Sunday, 20 November 2011

Handmade Holidays - Advent Calendars

I am joining Plain and Joyful Living for Handmade Holidays again this week.

We have two advent calendars at our house, neither of which involve candy, treats, or daily gifts, so I thought I would share for those of you who are interested.

The first is an assembly of little forest friends:

This is what it will look like this year a few days into December.  Here's how it works:

A few years ago, my boys received this advent calendar as a gift:

It comes with little forest animals, their food, and a Santa Clause and you are supposed to put each thing in its own little cardboard box and open a box each day and put the toy on the cardboard background, which we did the first year.  The second year, we set up a little forest of branches from our garden and had the little animals come one per day to the forest (we eliminated the santa after the first fact, I'm not even sure we used him the first year either).
Last year, we chose a little girl toy that we already had, and built her this little "house".  We collected fallen branches from our yard, cut them down and nailed them together to build the stairs, the columns are branches that are cut down to the same size, and for the two floors, the boys drew out rough shapes on some scrap wood, which I cut using a jigsaw and then we sanded the edges.  At the time, the boys were 8 and 11 and it was one of the first projects they designed and built themselves (other than the chopsaw of course).

For the first few days of December, the boys would set up the little animal food that came in the original Playmobil set, and then the animals would come join the little girl at her house.  They liked this a lot better as they could move things around daily and set up little "scenes"...and of course, tell stories about what was going on in that little world.
This year, we added a little wooden table and stools, the wooden mushrooms, and the little planters filled with snippets from the yard.  We started a little bed as well, but we made it entirely to big to fit in the house.  (The top platform is maybe 4" and the whole thing is about a foot tall).

My goal is to eventually replace the little plastic animals with clay ones, but in 2 years, I have only made a mama hedgehog with a baby, an owl, and an egg, and only 2 have any paint an them at all.  Maybe by the time my kids are grown, I will have enough for the 24 days???

Our second advent calendar used to look like this:

Several years ago I glued 25 magnets to the back of little wooden shapes that I had in my stash.  I painted them to represent candies:
and ornaments:
and winter or holiday images:
Each day, they move one magnet down from the top to decorate the tree, and reveal the date under the magnet.
The tree was just a quick hand drawn image on paper that was attached to our stove with more magnets.  I had run out of time to make the one I wanted, and just never got done.  This year, I am finally making the tree.  It is wool (the trunk and branches) and cotton (the needles) on linen (hand woven by my grandmother).  This is how far I have gotten so far:

I still need to finish the needles and add the dates along the bottom, and make some sort of pockets on the back to insert magnets.  I have a week and a half left, right?  I really hope to finish in time.

If you are working on something you would like to share, leave a link in the comments.  Happy Making!


  1. i love both of those ideas! i love that little "house"! :)

  2. What great ideas. When our kids were little, we did an Advent poster. Starting at the beginning of Advent, we'd take turns drawing the Nativity Scene on a large piece of art paper taped to the fridge. We'd divvy up the various animals and people, adding plenty of extras to cover all the days. The last three days were Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus. I've saved most of them. They are a treasure to look at now.

  3. Just gorgeous Natalie!
    You are so talented.
    I just wanted to let you know that when you leave a comment at a blog - and I click on your name it goes to your blogger profile and your profile does not have a link to your blog. Just wanted to let you know.
    Warm wishes,

  4. Thank you Tonya.

    I believe I have fixed it.

  5. So wonderful Natalie! I love hearing all the details of how your count downs calenders have evolved!