pleats.
Part 3: Add the pockets to the body.
With all of the pleats added to all seven pocket strips, it’s time to add them to the body. For reference, the rows will have (from bottom to top): 6 pockets; 5 pockets; 4 pockets; 3 pockets; 3 pockets; 2 pockets; and 1 pocket. Take a look at my photos of the completed advent calendar if you get stuck, as these should help clarify it!
- Place the longest pocket strip (with hemmed edge and pleats) face down onto the hemmed base edge of the triangle, so they overlap by 1cm. It should be the bottom, raw edge of the pocket strip that overlaps the triangle piece, with the hemmed top edge pointing downwards. Pin this in place, then sew them together. This will join the two pieces together, whilst also sewing the pleats in place (so you can remove the pins and the bulldog clips as you go).
- With the pieces joined, fold the pocket strip over, so the right side is revealed and the raw edge is hidden. Add a few stitches to each pleated area, to hold the top edge of the pockets to the body (careful not to sew the pockets closed!). Your first row of pockets is complete!
- Repeat this for the next 6 rows. Leave approximately 0.5cm between each row, so you have enough vertical space to fit them all in.
Part 4: Make the arms and legs.
Most of the hard work is now done, you’ll be glad to know! Making the arms and legs of your DIY fabric Santa advent calendar is kind of like making long cushions, which isn’t too tricky.
- To make one arm, get two of your long red pieces and two mitten shapes.
- Next, put your two long strips of red leg fabric together (face to face), and pin together down the long edges.
- Add the two mitten pieces to one end. One mitten should go underneath the red strips, and one mitten should go on top of them – essentially sandwiching the red strips between the mittens. Once they’re in place, pin them together.
- As neatly as you can, sew all around the edges of the mittens and long red strips, removing the pins as you go. Leave the end of the red strips thats opposite the mittens unstitched.
- When it’s all securely stitched, turn the whole thing inside out (via the unstitched end) and stuff it with toy filling.
- Finally, glue a strip of white felt to the part where the mittens and red fabric meet – this will hide any raw edges.
- Repeat this process for the other arm, and the two legs.
Part 5: Make the head.
I chose to use embroidery to add the eyes and nose details of my Santa advent calendar, but you could also use buttons, fabric paint or iron-on transfers!
- Use embroidery thread and needle to add a little eye and nose to one of the skin-coloured ovals. Make sure it’s positioned correctly by holding the beard felt shape against it before you begin.
- Sandwich the felt beard in-between the two skin-coloured ovals, making sure that the embroidery detail is pointing inwards, against the felt. Pin in place.
- Sew around the sides and top edge – making sure you DO NOT sew over the beard section itself (just the sideburns).
- Turn the whole thing inside out via the un-sewn bottom section, so that the beard is now on the outside.
- Stitch on the little moustache by hand. Make sure you don’t sew all the way through both oval shapes – just the top one!
- Lastly, stuff the head with toy stuffing and close the gap by hand sewing along the open edge.
Part 6: Make Santa’s hat.
You might consider buying a pre-made Santa ha, instead of making this from scratch. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll manage to find one that’s the correct size and colour… and it’s pretty easy to make, promise!
- Take one of the small red triangles and one strip of white felt. Fold the white felt around the bottom edge of the red triangle, so it encloses the raw edge. Pin and sew in place.
- Repeat this step for the other triangle.
- Lastly, put the two triangles on top of each other, face to face, and pin in place. Sew the two side/diagonal edges together. Turn the triangles inside out and you’ll be left with a DIY Santa hat! You could add a little pom-pom to the end if you like – but I quite like mine without.
Part 7: Assemble the body.
Woohoo, time to put it all together! This is what you’ve been waiting for…
- Take the large red triangle (the one that DOESN’T have the pockets sewn to it), and hem the bottom edge.
- Place the two legs parallel on the floor, approximately 10cm apart. Put the large red triangle (the one that you’ve just hemmed) face up, on top of the legs. Adjust the overlap until you like the length of the legs, then pin and sew in place.
- Next, put the two arms in place. You want them to be positioned approximately 10cm from the tip of the red triangle body, with a 5-10cm overhang. Make sure that they face INWARDS (it’s counter-intuitive, but trust me!). Pin these in place, too.
- Finally, place the other red triangle (the one you’ve added the triangles to) on top, covering the arms completely. Pin it all around the edge.
- Sew all along the two diagonal sides of the triangle, leaving the bottom edge (with the hemmed edges) un-sewn.
- Turn the whole thing inside out through the bottom of the triangle, to reveal the arms and the pockets.
Part 8: The final touches.
Nearly finished! First up, sew the head to the top of the body. Do this by hand-stitching the back of the head directly to the red triangle of the body, positioning it such that it looks natural in relation to the position of the arms. Then add the hat to the top of the head (it should sit neatly on top), to cover Santa’s bald patch! To hang it up, add a small loop of strong string or rope to the back of Santa’s head (I actually used a needle to loop mine right through the hat, too).
Finally, add some sticky vinyl numbers to each of the pockets – and your DIY fabric Santa advent calendar is complete!
Phew, that was a long tutorial! However, it is SO worth the time investment. I love my Santa advent calendar! He looks great, hanging up pride of place in my home – and he’ll last for many years to come! What do you think? Do you think you’ll try making a DIY advent calendar this year? Let me know in the comments! – Mike.
Did you like this project? I’d love it if you could help spread the word and share this on Pinterest!