One of my favorite memories from my childhood was the Advent calendar my mom made for me. It was so exciting each year to see all the little packages she tied onto them and wonder what was in them. Was it candy, a small toy, a piece of jewelry? It was also fun to see the days ticking off. We always got something big on Christmas Eve (I think that was to keep us busy while she did last-minute wrapping).
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When my children were growing up, we did something a bit different. I bought a paper Advent calendar at the store one year. It was a the type where you lift the flap to reveal a bit of the Christmas story each day. We ended up using it for many years and they enjoyed that tradition.
So, today I’m going to share with you some ideas on how to use your Silhouette machine to make an Advent calendar. There are many different ways to do it so there’s something for everyone.
Advent Calendar Idea#1: Scratch offs
Silhouette America has scratch off stickers that are a fairly new product. They come in white, gold and silver. The white ones are printable, the others are not. So you can use the white ones as a print and cut or just a regular cut, and the gold and silver as a regular cut. When you scratch off the coating, the sticker is clear so that you can see through to the paper underneath. (And honestly, you could probably use any brand). I’ve made a couple of different designs with the scratch offs.
In this one, I’ve printed the numbers on the scratch off stickers and cut them out as rounded rectangles (so a print and cut). That means I needed to use the white type. Then I printed out a Christmas graphic just on a full sheet of regular paper — no registration marks needed because I’m not cutting anything on it. I created this in Silhouette Studio, but you could do it in any program. I used the scratch off stickers to cover the picture of Santa. As you scratch off each number, you reveal more of the picture.
HINT: Use the lower or side margins to test your cut settings. Just turn the registration marks off temporarily.
Work gently when pulling the stickers off the backing, as it’s easy to scratch them (which you don’t want to do just yet) and they tear easily. The also like to stick to the backing. A nice sharp weeding tool is very helpful. I found a good technique for bits where it didn’t want to separate — I used it to run along the cut line before trying to lift the sticker off.
I like to spread the stickers around so that it keeps the “What is the picture?” suspense longer.
Here’s another take on it. On the scratch offs for this one, I printed both the numbers and a bit of the Christmas story each day along with the verses where you can find the story in the Bible. I’ve left a blank in the sentence so that the parents can read the story and ask the kids to fill in the blank. I kept mine in numerical order this time.
If I were making this as a gift for a family, I would also include discussion starters for older kids. For example, day 9 is where Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem. I’d ask the kids how they thought travel might be different in those days, what hardships they might have faced with Mary being pregnant, etc. (Yes, this is the homeschool mom in me coming out).
When you print and cut, you end up with portions of the scratch off sticker paper that you can’t cut on because you have to leave margins around the page. But keep reading, and I’ll show you a way I used up those leftovers.
Advent Calendar Idea #2: Lift the flap
My kids loved our lift the flap calendar, so I wanted to create a design for that. Here’s that same nativity graphic and questions I showed you above.
This time, I’ve used 3 different parts.
Component #1: Design page
This page is a print and cut. I’ve printed the nativity scene and the day numbers and cut the flaps.
For the flap, you only want to cut 3 sides. The 4th stays attached so you can fold the flap back. I scored along those lines, which means the blade went only partially through the paper. You could use a bone folder or scoring tool instead.
Here’s the question: how do you cut so that you can easily lift that flap? At first I thought of using dotted lines, but it still might be hard for little fingers to pull open the flap without ripping the whole page. So I kept thinking and decided to use something we would normally avoid.
Have you ever cut something from paper and then had bits at the corners that didn’t cut quite through? You end up with a little tab of paper at that corner. What if we did that on purpose?
Use open paths
Here’s how I did it — I used open paths. (To learn more about open paths, check out my series on Point Editing). I drew 3 lines that would be the other 3 side of the rectangle of the flap. But I positioned them so that they didn’t quite meet. Here’s a diagram of my flap:
The left side (the red) is the line I’m going to score for the fold. I made it a different color so that I can cut by line color and have a different cut setting for those. The purple lines are 3 separate lines. If I zoom in really closely, you can see that they don’t quite meet at the corners:
That’s going to leave that little bit uncut at the corner to hold the flap in place until it’s time to open it.
HINT: Be very careful as you take the paper off the mat, as you don’t want to tear those corners apart yet.
Component #2: Phrases
I printed out my phrases on just a plain sheet of white cardstock. I don’t need to do this as a print and cut, because I don’t need to cut anything. The key is to make sure before I print that it is in the right spot on the page (behind the flaps).
Component #3: Border Frame
My printed design page is lovely, but I don’t love the registration marks showing on the page. So I cut a frame that I can glue on top and cover those marks. I just used some coordinating cardstock.
Now I just glue the pieces together — phrases on the bottom, design page with flaps in the middle, border frame on top. Put some of your adhesive on the little spaces between the flaps (but not on the flaps). That helps hold the middle of the design page down.
HINT: If you don’t want to do part #3 and want to use the full page, you can use a PixScan mat.
Advent Calendar Idea #3: Lift the flap plus scratch off
Here’s one I think would be great for a family with kids of various ages. The youngest gets to find the number on the page (I did mine in order, but you can spread them around). The next oldest gets to open the flap. Under the flap is a Christmas joke, which kids around 7-10 love. I’ve printed both the question and answer of the joke, but covered the answer with a scratch off sticker. I’m pretty sure you’d have to have the kids take turns on this one, because who doesn’t love a scratch off sticker? If you aren’t fan of print and cut, you can do this one without that technique.
I did this one a bit differently, again with several components. I made it so that I could utilize a full letter-sized sheet.
Component #1: Phrases
These I just printed on a regular 8 1/2 x 11. Since I’m not cutting, I don’t have to use registration marks and can therefore use the full page.
Component #2: Scratch off stickers
Because I wasn’t printing on the scratch offs, I only had to cut them. They just need to be large enough to cover all the joke answers. This is a way I used up the leftover margin pieces I had from the other scratch off designs. Just avoid putting any in the areas where the marks are printed.
Believe it or not, you can still have the software read the marks so that it cuts in the right spots as long as you use a little trick.
- Leave the marks on the page along with the shapes you cut on your print and cut (so my rounded rectangles with numbers or nativity story).
- Add and cut just one shape that is within the red cut borders.
- After it cuts, do NOT unload your mat.
- Take the registration marks off the page.
- Add and cut the rest of your plain scratch off stickers.
By leaving the mat in, you’re in the same spot; by taking the marks off the software isn’t looking for them any longer.
Component #3: Flaps
I did this the same way as in the regular lift the flap, but without the printing. I just cut it from a pretty Christmas paper. It’s not necessary, but I like to use a double-sided paper.
Component #4: Numbers
The last thing you need is the numbers for the flaps. You can cut them from vinyl or a contrasting paper. I happened to have some stickers in the paper pack I used.
Place your scratch off stickers over the answer to the joke, making sure you will be inside the flap area. After I did one set and took this photo, I decided to add rectangles for each joke+answer set that were just larger than the flap. I raised the line thickness so they would print and give me a guide.
So here’s the order for assembly: jokes on bottom with scratch off stickers already applied, flaps page in the middle, numbers to top it off.
Advent Calendar Idea #4: Stickers
Here’s one where you add something rather than remove. Print a page with empty boxes or circles and numbers. Because you aren’t cutting anything, it doesn’t need to be a print and cut.
HINT: In order for the shape outline to print, you need to raise the line thickness. For the numbers, you can fill with color.
Then print and cut some stickers. The child can use the stickers to cover the number each day. You can print the numbers on the stickers for them to try to match each day if they are just learning their numbers, or just use a graphic.
Advent Calendar Idea #5: Felt or fabric
If you are super motivated, you can use your Silhouette to cut felt or fabric designs to place on a background. This is the type my mom used with my younger sisters, but of course back then she cut it all by hand. She had a large piece of red felt and sewed a big green Christmas tree on it. There were 24 numbered pockets along the bottom that held stuffed ornaments. Each day, the girls took turns pinning an ornament on the tree. #24 was always the star for the top of the tree.
I don’t have the calendar any longer, but here’s a similar one:
To cut fabric, you need a stabilizer to make it stiff so the blade doesn’t pull as it cuts. You can add interfacing on the back, or use heavy starch. Or, use the new Strong Tack mat, which will hold it firmly enough. You do NOT need to use a fabric blade — it’s the same as the regular blade. It’s just a different color so you can keep it separate from a blade you’d use to cut paper (like your sewing scissors). You do want your blade to be sharp. And use 2 passes so that all the threads get cut.
For felt, I also HIGHLY recommend putting interfacing on the back. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a mess of fibers on your mat.
Advent Calendar Idea #6: Puzzle
Version 4.2 (still in Beta phase but available here) introduces a new puzzle creator. You can take any picture, break it up into a puzzle, add numbers, then print and cut. Give the child 1 piece each day (you can even do a hide and seek game with it). By Christmas, you’ve got the puzzle put together. You can mount the pieces on chipboard if you like for more weight. I’d recommend several layers because the Silhouette brand chipboard is pretty flimsy. You could also stack up several pieces of cardstock. Cut them the same size without the printing.
Advent Calendar Idea #7: Treats
Let’s say you already have an Advent calendar of your own like the one I had growing up, or have bought one of the 3D designs from the Silhouette Design Store to make. You can still fill the boxes with treats you make on your Silhouette. Here are some ideas:
- vinyl nail decals
- temporary tattoos
- shrink plastic jewelry
- leather earrings or key fobs (for older kids)
- shrink plastic bag tag
- socks decorated with stretch HTV
- scratch off game
- Christmas scene with stickers
- boxes like this one filled with candy. If you don’t have a 3D advent calendar, you can even just make 24 of these and put numbers on them.
Be sure to comment below to share other ideas.
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