Make Your Own (reusable) Advent Calendar

| November 28, 2008 | 34 Comments

Editor’s Note: Usually the last Friday of the month is reserved for Bevin Clempson’s witty Green-e-ology column. Not to worry, she’ll be here on Sunday talking about her conversion to reusable water bottles and coffee mugs. But, today we have a bit of a special feature that couldn’t wait.

Vanessa Falle of Lotus Paperie – a wonderfully creative scrapbooking and paper art blog – is here all the way from Whitehorse to bring us a great tutorial on making your own Advent calendar.

The key to Vanessa’s gorgeous, reusable holiday calendar project is the Karen Foster Countdown Calendar – which I am told is sold out for the season (they have flown off the shelves due to their obvious awesomeness).

But, I have a secret source. It ends up that, if you head on over to Scrapbook Central at 14th and Cliffe, Diane has a secret stash of them available for purchase. She also has a good selection of lovely holiday papers (make sure to ask about her stash in the back). So, you can pick up everything you need in one place.

Wohoooo! It’s not what you know, it’s who you know (hehe). All silliness aside, I am off to make and stock this gem of a calendar today with notes, treasures and all things purple (I’ve been given the “only purple” edict from the preschooler).

Vanessa is giving away the calendar she made for this tutorial to one random commenter today. It won’t ship for the holidays. But, you could have a gorgeous gift for someone else, or something special to stash for next year. So, please jump in and talk calendars today.

Enjoy. Here’s Vanessa:

So here it is, the holidays, and you’re wondering how you can savor the countdown till the big day without getting your kids all jacked up on sugar and caffeine from the chocolates found in store-bought calendars.

This 3-D calendar is a fabulous solution while still maintaining the excitement of opening each drawer to reveal a little treasure each day before the 25th.

Not to mention it’s totally reusable and can be easily customized to suit your style. Each drawer is 1 1/2 x 1 1/2” so the only really tricky part is finding the goodies that go inside (actually, I really enjoyed hunting for those treasures).

Here’s what you need:

• Adhesive runner (glue gun) and glue pen (no glue sticks, they don’t offer a reliable bond)
• 3 sheets double sided 12×12” scrapbooking paper
• 3/8” circle punch or scissors
• Pencil & ruler
• Karen Foster Countdown Calendar


1. Begin with your papers. Cut one strip from each sheet of double sided paper measuring 1 1/2 x 12. Cut each strip in half so that you have six strips that are 6” long.

2. Next, cut each 6” strip into 4 1 1/2 x 1 1/2” squares. Mark the center of each square and using the circle punch, cut a semi circle for the finger hole on each drawer. If you don’t have a circle punch this size, there’s a template on the back of the package that you can trace onto your paper and cut out with craft scissors.

3. Once you’ve got all your paper squares ready, you can go ahead and adhere each square to a drawer using your glue pen. Not all the finger holes will align perfectly. That’s okay. Perfect is overrated anyway! Line up each square with the top edge at the finger hole and most squares will require a teeny strip to be trimmed away at the bottom edge.

4. Once you’ve adhered all your squares, you can randomly stick all the number stickers to the boxes. The calendar is more fun when the numbers are all jumbled up. These stickers come in the package with the calendar. You will have one box without paper. Don’t panic!

5. To finish the sides of your calendar, using the leftover papers that were used to cover the fronts of the boxes, you’ll cut 3 strips from one sheet measuring 1 1/2 x 12”. Snip off one square (1 1/2 x 1 1/2” for that last remaining square. Follow the above steps to make it fit that last box. Stick on the last number sticker. Adhere each of the remaining strips along the outside edge of the calendar using your adhesive runner, slightly overlapping the ends of the strips. You can add the child’s name on the top edge using letter stickers.

Some alternative ideas for advent calendars include the cookie sheet design which features a grid in the center (five rows of five squares) and numbers 1-25 on magnets or a large canvas (18x24ish) with small jewelry boxes for each of the twenty-five days. Here are links to a few examples:

- Ali Edwards Advent calendar boxes

- Cookie Sheet Advent Calendars (the Google image search will blow you away)

- The Jenny Chesnick Advent canvas

Really, all you have to do is a Google image search for advent calendars and the options are just crazy!
Go on, have fun….make something!

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Category: ARTS & LITERACY, Crafts

About the Author ()

Robin Rivers is the Project Development Director for Vancouver-based Mherge Media Group. Often can be found leaping tall buildings with the help of great friends. Predisposed to odd hats and the color orange. In love with imagination, her kids and that crazy guy who married her.

Comments (34)

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  1. Vanessa says:

    it was a treat to share this project with your readers. Let me know if I can bring more projects in the future! It was a blast…hope everyone has fun making these great countdown calendars!!

  2. Vanessa says:

    it was a treat to share this project with your readers. Let me know if I can bring more projects in the future! It was a blast…hope everyone has fun making these great countdown calendars!!

  3. Dana says:

    what a neat idea, and it looks quite easy, even for me, the craft challenged type. I love that I don’t have to give my kids the gross cheap chocolate for 97 cents

  4. Marieke says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I love this idea! Looking forward to possibly seeing more projects!

  5. Jen Dodd says:

    wow! that’s a great kit! I scrounged up all of the matchboxes in town last week to make one like that !

  6. Marcie says:

    I love, love, love this advent calendar idea and also appreciated the other links with the other advent calendar ideas… i made a fabric one a few years ago, pre-munchkins when i had time :) , with 25 little drawstring bags that hang on different buttons on a fabric xmas tree background… i love it but sometimes i run out of ideas to fill the bags with so I appreciated the motivation to google this idea and get cracking before Dec.1st… one idea that has come to me that is probably a little premature for my wee kids but i’m going to do it anyway is filling some of the bags with magnetic letters that eventually spell a little (but bigger than the bags) treasure… (i.e. truck)… that’s 5 days that i don’t have to fill bags with chocolate balls! thanks again for an inspiring crafty post!

  7. Marieke says:

    Oooh Marcie, love the magnetic letters idea – I might steal that one! I was at Scrapbook Central today and they have some of the Karen Foster countdown calendars if anyone is interested. I wish I had the time to make one this year, I so want to.

  8. Maureen says:

    Love the countdown calender and especially the link to the cookie sheet magnetic calender. I love magnets and anything that can be found at a dollar store to make them. I have a pocket countdown calender at StrongStart and in each pocket is a card with an idea for families to do together. I found the cards “52 Christmas Activities” at Planet Kids.

  9. Rhonda says:

    What a great idea. I wish I had more time to do it before Dec 1st. The picture looks great. I have been trying to keep my kids from noticing the cheap chocolate advent calendars that my mom picked up for them. I will have to be more organized for next year. I love the idea!

  10. Shawna says:

    I searched everywhere for a refillable advent calendar that I could personalize! I ended up buying fabric ones at Superstore. Anyway, if anyone needs filling ideas, Hot Chocolates has special packages of advent chocolates in fun shapes. The dark chocolate is dairy-free!

  11. Cathy Aniceto says:

    Thank You ladies for all the great ideas to fill our advent Calendar! Love the magnetic letters, and little cards of family activities! Very curious about the dairy free dark chocolate……maybe worth a drive to the comox valley! My daughter would be in heaven if she found dairy free chocolate in her stocking!

  12. Cherise says:

    Thanks so much for the advent ideas and tips, Robin. I have often wanted one for my family but have never found just the right one … until now! I picked up a couple of the Karen Foster calendars today and hope to have some fun personalizing them for my kids. Food for thought from a close friend of mine … instead of just filling the boxes with tiny treats and gifts (which are often difficult to find), try including little messages with promises of a family activity (games/movie night, arts and crafts, baking, swimming, ice skating, trip to the park, etc), a special treat (hot cocoa after school), a heartfelt message (“I love you!”) or simply include interesting facts about Christmas traditions around the world to share and discuss with your little ones.

  13. Kasey says:

    I was so excited to get my countdown calendar last year but didn’t have time to make it. So now, I am even more excited because I’m making it for my toddler niece, but I had no clue which adhesive was best. I am so incredibly thankful for your instructions and information. I am such a perfectionist, and these directions were so clear and concise, I know my project will turn out great! Thank you!

  14. Jennifer says:


    This project is so beautiful!

    I am terrible with scissors and I am wondering which whole punch the 3/8″ is since I am having a very hard time finding one that size?



  15. Robin Rivers says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for your comment.

    That hole punch is one you can find at a scrapbook store. The measurements always confuse me too. But, it looks like the punch in Step 6 up above.

  16. Jennifer says:

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks so much for your speedy reply!

    I actually just measured the semi-circle and it turns out that it is 5/8″ inch in size. This is great news since most punch companies manufacter this size! (EK Success, etc)

    Can’t wait to start my project ASAP!

    Thanks again for the inspiration,


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