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  • Joanna Shepherd

Countdown to Christmas

Updated: Mar 8

Years ago my Dad made me an advent calendar, a wooden one. And even now, towards the end of November the excitement starts to build knowing it's time to retrieve it from the Christmas box. The whole tradition fills me with such wonderful warm memories. Mum used to wrap up hidden treasures for each day, nothing lavish just a little random surprise, usually edible! But sometimes there was something far more precious, a little note, from the heart. My parents are no longer with us but those glorious memories remain, forever with me. I always have a little 'moment' when the calendar reappears ready for my husband, who has taken over chalet replenishment!

With that in mind, this year I decided to make Advent Quilts, so others could create their own family tradition. Follow the journey of Quilt One:

Handmade Advent Calendar Quilt

Each of the limited edition quilts is different and takes over a week to make, hence the limited edition! For the four quilts I have sewn my way through 2.5km of bobbin thread, 40 different shades of embroidery thread, 6 machine needles, 5 playlists and gallons of tea...though no sign of a partridge in a pear tree.

Each piece has been machine embroidered by me; every thread change, fabric choice, hooping of stabiliser for the 100 pockets and 104 baubles (yes I add a spare...just in case).

Now is a good time to tell you that I am a diligent reduce, reuse, recycle and upcycler. Making the most of our limited resources is a real passion of mine. After every one of my makes there are always small pieces of fabric, batting and the like, that would normally go off to landfill. These fabrics are perfect pieces of cotton, cotton that has been grown, watered, harvested, woven, printed and transported; so I squirrel them away to use on projects like this which require a wide range of tiny pieces. Hey, these advent quilts wear their Eco-credentials with pride!

Every piece is different, so I decide on which fabric and thread to use to make each one unique. I can even create a personalised bauble printed with your child's photograph.

Each of the baubles has a piece of batting added to turn it into a mini quilt and is backed with a contrasting Christmassy fabric.

After embroidering I carefully remove them from the stabiliser, trim the treads and cut the button hole whilst holding my breath to avoid mishaps!

To add to the longevity of this family heirloom of the future I reinforce the pockets to make them more robust.

Have you any idea how hard it is to make sure colour choices look random!

Laying out the pieces prior to sewing is really important, I'm a real fusspot about getting the mix of colours balanced. It's the small details that make all the difference.

The topper and pockets are assembled with the batting (think of it as the sandwich filling) and secured with quilting pins, I don't use spray adhesive to secure the layers ready for sewing.

I remember this being such a gorgeous day, I even got washing on the line! Each one of the quilts has been lovingly created in The Garden Room which is not dissimilar to Santa's workshop. Some days have been beautiful with winter sunshine filling the Tamar Valley and bringing dynamic colours to Dartmoor, other days the rain was so intense I couldn't even see the garden.

Sorry for the distraction....After stitching the pockets I add a contrasting binding around the edges and hand sew tiny colourful buttons to the Christmas tree.

Every pocket holds a bauble which gets buttoned on each day resulting in a fully decorated Christmas Tree, topped off with the star on Christmas Day. The children can have fun deciding where they want to hang the bauble and can swap them around as the days pass

Next year jumble the baubles up, adding to the anticipation of which picture comes next. Buttoned to the back is a spare bauble that can be swapped in if one goes missing.

Feelings are created. They are created with memories, traditions, anticipation and with love. Christmas traditions are re-enacted around the world every year and I'm convinced that it is the anticipation that brings the most excitement. Family traditions have to start somewhere, just as happened with my Swiss chalet. So go on, start a family tradition for yourselves!

Please feel free to drop me a message if you are interested in owning one of these limited edition advent quilts yourself.

© 2018 MRS MARVELLOUS