Today I'm reviewing a craft kit! The nice folks at John Lewis sent me a Make Your Own Advent Calendar Kit, designed by Buttonbag (whose craft book I reviewed a few months ago).
Handmade advent calendars with pockets are pretty great. I have one that my mum made with I was a kid, she used to fill it up with sweets and stickers and other little treats wrapped up in scraps of festive wrap. It was so much fun opening a tiny present each morning in the run up to Christmas and I loved it even more because she had made it for me.
The Buttonbag Advent Calendar Kit comes in a nice box...
... and when you've finished stitching (and filled it with gifts), it looks something like this...
... though the felt colours in the kit I received were different and the fabric tape for hanging up the calendar were red and the panel itself is cream not white.
The kit includes: 24 brightly coloured felt squares, a little sewing kit with a needle included, some colourful embroidery thread, a piece of fabric tape, a printed calendar panel, a leaflet with instructions and templates and some sticky-backed felt. I think the only thing you need to add is some scissors - oh, and an iron to remove the creases from the calendar panel before you start.
I was a little bit surprised by the sticky-backed felt, as I'd expected this to be a sewing kit. You have to sew on the felt pockets and the "tabs" to hang the calendar but the decoration (the numbers, a name across the top, any other shapes you want to add) is all done with this self-adhesive felt - so you just cut out the shapes and stick them in place.
The "pros" of using the self-adhesive felt is that making the calendar is much quicker than if you had to stitch all the embellishments. Great for busy people getting ready for Christmas! It also means that if you were making this calendar with your kids as well as for them, quite young kids could get involved in sticking numbers onto their calendar while the older ones could do some of the sewing (which is very simple running stitch).
And the "cons"? Personally I would prefer the look of sewn-on numbers and if you were making this kit with a child learning to sew I think it would be great to get them to decorate the squares and then for you to pin and sew the squares in place on the calendar (though you could, of course, buy some extra felt to add your own embellishments if you wanted). Also I've not really worked with sticky-backed felt before and I worry a
little that the adhesive might not be as long-lasting as sewing would be
(would some of the shapes peel off after years of use?).
The letter and number templates are printed on a fold-out leaflet so you can cut them all out without cutting into the all important instructions. The instructions helpfully point out that you need to place the templates face down on the paper side of the sticky-backed felt when you cut them out and the shapes are all a solid colour so you can easily see which is the "right" and "wrong" side of the templates. There is a small error though as the text says "Remember to place them red-side down" but they're actually purple (I guess at some point the kit was updated?).
The calendar panel is like a large teatowel. The positions of each pocket is clearly marked and (helpfully) there are also lines to show where you need to stitch (i.e. which side of the pocket to leave open).
I like the little snowflakes that will be hidden behind each felt pocket, and I love the ric-rac style border but I'm not a fan of how the little button shapes in each corner say "Buttonbag Crafts". I like the idea of the little button shapes but I don't see why the Buttonbag name needs to be printed on this panel 5 times (the 4 button logos and a copyright notice at the bottom of the panel) and I would definitely sew my own buttons over these.
I also like how there's no excess packaging for this product - with everything neatly packed into the card box - and (apart from a small plastic bag containing the felt squares) all recyclable.
Overall, I think this is a nice kit! It includes everything you need to start making, but you could also add extras like buttons and sequins from your own crafty stash to make it extra special.
If you want a kit that involves a lot of sewing, or learning new crafty skills, or you're reading this review thinking "but I could make that easily from my own crafty stash!" then this isn't the kit for you. But if you want a quick and beginner-friendly project to make in a couple of evenings or an afternoon of crafting with your kids then you'll enjoy making this... and have a lot of fun filling the pockets with treats each year!
The Buttonbag Christmas Advent Calendar Kit is £16, and is available from John Lewis as part of their range of advent calendars.
[Disclaimer: John Lewis sent me a free advent calendar kit to review, and some John Lewis vouchers. I am always honest in my reviews!]