The ‘memory’ advent stocking garland… A step by step guide

In many ways it’s been a fantastic year and we’ve had lots to celebrate, however it’s been so sadly punctuated for my family by the sudden loss of our Grandad in August. It was a huge shock and still is the toughest thing; I have to remind myself afresh most days that he’s no longer here. Personally I’m feeling quite anxious about the approaching festive season with such an absence in our celebrations, we’re a huge family and always spend so much of it all together… this is going to be a hard one.

When Nan started sorting through some of Grandad’s belongings, I couldn’t bear to see it all just disappear completely and I wanted to make something for everyone to remember him by from some of his clothes. With Christmas around the corner I thought something related to that might be nice, so that we can have something of his around us each year. Ideas evolved and I finally settled on advent stocking garlands. As I’ve said before, I’m a bit of a last minute/work-better-under-pressure kind of person so here we are, in November and I’ve not long got started!

I need to make six garlands in total (there are six ‘sub-families’ in our family that will each be getting one) and Nan gave me thirteen shirts… I think my husband thinks my plans are beyond my means (time-wise, at least) but he’s agreed to help me, as I’ve left it so late!

So to start with, get out everything you’ll need:

  • Fabric shears
  • Stocking template
  • Pencil or washable fabric pen
  • A ‘quick unpick’
  • Your fabric
  • 3m ribbon in complementing colour
  • Advent numbers

I wanted to add advent numbers to the front of each stocking and you can do this however you choose but I found some iron on transfers on eBay, which I’ll talk about later. I made my stencil out of a cereal box and used my baby daughter’s sock as an outline, as I thought it was the perfect size! The intention is to put a/a few chocolates in each stocking, so they don’t have to be too big.

My baby daughter’s sock: size 0-6 months to be precise!

Since this is a ‘memory’ advent stocking garland, my fabric will be Grandad’s old shirts. To start with, I had no idea how many stockings I would fit into one shirt, so I just had to have a go to find out. I found it easier to cut the shirt into sections, so that the material would lay flatter to work with. I cut up the side seams on both sides of the shirt and cut off the sleeves, which left me with two front sections, one large back section and two sleeve sections.

Happily, it turned out that I could get 25 pairs of stocking outlines from one shirt – one for each day of advent. You will need to create ‘pairs’ of opposite facing stocking outlines, so that you can sew them together to create one stocking. So each time you draw around your template facing one direction, then flip it over to face the opposite direction and that gives you one ‘pair’ that’ll create one stocking lining or stocking outer:

I want to line each stocking so that when they’re finished, I can fold down a cuff and you’ll see the contrasting lining fabric too. Seeing as I had thirteen shirts and need to make six garlands this is perfect, as I will be able to cut 25 stockings from each of twelve shirts and this will give me enough for lining and outer fabric.

If you’re making these from other fabric (i.e. not shirts) then, to work out how much fabric you’ll need, you should calculate the area measurement of your template (multiply the height and width) and then multiply this area by how many stockings you need (in this case 50, including linings).

So I cut all my shirts into sections and then drew around my template directly onto the wrong side of the fabric. Bear in mind that when you cut each of these out, you need to leave a seam allowance of about 5mm outside of your outline, so don’t cram them all in too close!

I also made a small note of how many pairs of outlines I’d fitted into each section of shirt, as I found this made it easy to keep track as I went along.

Once you’ve drawn all your required outlines onto the fabric, you’re ready to cut them out (remembering to leave a seam allowance!) and, as I’m making so many garlands, I totalled 150 to cut out! That’s where hubby came in 😉 As we were cutting, we started creating piles of left facing stockings and right facing stockings (this will make life easier later).

An example of a cut out pair: one left facing and one right facing.

I then pressed the material, as some of what we’d cut out had creases in it, which would make it harder to sew. You may or may not need to do this. Next, you’re ready to pin your stocking pairs together (with the pencil outlines on the outside), making sure to align the pencil outlines so that they’re matching as closely as possible.

You’re then ready to sew them together! Be sure not to sew along the top/opening of the stocking or they’ll be useless! I just sewed down the left side, round the bottom and up the right side, making sure I trimmed the thread to keep things tidy.

Once I finished sewing all (150!) stockings, I trimmed the seams to about 3mm (despite leaving a seam allowance of about 5mm, I found the seams quite thick once they’d been sewed and this would make the stockings bulky once I turned them out).

Next, you need to turn your outer stockings out (so that the material is right side out). You can leave the linings wrong side out, as when you look into the finished stocking, you’ll see the tidy seam on the inside.

Here came a step that I hadn’t pre-empted (rather frustratingly!) as, once I’d turned the stocking outers out, I found them puffy rather than flat, so I had to press them and tease out the seams to their maximum so that I then had a nice, flat stocking shape. Whilst doing this, I also folded and pressed down the top seams of each lining/outer (fold the outer seams inwards and the lining seams outwards). This is so that it’s easier to align and pin the top seam once the lining is inside the outer, ready for sewing. I tried doing this without having pressed them and it was a nightmare! So it really is best to press first.

Next is to insert the stocking linings into the stocking outers, which was a little fiddly, as they were too small for all my fingers! So I found an old, blunt nail file, slid it into the lining and used it to slide the lining into the outer. This turned out to be a great idea, as I could then wiggle the nail file about to make sure the lining was laying flush against the outer and not all crumpled up inside. Pin the top seams together so they don’t wriggle out of place.

Now you’re ready to top stitch the lining/outer together along the opening of the stocking. I found the opening was a little small but I had plenty of space to put the sewing machine’s presser foot inside the opening of the stocking and rotate the material as I went.

Once you’ve done this, you need to turn down a cuff to expose the inner lining.

Next I ironed on my advent numbers, which I found from a company called the Orchard Craft Company on eBay. They have a website too (by the same name) and they arrived nice and quickly. I found out the hard way that you really shouldn’t leave the iron on too long or the adhesive comes away from the number and it then won’t stick!

Next, I was ready to sew each stocking onto the ribbon. As I said earlier, I bought a 3 metre length as I wanted about a 4cm gap between each stocking plus extra length at each end to tie/hang them up. Although I appreciate that 3m is quite long, so you could place them closer together on a shorter length of ribbon if you wanted to.

Et voila! You’re done.

You’ll notice that my pictures show a range of different colour materials and ribbons but that just reflects the volume of garlands that I made, whereas I would assume that most (sane!) people would just create one garland at a time. My finished picture shows the garland that I made for us to keep and all the stockings on it are the same colour, whereas I was able to make ‘rainbow’ garlands from lots of different shirts to give out to my family, which explains why all my pictures show different things!

I absolutely loved doing this project and I was so pleased to stuff little chocolates into each stocking before wrapping them all up to send out to my family. Also, I think I only swore at my sewing machine like five times! It’s an idea I got this time last year from a Christmas Fair and I was pleased to finally have an excuse to use it. It’ll be lovely to think that everyone now has a little bit of Grandad to get out at Christmas each year and I like to think that these garlands will be in the family for years and years.

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