Sharing a new Advent Calendar

I have been wanting to make this giant Advent Calendar for almost 10 years!   10 YEARS!  How many of you have had projects on the back burner that long???

Martha started it all with her Advent Calendar using Christmas cards as the scenes behind the windows. I have been smitten with the idea ever since! I started collecting beautiful Christmas cards right away!

My calendar, which is nearly 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide, is the result of allowing my creative spirit complete freedom to inform and inspire the process at every step.  There was no game plan, no predetermined guide, just creative instinct, some dumb luck and a bit of serendipity thrown in here and there!

I am sharing how I made this calendar, but by no means is this a step by step tutorial.  Although I am sharing a few techniques, mostly I hope to satisfy your curiosity.  Most importantly I hope to inspire many of you to get busy and make an Advent calendar!

I set out to create a calendar that would accommodate the beautiful cards I had saved over the years, and that would reflect in it's design and structure many of the cultures from which most of us "borrow" our holiday traditions.  And, I tried to use mostly materials I had on hand - damaged mount board, papers stored for years and years, odd pieces of poster board, shipping foam....

It took some time for me to come up with the design and theme - I sketched gingerbread housesmodernistic houses, even briefly thought of a pueblo design!  But I kept coming back to a fanciful design that would reflect homes found in Northern European villages. It just seemed to work for me.

So, to begin!

I drew the shape of my Advent house on some old, beat up mount board.  It measured 30" x 40" - the perfect size for my house. Using an Xacto knife, I cut along the lines I had drawn.

Over the past 10 years I saved cards with beautiful images that had special meaning to me - woodland Father Christmas for the Feast of St. Nicholas, Santa Claus for Dec. 24th and 25th, nativity for Las Posadas, angels, nutcrackers, snowy scenes, snowflakes....

When I got ready to actually make my calendar, I realized that I did not want to cut them to fit a pre-determined opening. I decided I would have to devise a way to make the windows fit the cards!

I laid my cards out on the mount board and played with placements until I found one that worked for me.

Using a 3 foot long straight edge, I drew horizontal lines to mark the bottom and top edges of each "floor" of the house, and then, just above the bottom edge of each floor, a guide line for placement of the bottom edges of the cards.

I mounted my cards in place using a tape gun used in picture mounting , but almost any glue or Mod Podge would work just as well.


Because I chose specific images for specific days, I drew a sketch of the house, identified each image with a description AND the day of the month it would be opened!

I then taped several pieces of wrapping tissue together to make a piece large enough to cover the entire surface of my house, traced the house outline onto the tissue, and then taped the tissue house template to the mount board surface.

I gently traced the outlines of the cards with a straight edge and pencil. I also marked the center of each card.

Knowing I wanted a red house, I purchased a large piece of textured, card weight paper.  I taped both the red paper and the tissue to a work surface to make sure neither could slip as I worked.

I made this little set of close ups so you could see the cutting process better.

Using a firm pressure on the Xacto knife,  cut through both the tissue and the red paper.  Cut the top and bottom edges of the window first and then the center line.

Finally, using very light pressure, cut along the edges marked "fold".  Do not cut through the red paper.  This is only a score line designed to make it easier to open the windows.

Once the tissue is removed, the cut window will look like this.  The ink bled through the tissue on my little sample - so, learn from my mistake - don't use ink!!

When the window is opened, the image behind is revealed!

Once all the windows were cut, I cut the tissue and red paper along the traced outline of the house I had drawn on the tissue paper. I removed the tissue paper and mounted the red paper house (with all the windows cut into it) to the mount board house by placing mounting tape along the side edges, top and bottom edges, and between "floors".  Mod Podge or glue applied to the same areas would also work. Just be sure, what ever you use, it is repositionable!

I had just completed this step when my Mother came to visit this summer.  She couldn't resist opening every single window!

I took a break at this point to wait for further inspiration! 

Since my house would have a Dutch, German, English Tudor design. I would definitely need something to create the look of wood trim.

Quite by accident, I discovered this really cool Edgemate adhesive backed veneer edging which would allow me to create all the "wood" trim using real wood! The package I bought for $5.95 contained a roll of 25' and was more than enough for all the edging, trees and even a few cutting goofs!

You might want to pick up a package the next time you are at Lowe's or Home Depot.  I am thinking there is a crafty future for this product!

I chose natural birch to contrast with the red paper, but it comes in several kinds of wood veneer - and it can be stained any color you like!

The veneer edging is easily cut using a straight edge and Xacto knife.

Or with scissors.

Set it in position and place a hot iron over it for a few seconds.

Immediately place a block of wood over the heated surface and apply a little pressure to set the adhesive.

Wood trim applied!

Next step - the windows!

After doing some internet surfing, I decided to try to create Tudor style windows using bits and pieces of paper we had accumulated in our photography business over the past 20 years. The window frame paper appears black in these photos, but it is really a lovely dark plum.

But - first things first - I carefully measured and recorded the dimensions of every window.  Then I double checked every measurement.  This is the guide I used when cutting out all the windows.

To prepare to cut the windows, draw the window outline onto the window frame paper using measurements on your diagram. 

Now, you can draw lines to mark the window panes. You can see my guide lines for the window panes drawn in pencil above.  Once all the window panes are drawn, begin cutting. Be sure to use a straight edge as your guide while cutting.

Cutting complete!

I used layers of plain and designer papers to create a transparent looking window and a curtain.

I glued the layers together using a glue stick to preserve the transparency of the designer paper.

In the spirit of using what I had on hand, I used a truly vintage paper punch to create the design elements so often seen in Tudor style homes.  But I just know many of you have fabulous paper punches that will make beautiful punched designs more in keeping with Tudor style.

Windows and shutters completed!

Now - finally -  applying the "gingerbread"!

I found these perfect little wooden hearts at the Knittn' Kitten - $.50 for a whole bag of them!  I "painted" some of them red using a Sharpie pen so I could retain the wood grain.

Couldn't resist these gingerbread men and holiday candy stickers my husband spotted while he was looking for numerals for the dates.

And be sure to notice the cute little red candles placed in the windows to welcome friends and family. I found them at the Kitten.

Also found at the Kitten - red stars. I used them around the door to represent the red tinsel decorations which are ubiquitous throughout South America during the holidays.

The veneer edging made perfect little "Scandinavian trees" and I used an old bit of balsa wood to make the Swedish Valkommen sign with Dala horses.  Welcome in Swedish is Valkommen.  Danes and Norwegians use the same word but it is spelled Velkommen. No favoritism here - I tossed a coin!

By simply allowing the creative spirit to influence my choices for decorating the front door, it became a reflection of the cultures that most influence my holiday celebrations - English (door), German (gingerbread men), South American (red tinsel) and Scandinavian (welcome sign, hearts and trees).

I planned to use the invisible velcro left over from another long ago project to secure the windows and doors.  But it was my hubby who found these perfect little door pulls (wooden hole plugs) and the numeral stickers.  I glued the pulls on using Aileens tacky glue and they are working great!  And I love how they look on the house.

A close up of my snowy roof!  This is all you get!  When my original plan to just stick on some fiber "snow" failed - I competely lost my mind and forgot to take pictures of what I did do!

In a nutshell, I built up several layers of 4" wide poster board cut in the shape of the roof line.  Over that I used Mod Podge to apply a layer of shipping foam.  Then I applied a layer of Mod Podge to the top of the shipping foam and sprinkled liberally with crystal glitter. 

It looks exactly like snow!

Thank you for visiting and allowing me to share my advent calendar! 

And don't forget to enter the giveaway to celebrate my one year blogaversary! 


Thank you so much for sharing

Thank you so much for sharing your gorgeous advent calendar and giving us all the steps to make it. It is the best I have ever seen. In the past I have made Waldorf-type watercolor advent calendars, but now I feel ready to do something along the lines of this. Truly special!

Thank you Susan!  I am so

Thank you Susan!  I am so happy to hear this.  I still use it every single year and it is my favorite.  I am glad to know the instructions are helpful to someone else who loves the magic of finding beautiful images hidden behind little doors.

I am thinking it would be especially lovely to create all the images for the calendar.  I don't have any talent with drawing or painting, but those who do could make their calendar so personal and beautiful.

Beautiful work! I love how it

Beautiful work! I love how it turned out. I'm going to feature it on my blog, where I'm doing a series of Advent calendars. It'll go up on 12/23.

oh my gosh....AMAZING...

oh my gosh....AMAZING... truly! I seriously want to hire you to make one for me!!! just the most adorable advent calendar!

What an awesome treasure!

What an awesome treasure!

W-O-W!!! Worth waiting 10

W-O-W!!! Worth waiting 10 years. Just beautiful!

A true work of art! Thanks

A true work of art! Thanks so much for sharing your hints/techniques/tips with us. This is really beautiful and will be treasured by your family for years.

This is wonderful and

This is wonderful and evocative - so like the advent calendar that my Europe-traveling grandmother gave us in 1955, but much larger. My sister & I spent hours dreaming over those tiny windows & doors. Now I know that I must build one like yours for my grandkids and for the joy of it. Thank you for sharing.

Wow!! You did a fantastic

Wow!! You did a fantastic job.. your calendar is beautiful!

Um...WOW. I'm speechless.

Um...WOW. I'm speechless. It's amazing. And gorgeous. And thoughtful. And wow. I love it! Thanks so much for sharing the details with us, I'll be linking to this. As soon as I stop drooling over the pictures. =)

Oh my gosh! This is just

Oh my gosh! This is just amazing! I love the time you put into it. It really paid off. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

My goodness! Now I am

My goodness! Now I am speechless! This is simply stunning Pam!! I am sure this is going to be cherished for years to come!

I am trying to think of the longest "on the back burner" project I have hanging around...I'll have to get back you on that! Cause I know I have several in the back of the closet!

Almost Christmas HUGS!

Fabulous! It looks so

Fabulous! It looks so professional.

wow how inspirational this

wow how inspirational this post is!!!--I have wanted to make an advent calendar along the same idea--but much smaller because I plan to use holiday postage stamps fpr the images in the windows!--never occurred to me to make it bigger and use cards! thanks!

Pam, Contratulations! Your

Pam, Contratulations! Your advent house is now for the craft world to see.....on Craftzine's daily blog!
I think it shows how many crafters think your project was truly amazing!

Wunderbar! Does the ELEVEN

Wunderbar! Does the ELEVEN years to finish our half bath count? For the longest time there was nothing at all in it. Then I was pregnant, and there was NO WAY I was treking upstairs with a toddler everytime I had to go to the bathroom. So I got a toilet. Many years pass. The sink goes in. Many more years. Some wainscotting. Many more. Finally, finally, we replace the window and then everything gets done within a year. Phew.

I'm still in awe! This is

I'm still in awe! This is truly a work of art.

Pam, that's amazing- my jaw

Pam, that's amazing- my jaw literally dropped. What an heirloom.

This is amazing! Thanks so

This is amazing! Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. It will be a lovely heirloom that you can have in your family indefinitely!

I love everything about this

I love everything about this - just perfect!

I love Advent Calendars, but

I love Advent Calendars, but I have never been so taken with the entire concept of a calendar as I am with this one. It reminds me of a small city not far from where I live. A few of the residents and business owners keep their homes/businesses in the Swiss Chalet style - complete with exterior murals and all. Darling place, and your sweet Advent Calendar reminds me of it. What a precious keepsake for your family.

Gorgeous! Just: WOW! I am

Gorgeous! Just: WOW!

I am utterly impressed and in complete awe. Thanks so much for the tutorial.

You are a Crafty Genius! And

You are a Crafty Genius! And a dedicated one at that . . . I love the sheer scale and audacity of this project . . . and I would be so excited to open each and every little door!! EEK!

Wow! What a labor of love!! I

Wow! What a labor of love!! I like how you used cards that you have saved and loved over the years.

Great job!!

Wow! I am really impressed.

Wow! I am really impressed. I, too, have had an advent calendar project in my head for about 10 years... I've been meaning to repair/re-create a felt calendar my mom made when I was little. I'm glad now that I waited because I recently started working with wool felt, and it will be so much nicer. Yours is so pretty though, and I love the idea of using Christmas cards.

This is SO cool ! really love

This is SO cool ! really love the idea and you made such a wonderful piece of it, impressive :D

this is something that will

this is something that will be pasted down and treasured! Amazing job!


Wow! That's so impressive!

Wow! That's so impressive! I'm glad that this project finally made its way from the back burner. I love all of the thought and detail that you put into planning and crafting it. Thanks so much for sharing! :o)

Pam that is by far the

Pam that is by far the prettiest Advent Calendar I've seen. Amazing!

Hi I dont have the words in

I dont have the words in english for how impressed I am! What a wondefull advent calendar.

All I can say is: you're

All I can say is: you're amazing! That is the coolest thing I have seen. EVER!

Oh WOW!!! Pam this is a

Oh WOW!!! Pam this is a fabulous post.

I love Advent Calendars. We always put one up and keep the old ones, too. Some day I may put several up at once.

Growing up in Germany we had so many diifferent kinds to choose from. My favourite ones were those that had tiny pieces of solid chocolate hidden behind the doors. You opened the door, took out the chocolate, popped in your mouth and then looked at the pretty picture revealed once the chocolate was removed. So you had 2 treats every day - a piece of (tiny)chocolate and a colourful picture.

I once did a Blog post (Nov. 6, 2007) about making an Advent calendar, but no where near as detailed as yours.

What a great idea for all

What a great idea for all those christmas cards!
I think I will add this project to my "to do" list and I'm sure it will be at the top of the list.

Wow! Sometimes your projects

Wow! Sometimes your projects (including this one) remind me of everything I like about homey old school Christmas with none of the cheesiness or shoddy craftsmanship that one often sees. Keep up the good work!

Wow, that is soooooo cool.

Wow, that is soooooo cool. Yes, all those o's are necessary! I really love it. How long did it take? It looks like it took awhile, but definitely worth it. So exquisite. I love reading your blog entries... you are so creative and your ideas are wonderful. I would love to see a pueblo version of this, too... :)

that is truly amazing!

that is truly amazing!