Keeping Grandma’s tradition alive with fabric advent calendar


When our daughters were very young, my mother-in-law began a tradition of giving them each an advent calendar each year. From December 1-25, the first thing they did each morning was to check the day’s surprise on the calendar. Recently, I discovered that they’ve been keeping those calendars all these years — now hidden away in the attic.

In the last few years of my mother-in-law’s life, she asked me to purchase an advent calendar for the girls — even though by this time they were in (or out of) college. Last year’s calendar was especially nostalgic because at the time that I bought them, we knew Margaret was in the last days of her life. She died shortly before Christmas.

This year, I decided to continue the tradition, despite the fact that the girls are technically grown women. Since advent calendars tend to have a childish bent, I decided these should be different, and if possible, recyclable. Having seen several versions of advent calendar — garlands of tiny knitted stockings or socks and hats made from felt, I chose to make my own version.

I cut and sewed 50 tiny stockings out of Christmas themed fabric, then sewed 25 to each of two rectangular pieces of red felt. Each calendar has a casing at the top for a dowel rod and the stockings are sewn in rows of five across and five down. Then I tucked small gifts — some silly, some serious — into each stocking. What’s really great about these is that hey can return them to me at the end of December and next year, I’ll refill the stockings.

As is usually the case, I completed these projects a few hours before daughter number 1 and her boyfriend were scheduled to arrive, so I hung them in my sewing closet. My plan was to keep them under wraps until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Here’s the thing, though. Since she was old enough to crawl, daughter number one has found every single item I’ve ever hidden from her. I thought maybe if I hung them in plain view, she wouldn’t see them. Should have known better. She saw them but didn’t tell me that until later, claiming she thought they were for her sister. Right.

Day 2 -- tiny rubber spatula

Day 1 -- color-changing Silly Putty

Despite their ages, they were thrilled with the calendars and as I suspected, would be hard-pressed to wait until Dec. 1 to check the first stocking. But they did, and each day so far, I’ve received a text photo of each item.Which is good because, given my memory, I’ve already forgotten most of what I put in them.

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