My Purl Soho Advent Calendar

21 December 2022

To say this post – this project – is a long time coming is… a bit of an understatement.

On November 3, 2019, I ordered the Purl Soho Advent Calendar Kit. A month later, I set a 2020 goal to complete it before December. “Two goals have dovetailed beautifully with this initiative:” I wrote, “wanting to spend less time on screens, and wanting to complete our new Advent calendar! After years of admiring this DIY calendar kit, I finally bit the bullet and purchased it. With many pieces, intricate details, and the need to learn new skills, I anticipate it will be a year-long project that will keep my hands busy in the evenings and on weekends, as well as produce a beautiful heirloom for our family!”

Keep my hands busy? Check. Beautiful heirloom for our family? Check. Year-long project? Hahahahahaha.

In June 2020, I reported in on the progress I’d made: almost none. All I had done at that point was open the box early in the year and quickly close it back up, wildly intimidated. From my brief peek at the instructions, I was under the impression that the whole project involved machine sewing, when in reality (and with thanks to kind encouragement from reader Carly, who completed the same kit and clued me in!), only the pockets required a machine.

With this realization, in August 2020, things took a major upward swing! While we were visiting John’s parents in Connecticut, I completed five whole ornaments under the tutelage of my wonderful mother-in-law. Once I got the hang of it, I was quickly sewing up a storm at nap times and in the evenings, but I honestly don’t know if I would ever have gotten started if she hadn’t been at my side. Thank you, Jean!!

Purl Soho Advent calendar with bell, wreath, and dove ornaments

I completed four more ornaments in September, and three more in October, then progress fell off a cliff when first-trimester nausea and tiredness hit in November and December (looking at you, Annie).

In 2021, I set a yearly goal of “prioritizing memory keeping,” an umbrella which included finishing the Advent calendar. And then, with a newborn and an Achilles injury and houseguests for six continuous weeks and kindergarten, I did not complete a single stitch until October, when I pulled the kit back out and embroidered the pocket numbers in cheery red floss. When we returned to Connecticut for Christmas, my angel mother-in-law gathered the pocket strips and sewed them together on her machine.

Embroidered pockets on a Purl Soho Advent Calendar

Friends, this was the first time this project felt like A Thing instead of a random collection of felt items. And it felt sooooooooo good!

Thus we arrive at the present year. In 2022, I learned from the pitfalls of my 2021 goals and got a little more strategic with my creative projects. Determined to finish the various projects I had underway and not have my efforts be scattered across all of them at once, I assigned each to a quarter. Finishing the Advent calendar got assigned to Q4, so I didn’t worry about picking it back up until October.

When fall rolled around, I opened my pretty pink box back up and got to work sewing sequins around the edge of the tree. Painstaking, but satisfying! In November, I sewed the tree to the backer and sewed on the hanging pole. And that (drumroll, please), meant that on the 1st of December in the year of our Lord 2022, I hung an actual Advent calendar on our actual wall that I had made with my own two actual hands. Praise and hallelujah and bless it to the heavens!

Purl Soho colorful felt Advent calendar hanging in a kitchen

Was I finished with this project, though? No, dear reader, I was not finished: I still had six final ornaments to sew. I was bound and determined to complete them before Christmas, though, and so all month have been chipping away at them little by little. As of this writing, I have one more to sew, and I’m confident I can complete it before December 24th :)

Here we are: $98*, two and a half years, a little sweat equity from my mother-in-law, much encouragement from John and my children, and countless hours of detailed sewing later, we have a bonafide family heirloom. It is glorious. I love it. June and Shep have delighted in pinning the ornaments on one-by-one each day this month. It has secured a spot on the top-five list of things I’d save in a fire, assuming my family and pets have made it out safely.

Colorful felt Advent calendar hanging on the wall from Purl Soho

The other day, as she watched me add beads to a tiny snowman, June asked which child I would lend the calendar to when they were older.** And wow, what a way to bring things full circle: the reason I was inspired to undertake this project in the first place is because my family had a very similar felt Christmas tree Advent calendar growing up. It was a mainstay in our front hallway throughout every December of my childhood; nothing was better than the days when it was my turn to pin the ornament on the tree. I hoped my children might feel the same way about this one, and early signs indicate that they just might. All those hours of sewing? Worth it, worth it, worth it.

Colorful felt Advent calendar from Purl Soho hanging on the wall

I’m not sure if my two-and-half-year saga will encourage a single reader to pick up this kit, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Once I got over my initial fear, the directions really were quite easy to follow – it all just takes a bit of time. In fact, I got so comfortable that I ended up free-styling about half the ornaments. The directions call for you to make two of each type of ornament (two stars, two candy canes, etc.), but I liked the idea of each ornament being distinct. Plus, I wanted to translate some of the ornaments from my family’s calendar growing up, and include a few more Christian symbols in the mix, too. Once I had the basic know-how for making the ornaments, it was easy enough to make new patterns and sew my own designs. For those curious, our one-of-a-kind calendar includes a heart, letter, present, cross, ice skate, holly, angel, drum, crown, shepherd’s crook, and snowman along with Purl’s standard shapes.

Friends, thank you for coming along on this journey! If you have any questions about this kit, I’d be happy to answer! I hope this post might encourage you to take on your own creative project, knowing that no matter how long it takes, it will likely be worth it in the end. It most definitely has been for me. xo!

*I purchased the kit for $98 (minus a 10% off coupon for signing up for the email list) in 2019. Somehow, the price has swollen to $175 in 3 years?!? It is currently 25% off on the website (if the promotion isn’t active when you’re reading this, be sure to sign up to get the email discount). They also offer the option of buying the pattern and gathering your own supplies (which they kindly list for you). I think this could be a great option, but if you go this route do NOT skimp on the felt – I’d order it from Purl, because it is extremely high-quality, vibrantly-colored, and makes or breaks the project!

**Of course, I told her that I would be so happy to make her a calendar of her own when she was older. To which she responded that I should make sure to give myself plenty of time, because this one took me a few years (LOL). We agreed I’d start on each child’s when they left for college.

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December 21, 2022 6:46 am

I love everything about this – the concept (we, too, had similar Advent calendar hanging on the wall growing up, with even and odd days dictating who got to put the ornament up, haha); the commitment and dedication; the end product (gorgeous!); and most of all, your children cheering you across the finish line and already envisioning this as an heirloom at such a young age. It is perfect.
PS I’m so impressed you came up with your own shape designs!

December 21, 2022 7:53 am

I love this and also grew up with a similar Advent calendar! I’m an only child so when I mentioned I was looking for a similar one online, my mom told me I could have hers. ???? She still has it for now, but I’m hoping to get it and add it to our home in the next year or two.

December 21, 2022 7:56 am

Love it! Well done Em!

Chelsey Colon
December 21, 2022 9:02 am

This gives me hope ???? I ordered a needlepoint stocking for Penelope once we settled on her name and told myself I could complete it by September to make sure it was ready this year. Spoiler: it is nowhere near done. Thankfully she won’t remember not having a stocking her first year. Hopefully I can finish it this year!

December 21, 2022 2:39 pm
Reply to  Chelsey Colon

I started making Foster a quilt in early 2022 with the goal of finishing before he was born. I’m on track to finish it next week … just in time for him to turn 8 months old. ???? Emily, the calendar is GORGEOUS! Also cracking up at June’s very helpful note on giving yourself enough time for future calendars, ha!

December 21, 2022 10:14 am

This is so special and you did such an amazing job! And I just love your plan with June to make one for each child when they leave for college.

December 21, 2022 10:32 am

I’m honestly so bummed to see the price increase! I’ve had it bookmarked since you wrote about it that first time, and it was still $98 the last time I clicked the link, a few months ago. It’s still on my list though! One thing I decided I’d like to do is needlepoint an ornament for my daughter each year – that way when she’s grown and goes out on her own, she’ll have a small stash to decorate her first tree with!

December 21, 2022 12:11 pm

Woohoo!! I’m so excited you have this hanging up, completed! We have our up, too, and I take our little baby to watch me pin the ornament every day. I bought the kit in 2020 after seeing it in your blog post and it became a quarantine project I completed with the help of my beloved nana, who died shortly after. It’s so special to me because of that and I hope it will be part of a lot of family memories to come.

December 21, 2022 12:59 pm

I am SO proud of you and thrilled to see the result! What a legacy of love! It’s so beautiful—so you. I love every stitch! I have thought of you this week as I’ve wrestled with seam tape and sequins myself. Love you and this so much! The custom ice skate is darling! (I know, I know — so many !!!!’s. I reserve them only for things as marvelous as this. I’m sure MAK would agree. Well deserved!)

December 21, 2022 2:42 pm

I want to do this SO bad!!! We didn’t have an advent calendar but my mom was always cross stitching various ornaments and other decorations for our home. It’s definitely sentimental and a core memory of her.

December 21, 2022 4:02 pm

Em! I’m so proud of you for finishing this! It’s beautiful! My stepmom is the magic maker in my family and always organizes sweet advent calendars for my sister and I. Mine last year was a scavenger hunt to the Bon Mam jam calendar! She always talks about wanting an advent calendar of her own. This year I found a wooden tree calendar and painted it for, her my dad and sister helped fill the drawers and she’s been loving it. Next up is making a reusable one for myself!

Elly Griffin
December 22, 2022 3:11 am

I love this! I saw it as a goal for you in 2022 and was inspired to buy my own kit. I made it a 2022 goal and finished it by March, I couldn’t stop! So impressed by your custom ornaments though, how clever are you ?!

December 22, 2022 8:00 am

CONGRATULATIONS!! It looks absolutely beautiful! And that it’s already so treasured, is just the best!

January 6, 2023 3:03 pm

I came back to this post just to say thank you for sharing your pride in this project! A big stretch goal made it’s way to my heart this year, but it’s something very different from my usual, something I’m not sure I can accomplish. Along with the fear of failing at the goal, I also dealt with the surprising worry of “what if it’s such a huge deal to me but doesn’t seem that great to anyone else?” I know plenty of people that it wouldn’t be difficult for but it is HUGE for me. Seeing your sense of accomplishment for something much more in my wheelhouse has helped me realize that my goal is something I will get immense satisfaction from and will make me grow in an area I don’t really know how to grow in. You’ve helped me see the appeal of an accomplishment in a completely new area that I’m not skilled in. Thank you so much!
P.S. Your Advent calendar looks beautiful!