Tuesday, November 25, 2014

DIY Pottery Barn Kids Inspired Advent Calendar

I am so happy that I actually pulled through with making this Advent calendar.  It's so often I see something I love, but can't justify the price, and then believe it could be something I could make myself.  Pretty sure the last time this happened was when I made our toddler teepee, and while I really would love to make the girls a new one, it's still brings me so much pride seeing how much they enjoy it.  I hope I get that same feeling using this family Advent calendar year after year.

(2) 1x4x6, we used poplar -- this can be changed see details below
25 clothes pins
25 Muslin bags
eye hooks
120 grit sandpaper
Martha Stewart Vintage Decor paint in Linen
Martha Stewart Vintage Decor wax in Clear
Paint brush
Cotton rag
Table Saw
Picture hook
Wood glue/Hot glue
Wooden Star (optional)

I started the process by using the dimensions the PBK item description gave and drew up a little blue print on some of Ashlynn's roll of easel paper.  The description stated it was 24.5" wide x 45.5" high, however the image shows that the tree is mounted to a vertical piece of wood.  I'm not sure if the height included that piece, if it was and actual stand or wall hanging only.  I actually called their customer service to find out and they didn't know either.  So I just went with what I got.

I first measured out 45.5" on paper.  My paper was only 24" wide, so I dropped the extra half inch.  I then grabbed a clothes pin I had (I had enough on hand from other projects), and measured it at 3.5". Knowing I wanted the wood planks the same height, and that I needed 5 planks with 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 pins on each, I marked out all five rows.  After that I worked from the center line outwards how many inches the top and bottom of each plank would be, and it was actually pretty simple.

From top to bottom
1st - 6" and  8"
2nd - 10" and 12"
3rd - 14" and 16"
4th - 18" and 20"
5th - 22" and 24"

Then, I sent the Husband out with Ashlynn one morning with instructions to pick up a 1x4 in at least 80"in length.  I had looked up the night before on Lowe's website that 1x4s were 3.5" in true measurement - perfect.  Instead he came home with two planks 6' each.  He said we need some scrap for room for error, etc.  Turns out we had plenty leftover that I could make the vertical stand like the PBK version, but I choose to go with my version since it could collapse and would be easier to store away.

Since we don't have a table saw, I marked my measurements (with my fairy assistant) and sent the planks back off with the Husband to his buddy's house to cut them for us.

Then I needed to paint.  I originally planned on white washing the boards, but since the wood was so light in color I wanted to use an off-white or tan paint.  While searching at Michaels, I came across the Martha Stewart Vintage Decor line and remembered a project Courtney from A Thoughtful Place completed a few weeks ago and knew it was perfect.  It's basically a chalk paint with a matte finish.  I would be able to distress it with sandpaper and apply a wax finish to protect it and give it a finished look and feel.

Note:  The instructions on the paint suggest using 220 grit sandpaper, but I had trouble getting anything to show through when I tried so I moved on to rougher 120 grit and was happy with the result.

I painted each piece with one coat and let dry completely for 2 hours before going at them with sandpaper for some distressing to allow some of the wood grain show through.  The paint suggests using the Martha Stewart Vintage Decor paint brush, but it was seriously like over $20, so I just figured I'd use one of our many.  I had a small brush that had similar harder bristles like the branded brush and it worked great.  I probably would suggest a true paint brush over a fine art/craft paint brush with finer bristles, but I'm sure anything will really work.

I actually used a small craft brush to paint the clothespins. Then I allowed everything to cure over night.  I made sure I was happy with look and then applied the wax (to the boards only, not the clothes pins).  The directions for the paint and wax are pretty easy and clear on the bottle, but I did watch this video just to make sure I wasn't going to screw anything up.

Once I polished up the wax finish after letting it cure for 24 hours (the reason this post is later in the week than I planned!)

We drilled holes for the eye hook screws and attached the planks together with twine.  We used 1-3/16 eye hooks and a 9/64 drill bit.  Admittedly, I tested this out on a scrap piece of wood, but couldn't screw the hook in myself.

I measured 3" in both directions from the center of each board for the hooks to be place so they were vertically even.  I had the Husband drill the holes about 3/4 of the way and then screw the hooks in and he used pliers when it really got stuck.  He was able to get them all in flush and facing parallel to the boards. You could also use a sturdy (grosgrain) ribbon and staple to the backs of the boards with a staple gun, burlap would look cute too.  Or of course use the scrap wood to make it like the PBK version above and either nail, screw, or glue the planks to attach.

Tip:  Use a piece of scrap wood in between the rows for equal distance between the planks.

Once all the planks were attached, I laid out where I wanted the clothes pins and started glueing them on.  I wanted to use wood glue since I assumed that was my best option, but I couldn't find it in the house.  So I just heated up my hot glue gun and got to work.

I screwed a picture hook at the top center of the highest plank.

While at Michaels, I picked up a little wooden 8" star for $2.  I mounted it on a little scrap piece and glued that to the top plank.  I had painted, distressed, and waxed it the same as the rest of the wood.  I toyed with so many ideas writing our family name, which ultimately intimidated me that I would screw it up - but if you have a Silhouette it'd be easy to make a label.  I outlined it with a Martha Stewart glitter pen, because it's a Christmas star so it has to have some glitter by law.  I still might paint "joy" or "merry christmas" if I get the balls to do it or see a small wooden ornament.

Then it was ready to hang.

I am so happy with the result.  I love the Martha Stewart Vintage Decor paint and think it was definitely my best option for the project.  Overall, the project did cost a little more than I had hoped.  The wood we purchased was about $20, but like I said above, Pete picked up too much and I'm sure this could be easily reduced or used from scrap you may already have.  The countdown bags I purchased pre-stamped on Etsy for $20 shipped, I could have gotten them plain for about $10, but wasn't confident in stenciling them or painting them myself.  Finally, the Martha Stewart paint is $9.99 a pop.  I used a 50% off one item coupon, and also got $10 off my total purchase because I picked up other things, like the $2 wooden star.  The twine, clothespins, eye hooks, and picture hangers were all things we had on hand.  So all in, it was probably about half the cost of the Pottery Barn Kids version when factoring in personalization, shipping, and tax.

Will you use an Advent calendar this December?  Did you DIY one or buy, and what does it look like?


  1. looks amazing! i got the $1.49 cardboard/gross chocolate version from stop&shop. womp wooomp

  2. Haha that's what we grew up with, no shame. I wanted to add one as piece of Xmas decor since our collection is just slowly growing year by year. We finally bought a big tree last year (we are fakers) and the hooks for the stockings. This year is this and maybe we'll reinvest in some lights since I'm sure most of our burnt out. It's expensive enough buying present let alone all the decorations.

  3. Love this...so cute! I picked up one of the knit wool stocking advent calendars from Garnet Hill last year around this time when it was half off and love it! It's in garland-form and looks cute hanging on the front of our big console table :-)

  4. Maria Amalfitano StoehrNovember 23, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    I sewed 25 bags of a few different "holiday" prints and hung them on twine in large frame I had used for photos from my daughter's first birthday. Now, to think of things to fill them with!!

  5. So cute! Honey We're Home had a great list of activities a few days ago. We aren't doing things every day, some days will just have a small ornament for the tree.

  6. I think I remember that! Definitely super cute!

  7. Awesome DIY project! This is super cute and looks JUST like the expensive version! Hope your little ones are getting excited for the holidays... I know mine are!

  8. That turned out really cute!!!

  9. You're a real life Martha Stewart!

  10. i finally bought matching stockings this year! i'm terrible. seriously. but i couldnt justify the PB price. ive had them in my cart i dont even know how many times. but target wins again -- $9.75/ea and theyre cute fair isle. i got 3 (!) so they'll all match. i totally get slowly growing the decor collection. plus -- then it has to get stored!

  11. WOW girl this is awesome! you are seriously so crafty and so good with tutorials. I'm like let me just post a few pictures of this diy and hope they can figure it out. ;) miiiiight have to copy this! but let's be real...I'll add this to matt's to -do list. ;)

  12. Wow, that is so awesome! I love it!! Maybe I'll attempt it next year, because yours turned out so well! I've been trying to find an advent calendar style I liked but didn't see anything that really popped out at me. What kinds of things are you putting in the bags?

  13. A combination of activities and small ornaments I grabbed at michaels, wooden ones we can paint and some soft ones with stick on stickers (snowman, wreath, etc). So it's visit Santa at the mall, bake cookies, pick up toys for children in need, drink cocoa and watch a xmas movie. That kind of thing :)

  14. Ha, I'm trying to be better about being clear with tutorials, but it's really only the complicated ones I'm thorough with. And that's only when I remember.

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