How to Make a Button Advent Calendar

comments (10) December 1st, 2015     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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Heres how the advent calendar looks on December 25th—fully decorated!
Heres how it looks before December 1st.
Starting on December 1st, add a new button to the tree each day.
Heres how the advent calendar looks on December 25th—fully decorated!

Here's how the advent calendar looks on December 25th—fully decorated!

Photo: Diane Gilleland
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For a different take on the traditional Advent calendar, try this little tree that gets prettier each day as you add a button ornament.

What you'll need:

  • Styrofoam cone, 6 inches tall, 2-7/8 inches diameter
  • 9x12 sheet of embossed felt
  • Washable fabric-marking pen
  • Scissors
  • Craft glue
  • Wide rickrack
  • 25 assorted sew-through buttons (1-1/4-inch-diameter or larger)
  • Scrap of pipecleaner
  • Pearl cotton embroidery floss
  • Two crewel needles
  • 25 flat-top thumbtacks
  • E-6000 craft adhesive
  • Thrift-store saucer
  • Three or four sets of 1/2-inch sticky-back Velcro dots


Prep the Buttons
I recommend using a mix of various button sizes for this project. You can use any combination of colors, too. Here's an easy way to add a bit of detail to your buttons- and mask their holes:

  Use a needle and floss to make several stitches through the button. Leave the ends of the floss loose.

Thread a needle with pearl cotton embroidery floss. Bring the needle up through the button, leaving about a 4-inch tail hanging below.

Stitch through the button holes, making two or three stitches. The other end of the floss should end up hanging below the button.

  Tie the ends of the floss in a tight double knot.

Tie the two ends of the floss in a tight double knot at the back of the button. Cut the ends very short.

A little note here: You can certainly skip this step, and use your buttons plain. This stitching treatment, while very cute, will make the gluing step that comes next a little more challenging. But again, it's so darn cute.

  Glue a thumbtack to the back of each button.

Glue the Buttons

Use E-6000 to glue a thumbtack to the back of each button. Now, as we just discussed, that stitching and knotting we just did will make it a little difficult for the thumbtack to lie flat against the back of the button. So, use a generous dollop of E-6000, as shown, to help compensate.

  Rest the thumbtack in a piece of cardboard while the glue cures.

Keep two sheets of corrugated cardboard or a styrofoam block handy while you glue. Stick each completed button tack into it, and use that surface to gauge whether your buttons are tipping over. (Be careful, though-if you use too much E-6000, you can end up gluing your buttons right to your drying surface!)

  If the buttons begin to tip over while drying, gently straighten them.

E-6000 needs at least 10 minutes to cure, so check the buttons frequently during that time-they may tip over a little, and you'll need to gently readjust them so they're flat. They'll stay that way once the glue cures.

Allow the E-6000 to dry for 24 hours before you handle the buttons.

Cover the Tree
I'm using embossed felt here, but you could also use wool felt in any color, glitter felt, or patterned felt.

  If you're using embossed, glittered, or patterned felt, place it face down.

Lay the felt out face down. Place the cone on top as shown, so that the bottom edge of the cone meets one side of the felt.

  Trace the side, top, and bottom of the cone.

Use a fabric-marking pen to carefully trace along the side of the cone. Then, trace along the top and bottom.

  Roll the cone forward, tracing the top and bottom as you go.

Roll the cone forward on the felt a few inches. Trace the top and bottom again. Repeat this step until you've rolled the cone all the way to the other side of the felt. Then, trace along the side of the cone again.

Trace circles for the top and bottom of the cone onto the felt as well. Cut all three shapes out.

  Glue the felt to the cone.
  Glue rickrack around the base.

Glue the felt to the cone with craft glue, trimming the felt as needed for a snug fit. Allow to dry. Add some rickrack (or any other embellishment you like).

Make the Topper
Your two largest buttons will serve as a tree-topper. Begin by adding the stitching detail we covered earlier.

  Glue the two largest buttons together with a needle sandwiched between.

Then, use E-6000 to glue the buttons together back-to-back. Sandwich the eye of a long sewing needle between the buttons, making sure the eye is lying flat against the button surface.

  A ring of pipecleaner between the buttons helps fill gaps.

If your buttons are not flat on the back, then add a little ring of pipecleaner between them as shown. This will fill in the gaps and make your topper sturdier. (If your buttons are flat-backed, and fit together with no gaps, you can skip the pipecleaner.)

Place the topper on a flat surface and watch it for about 10 minutes to make sure the buttons don't slide while the glue is curing.

Allow the assembled topper to dry for 24 hours before handling.

  Anchor the cone to a saucer with Velcro dots.

Anchor the Tree

Your Advent calendar will rest on a thrift-store saucer, which keeps all the button-ornaments in one place. However, since styrofoam is so lightweight, let's add a little detail to keep your tree from tipping over. Place three or four Velcro dots on the bottom of the tree, as shown. Then, stick the other side of the Velcro dots to the saucer. Now your tree is anchored in place but can still be removed from the saucer for easier packing later.

  Stick the topper into the cone, and scatter the button tacks around the saucer.

Assemble the Advent!

With the tree anchored to the saucer, place the button ornaments in the saucer around the base. Stick the topper into the tip of the tree. Now you're ready to use it!

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posted in: seasonal, keepsake, holiday, button, advent calendar

Comments (10)

suzietyler writes: So easy and at the same time so interesting and original!
Posted: 11:00 am on December 7th
Nodan writes: I like jewelry or crafts made of buttons, I think it is interesting and simple.
Posted: 4:27 am on February 5th
rachel_lotsofbuttons writes: What a unique idea! has some awesome Christmas buttons that would be great to use for an advent tree~
Love this creativity~
Posted: 11:23 am on December 7th
Criativa writes: hoooau.
Este projeto é mesmo giro. So cute. Muito obrigada pela ideia.:)
Posted: 9:43 am on December 1st
Artisan1 writes: Such a fun idea for the little ones. I have so many buttons that I sell at the markets, and am going to share this idea with my customers. Grouping the materials together for a take-home project is going to be a featured item in my shop for the holidays. Thank you so much!!!
Posted: 9:22 am on December 1st
EyePopArt writes: Awesome!
Posted: 12:58 pm on November 17th
susanstars writes: oh, Diane, I love it!!
Posted: 2:14 pm on November 16th
katytron writes: I am soooo doing this!
Posted: 10:14 pm on November 14th
digibudi writes: Like I said on your blog, it's the coolest and weirdest advent calendar I've ever seen! Imagine years from now, people will look at those pictures and say: "Look, this is a genuine 2008 styled Christmas decoration, when Arts&Crafts were at it's peak, even better than those early trials of the 1960's.." How did you get that light so vintage-ish on those photographs? Do you use a oldschool camera? Or a special filter in photoshop to get that particular style, like it's really a picture from the sixties? xoxoxo
Posted: 3:26 pm on November 14th
Average_Jane_Crafter writes: Oooooh lady! This is genius! You are queen of what-to-do-with-buttons. I am in love. :)
Posted: 12:28 pm on November 14th
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