Halloween is special time in the Kiss household for three reasons, the first being the fact that I can walk around without any makeup and look authentically festive. Secondly the house gets filled with sweets, for the children obviously, although every now and then I do test a bar or two of chocolate to make sure they’ve not spoilt with the heating on. And thirdly because the children love dressing up and this is the perfect excuse to become little goblins and witches after being my adorable little angels all year.
One thing that certainly makes an occasion special is a countdown or build-up to the big day. It also helps to make the children aware of dates and time spans and teaches them patience in waiting for a reward. So what started with a homemade Christmas advent calendar to house chocolate coins and candy canes has now turned into any excuse to countdown events with a personalised calendar and treats.
For my 7yr old daughter Millie’s birthday I filled her cake and balloons advent calendar with lip balm, children’s jewellery, coins and lollipops. And for halloween I found some fun miniature facepaints, scary bats, bugs and spiders and some treat size chocolate bars.
It may look daunting, but making your own felt advent calendar is super easy, and I have honed my textiles skills from my days as a GCSE student. I literally use a pair of scissors, a needle and white cotton thread and loads of off-cuts of coloured felt. We made the design up as we went along, and I asked my two children what they would like on their calendar, to which my daughter requested a witch on a broomstick and a black cat, and my 2yr old son who is obsessed with spiders said “Mummy, a PIDER!” How could I resist?
I start every calendar with the backing, which is a large dark brown felt rectangle slightly smaller than the width of the lounge door where it’s designed to be hung. I don’t measure at all, just hold it up to where it’s going and cut it down until it fits. We then decide how we’d like to countdown the days to Halloween and over what amount of time. Two weeks generally seems to be the maximum non-Christmas related countdown, and this is measured in the amount of treat pockets used. At Christmas we have 25 numbers, one for each day of the month leading up to Christmas day, and for birthdays we spell out “Happy Birthday!” with one letter being on each pocket. So as “Happy Halloween” happens to be 14 letters this was the perfect two week countdown for us to spell out.
I cut 14 dark brown felt squares and spell out “Happy Halloween” onto a piece of white felt which I then cut out and hand sew one letter onto each pocket. It seems to work easier to keep the pockets around the edge of the calendar so that you have room in the middle for a picture or feature, so we place them in order around the edge and when we’re happy with where they sit I again hand stitch them on. All of my sewing is a straight forward running stitch, which involves putting the needle into the front of the fabric and pulling it out of the back. Then moving along about half a centimetre and pushing the needle from the back through to the front again, carrying on along the length of the fabrics to stitch together and tying off the end with a knot.
With the pockets in place I then made a start on Millie’s witch. With no plan to follow I looked up images of witches on my phone for inspiration, drawing out a rough dress shape onto purple felt, a peach oval for the face, white hair, brown broom and red lips. I stitched it into place in the middle of the calendar and then made a start on the black cat, which was just a rough outline of a cat with white circles for eyes. I then made a spider in the same way, a pumpkin and a moon to fill each corner.
Millie decided there was still too much free space so she requested a frankenstein, werewolf, bat, ghost and skeleton too which I gave my best shot. I then finished with a scattering of rainbow coloured sweets, a cross and tombstones, before stitching white string in various drooping loops to look like cobwebs, and some tiny gold stars around the witch to make her sparkle.
In just over three hours our Halloween advent was complete and now takes pride of place in the lounge ready for the countdown to the big day. The children loved making it and coming up with ideas and designs, and it really brightens the room up without making a mess or getting in the way. Each morning the children can have the contents of one pocket, teaching them to share, countdown the number of days and wait patiently for the next. What’s best is there’s no mess, little hands can’t reach it without the use of a chair so it doesn’t get pulled about and it can be used year after year. In total the felt cost just £4.50 and we now have a priceless and unique family decoration that will bring many years of devilish delight. It’s incredible what you can make when you put your mind to it and it certainly beats a night in front of the TV or playing video games.