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Upcycled jeans advent calendar

Upcycled jeans advent calendar

A fun way to celebrate advent, the countdown to Christmas, and use up your worn-out jeans by providing a home for lots of different presents with this upcycled jeans advent calendar project.  This would work especially well in a classroom because it is so visible!

Finished size approx 1m square.

Sewing project using old jeans


6 pairs jeans.  Save up your worn out jeans or scour your local charity shops

Trimmings to take your fancy – you could try felt, ribbons, beads, bells – anything at all! Mokshatrim have a great selection of colourful embellishments and trims you could use. 

Matching metallic thread – I used Gutermann “Sliver” for added sparkle  

50cm bondaweb

110cm quilt wadding110cm backing fabric

Curved safety pins

Sewing machine needles suitable for denim

Invisible thread for quilting

5.5m ribbon or binding for the edge and hanging loops

Broom handle or similar pole for hanging

Cutting denim from jeans to use in a sewing project

1)  Cut out the 24 pockets and surrounding denim from your jeans using a 21cm square template.  You will almost certainly need to unpick the side seams and waistband to get the front pockets.  Cut one further square from the leg of one pair.  This will be your centre square.

Christmas advent calendar project

2)  Lay your squares out on the floor in a 5×5 square  Rearrange until you are happy with the way the different denims go together.  Your brain may frazzle trying to ensure that pockets from the same jeans are not adjacent! I alternated the back patch pockets and the front pockets.  Pin a label to each quilt stating its position so that you don’t forget.

Embellished advent calendar project

3)  Decide on a colour scheme for your quilt.  My baubles come in many bright, jewel colours rather than the traditional reds and greens, so I took these as inspiration.  Work out how you want your colours to work on the quilt.  I decided on 6 colours, and spent time planning which square would contain which colour, again, so that they weren’t adjacent.  Add this information to your label to remind you.

How to embellish denim

4)  Stitch your coloured trimmings to the pockets.  Keep the “jeans-ness” of the jeans by stitching trimmings along the existing stitching.  You will find that you have to do a lot of hand-sewing to avoid closing up the pockets!

5)  Decorate the centre square as it tickles you – I chose a simple star shape often found pictured above the stable where the baby Jesus was born.  You could create a whole nativity scene, make random patterns, leave it blank, or, if you are not an advent traditionalist like me, add a 25th pocket for Christmas day!  (As you may be able to spot from the photos, I changed at the last minute from being a radical to a traditionalist)

Free advent calendar pattern

6)  Choose a font for the numbers – I used Berlin Sans.  Print out in font size between 200pt and 250pt and trace onto bondaweb.  Iron the numbers onto the back of some leftover denim.  Make sure you choose a contrasting coloured denim – I made light denim numbers for the dark pockets, and vice versa.  You could buy iron-on-motif numbers, but I struggled to find any which were suitable sparkly!

7)  Decide which number you will put on each pocket – I went random but you could keep them in sequence.  Decide where you want your numbers to be.  I put them in the same place on each type of pocket, but you could be more random.  Iron the numbers on and blanket stitch the edges of each number.  I maintained the simplicity of the denim by using invisible thread, but you could use a matching or contrasting colour.

Quilting denim

8)  Now you have your 25 squares, complete the calendar by making a quilt from the squares.  Using a ½” seam throughout, sew the squares into rows, then stitch these 5 rows together.  Lay the backing fabric face down, place the wadding on top then the top, denim, layer.  Pin the three layers together with your curved pins and quilt along the seams with invisible thread. 

Binding denim

9) Finish the quilt off by stitching a border of ribbon or bias binding around the edge.  Find a tutorial on binding here. If you are planning on hanging your advent calendar, add 5 hanging loops in the same ribbon along the top.

10) Hang the upcycled jeans advent calendar up and fill the pockets with little gifts and sweets for your loved ones.  How exciting to spend time looking for 24 tiny presents through the year to fill the pockets with at the end of every November!

This tutorial was written by Lucy Barr-Hamilton winner of our Christmas Creativity Competition.