Recently, John Lewis got in touch to ask me to review this Advent Calendar kit by Buttonbag. Now, I find it hard to resist doing anything John Lewis tell me to do, and I have had a really positive experience of Buttonbag kits in the past, so I jumped at the chance. And as Advent is approaching at top speed, I thought it was time I got started..
The first sight of the kit is really promising, with lots of brightly coloured felt pieces, embroidery thread and pins and needles, alongside the fabric for the calendar itself, and hanging tapes to sew on. The instructions are basic, but as this is a very straightforward project, you probably don’t need more than that.
The first step, is cutting out the numbers for the pockets, and letters for your child’s name. You have to cut out paper templates for the numbers (which are provided on the instructions leaflet), and then trace the numbers on to the paper backing of the sticky-backed felt sheets. To be honest, this is pretty tedious – there are a LOT of numbers (39, as I grumpily worked out!) on an Advent Calendar, and the figures are small and fiddly to cut. The paper on the back of the felt is also pretty tricky to draw on because it is shiny and slippy. If you were doing this with a child they would need an awful lot of support here.
As you can see, I’ve managed to get half way so far, and to be honest, although I am enjoying the process of combining colours and embellishments, I am finding the rest of project rather hard work because of all the cutting.
I really don’t like the sticky-backed felt – unfortunately, it totally gummed up my scissors, which I had to keep cleaning with nail polish remover. Peeling off the paper backing and sticking the felt to pockets is easy enough, but don’t make any mistakes, because there aren’t any spare pockets! I was keen to embellish the pockets with buttons and beads (not provided, so from my own stash), to make it extra-Christmassy (I don’t do low-key at Christmas), and I have persevered with this, but it is rather tricky to get a needle through the gummy felt, and my sewing needle got very sticky too.
The next stage is the stitching of the pockets – this is very straightforward because the pockets are cut for you, and the lines are marked on the calendar. There’s also lots of lovely colours of thread to choose from, and it is fun to combine the brightly coloured felts and threads. Unfortunately, I feel that the needles provided with my kit were not really fit for purpose – they weren’t particularly sharp, and were maybe a little thick to get through the felt. I swapped for one of my own.
One great thing about the design is that the pockets are nice and roomy… plenty of room for little gifts, chocolates or even mini-Christmas decorations. John Lewis were kind enough to send me £20 of vouchers to spend on goodies to fill the calendar pockets. I was so excited to see these lovely chocolates with traditional numbered wrappers – they remind me of the ones we had when I was a kid. Can’t tell you what they taste like yet…!
The price for this kit, £16, is pretty good value for what you get, but I think I would personally rather pay more for better quality felt and fabric, especially if you want to bring out this calendar year after year. It would also be far better to decrease the amount of cutting and increase the amount of sewing involved (maybe providing pre-cut felt numbers at least?), but maybe that’s because I would much rather wield my needle than my scissors! However, as you can see from the pictures, the result does look rather sweet, so I will persevere to the finish – I am sure my boys will be delighted. And, browsing the other Advent Calendars available at JL’s, I am very tempted by this little dog-treat version for Barney.