Sewing: advent calendars

Technically, Advent starts next Sunday.  But most Advent calendars begin with December 1, which is tomorrow.  But I didn’t find this fabric until about a week ago, when I was at the Textile Shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts. And I wasn’t able to do anything with it until today, when I made two of these nifty Advent calendars. Each piece of fabric is an advent calendar, with pockets. Each pocket has a number on  it, and a small image suggestive of the approach of winter, Christmas, or both — mittens, reindeer, polar bears, and finally Santa on the little pocket numbered 24.

The thing is quite nicely put together. It’s produced by The Henley Studio, a division of Makower UK (available in the US as Andover Fabrics).

The pattern is organized like this.  It’s a full width of 100% cotton, selvedge to selvedge. Across one side of the selvedge is a set of printed instructions. Then there’s a large panel that forms the back of the advent calendar.  Then there are four strips which represent the face and sides of each pocket.  These panels are box-pleated to produce six pockets each in four rows.  The result is quite pretty.  It’s got a sort-of Scandinavian vibe to it, modernist and traditional at the same time.
You get a sense of how these pieces fit together from the image at right.  I’ve installed the middle two lines of pockets. The upper and lower line still have to be sewn into place with a combination of top stitches and back-stitches.

The panel is bordered by a ring of trees, like so; and a couple of solid color blocks of blue and red that you can use for top stitching or quilting the edges to provide some additional support for the whole calendar.

Once all four rows of pockets are attached, you’re able to put it wrong sides together with a piece of backing fabric, turn the work, and top-stitch the edge.  You can leave a slot open across the top for a dowel or a batten; or you can add loops to hang it from a more banner-like pole.  

To help with the placement of the pockets, the main back panel of this advent calendar is printed with the same design as is printed on the pocket-panels.  You can get a sense of the way each panel is folded, here, as well, with a combination of hems, top stitches, and box pleats. The whole thing is quite elegantly designed, and the directions are easy to follow as well.  I was able to make one this morning, and another one this afternoon.

The magician in me, of course, is interested in the idea of Advent as a means of expressing ideas about time.  Advent is a season of approach; the word comes from the Latin verb to arrive or to reach [a destination]: advenire.  

It’s hard not to draw some interesting concepts out of that idea of reaching or arriving at a date.  If we don’t move, but remain in the same place, we’re moving toward a destination in time rather than in space.  We’re also aspiring to be in a better state, emotionally and spiritually, when we practice the observance of Advent.  Is the destination approaching us? Or are we approaching it?  Where does the movement come from?  Is time moving us toward Christmas? Or are we moving?  Is it a matter of mutual reception, us moving  toward a moment in time and the time itself reaching out to grab us?

That’s a complicated proposition.  An advent calendar is a symbol of passing time, both moving away from a starting point, and toward a moment of high grace and power.  It’s a process of asking ourselves, constantly, are we ready? Because the event approaches us, or we approach the event, simultaneously.  We don’t get to wait in ordinary time — the time has already been consecrated to another purpose, and the purpose of that consecration is to energize us and empower us to travel toward a destination that is already pre-determined.  This is not an avoidable destination — it will come, will we or nil we, and we can choose to prepare, and be prepared, for that arrival.  Penguins in scarves aside, cute bears in Jayne hats aside, time is carrying us toward a destiny we can accept or refuse… but Advent invites the preparation, nonetheless.


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