Xmas crafts book review & DIY Advent calendar

So, the countdown to Advent and the pre-Christmas period is on! If it feels to you like it’s come early this year, then you’d be right – the 27th November is the earliest possible date the first Advent Sunday can fall on. It may give you less time to get things in order, but on the plus side, you get four extra days to celebrate. One of my favourite things about getting ready for Advent and Christmas, is getting all my Christmas magazines and craft books of the shelf and deciding what I’m going to make, so I was delighted when a while back I was sent an advance copy of the book ‘Kreative Weihnachten‘ by Sophie Pester and Catharina Bruns to review. Sophie and Catharina also run a bi-monthly crafts subscription service – Super Craft – and they’ve already published a previous book with 52 craft projects to take you through the year, which is also available in English. ‘Kreative Weihnachten’ is only available in German at the moment, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. Even if you only have a smidgeon of German, you’ll still get a lot of creative inspiration from it.

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I actually feel a little bad about leaving this so late, because I think it was in early September that I received the advance copy of the book, which hit the shops at the end of September. But although I read through it, chose a project to try out and got all the materials for it, I just couldn’t get myself to do any Christmas stuff before Hallowe’en. And then Hallowe’en was suddenly over, and I had two kids’ birthdays to organise, and suddenly November was almost over too. So Sophie and Catharina, if you read this, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long.

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Anyway, so, before I share with you the project I decided to try out for my review, let me tell you a bit more about the book itself. It features over 30 different projects, and is divided in to four categories: decorating, gifts, packaging and last-minute-ideas. There are some tips at the beginning of the book, on basic supplies to have in your house, and a reference section on techniques for sewing, embroidery, knitting, crochet and pompoms at the back, as well as all the templates for the projects, and some free gift tags and Advent calendar number cards which you can take out and use. Besides the type of projects referenced in the tecyniques section, other projects also include things such as painting, paper crafts, flower arranging and even some recipes! Each project includes an overview of what you’ll need and a step-by-step guide, with lots of photos for those who – like me – do better with visual aides. The photographs of the finished projects are also all beautifully arranged, and really get you in to the festive spirit. It’s definitely a book I’m happy to add to my Christmas library.

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So, the project that I chose to try out for this review is an Advent calendar, which was perfect because I have a special someone I wanted to make one for anyway. So I kind of killed two birds with one stone. Please note that it differs in some minor points from the instructions in the book, as I adapted it to the materials I had available, but personally I think that’s the best way to approach a project.

So, here’s what I used:

  • 24 cotton drawstring bags, 10 x 15cm
  • 1 large cotton drawstring bag, 27 x 44cm
  • 1 self-adhesive A4 foam sheet (in Germany it’s called ‘Moosgummi’, in the UK you can get it e.g. via Hobbycraft under the name ‘Fab Foam’). If you can’t get self-adhesive, you can also use regular foam sheets with double sided sticky tape.
  • Templates – if you have the book, you can use the templates from the back, or you can just draw your own (in which case you’ll also need some paper). There ere 13 templates for this project, but I chose just six: a bell, star, heart, tree, snowflake and horse. As well as the numbers 0 to 9.
  • A pen (not pictured)
  • Scissors
  • A couple of empty CD cases
  • Fabric paint in blue, green, red and yellow
  • A paint brush
  • 48 little bells
  • Needle and thread
  • An iron (not pictured)

I’d also recommend some old newspaper, to protect your work surface, and some old cardboard to stick inside the bags when you are painting them, to stop the paint seeping through! A box set of the Gilmore Girls is optional.

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Step 1: Transfer the templates to the foam sheets and cut them out.

Step 2: Stick your foam templates on to the empty CD case covers to create your stamps – remember to stick the numbers back to front, so that they’ll be the right way round when you stamp them. You can exchange the foam templates so that you don’t need an extra CD cover for each.

Step 3: Use the brush to spread paint evenly on to the foam stamps, then carefully stamp them on to the bag. Through the transparent CD cover, you’ll be able to see exactly where yo position them. Don’t forget to put some cardboard inside the bags to stop the paint seeping through!

I did all the shapes first – each of the six shapes four times, one in each colour. I found it easiest to do all of one colour first, then wash everything, then do the next colour etc.

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Step 4: Once they had dried, I turned the bags over and stamped the numbers on the reverse sides. As you can see above, I alternated so there are always different colours of numbers next to each other. Again, I did all of one colour first, then the next colour and so on.

Step 5: Once the numbered sides of the bags had dried too, I ironed them to set the paint, according to the instructions on my paint. Mine said to leave to dry for six hours and then iron for five minutes, but do check what your paint says as it will differ from brand to brand.

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Step 6: I spent an evening – and a couple of episodes of the Gilmore Girls – sewing two bells on to each bag, one on each of the two bottom corners.

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Step 7: Fill the bags with Advent goodies!

Step 8: Hang them up somewhere, e.g. on a banister if you have a staircase in your house, or – like I have done – hang them on a wooden pole which you can then secure to the wall, e.g. by hammering to nails in to the wall for the pole to rest on top. I actually only did this for the photograph to show you – the pole will have other decorations hanging from it, and the calendar is being packed up to be sent on its way to the lucky recipient in time for the 1st of December!

Oh, I almost forgot about the large cotton bag. The idea is that you can store all the little bags inside it for the rest of the year. You could paint the recipient’s name on to the front and/or decorate it with the same picture stamps you used on the small bags. I haven’t taken a photograph of mine, because it does have a name on it which I can’t show here.

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So, I hope this little taster has given you a better idea of what this lovely book is about. I put together a little selection below of some other projects I am itching to try out (clockwise from top left):

  • decorative hoops
  • reindeer packaging
  • crochet star toy
  • scented bath salts

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‘Kreative Weihnachten’ by Sophie Pester and Catharina Bruns is published by Dorling Kindersley and is available via the Supercraft website. Please note, I received a free advance copy of this book to review, but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

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