Monday, November 29, 2010

Grams Made an Advent Calendar

Anyone who knows Grams knows that I am an admirer and aficionado of all things Martha Stewart. I've watched her television shows for years and have gotten more than a little inspiration to just make things a little bit nicer and a little bit lovelier.

When my kids were little we had an advent calendar that I made from a pre-printed fabric. It was a fabric print of a big teddy bear house. Printed along the bottom of the fabric was a grid with 25 days of instructions for where the bear looked for Christmas each day. One of the teddy bears was attached to a pin and each day the kids moved him from room to room as he looked for Christmas. Our son particularly loved that advent calendar and insisted that I still put it up each year even when he was in college. Last year I gave it to him for his own home.

Martha Stewart Advent Calendar
Then I saw Martha make a beautiful Advent Calender. It's made of little aluminum canisters that would normally be used to hold spices in your kitchen. It's very glittery and sparkly and I immediately thought it would be fun to make one for Our Little Princess and put a little surprise inside of each canister for her. Here are the instructions for Martha's calendar.

So this year I set out to make and fill an advent calendar. This turned out to be one of the most challenging DIY projects I've ever undertaken. It was one of those "if anything can go wrong, it will" projects.

I went shopping for the canisters. It took me at least four stores to find enough canisters all the same size and they were significantly more expensive than I expected.

For two reasons I decided not to glitter each of these little canisters. First, Grandad HATES glitter. He doesn't like it when I bring it into the house for any reason. Although, if he is ever going to tolerate it, it would be for Our Little Princess. Second, glitter and two-year-old girls is probably not a good combination.

AC1-Star font
Instead of glitter I decided to print the numbers in red and green. I downloaded this really cool font. I thought it was perfect and it's a TrueType font so I was able to resize it in MS Word to the size I wanted. I printed it out on card stock and decided it needed more color, so I used a colored pencil and colored the stars yellow.

That accomplished, I realized that the canister lids (which are clear) are slightly larger than my circle punch. That meant I had to cut all 24 inserts for the lids by hand. Bummer!

Then, I wasn't happy with the lack of glitter, so I went to Michael's and bought red, green, clear sticky-back jewels and put them on the bottom edge of each canister. The final effect is kind of like tinsel draped on a Christmas tree.

When I bought the canisters I also bought a roll of cut-to-fit magnetic tape. Which I attached to the back of each canister. My original plan was to attach the canisters to a cookie sheet, but when I laid out the tree pattern, it was too wide for any cookie sheet I could find. Back to the drawing board.

I dug through my closets and found an old gold picture frame that was the right size. Now, what kind of metal would work? Grandad and I took the frame to our local Home Depot in search of a piece of sheet metal that would work with a magnet. We found sheet metal but we couldn't find the right size. We were disappointed to discover that Home Depot will not cut sheet metal. We don't own any tin snips, so we looked at them only to find that they were about $20, more than we wanted to spend for one use. So we ended up buying two pieces of sheet metal that would have to be layered to get the width we needed, but they would still have to be cut to fit the height. Special thanks to our next door neighbor Ron for helping Grandad cut them. Grandad is kind of a klutz and klutziness, blood-thinners and jagged sheet metal are not a good combination.

Once the metal was cut, I hot glued the two pieces together and I missed. That's right, I glued them crooked and had to take them apart, peel the glue off, and re-do it. Then I realized that the seam showed too much so I would need to cover the metal. I went to my sewing box and found a piece of red crushed velvet which I stretched over the metal and glued on the back. I covered the back with white cardboard to give it a finished look.

A little Christmas bracelet and a Hershey's kiss.
Now I set out to fill the 24 canisters with little surprises. Can you guess? These canisters are so small that I had a very hard time finding 24 items that would fit inside and still be age appropriate for our not-quite-two-year-old Princess. I didn't want it to be only candy. I bought little toys, Christmas jewelry, Hershey's kisses, Christmas socks, and soft peppermints to go inside. Ten of the canisters got a little note inside that said "pick a present." So the calendar is accompanied by a gift bag that has 10 wrapped presents inside.

Next I arranged the canisters in the Christmas tree shape and lifted the frame. Now the strip magnets were not strong enough to hold the canisters in place through the crushed velvet. I went back to Hobby Lobby for stronger magnets. I bought magnetic discs with a strength number of 6. The magnetic tape had a strength number of 2. I peeled the magnetic tape off and applied the discs with hot glue. Success!

Grams' Advent Calendar
Finally, after all the frustrations, it was finished. It's done and sitting in Our Little Princess' dining room waiting for December 1st to arrive. And, we caught her peaking several times over the Thanksgiving weekend so I think it will turn out to be a lot of fun for her. And ... I made sure to tuck in some extra candy for Mom and Dad. Here's the finished product. It's a little bit kitschy which I think is perfect. I think I did a good job of taking Martha's project and making it my own.

The frustrations I encountered with this project made me think about how Martha Stewart has an entire, huge staff to work out all the kinks in her projects before we actually see her do them on her shows. I think I'll send them a suggestion for a show featuring the back-stories on some of their craft projects. It would be fun to see how many of them it takes to accomplish what one of her fans does. Speaking from experience. Some of these projects are really challenging.

Now, if only I could borrow some of Martha's staff to put up my Christmas tree and decorate my house. Grams can dream ... can't she?

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  1. That turned out very nice! I love it!

  2. ahhhhh! I love it! I also love Martha Stewart's glitter. I wish I had the whole set!

  3. What a cute advent calendar! Love it!

    Hey, thanks for visiting my blog for my SITS day today. :)