How to Sew the 40 Day Pocketed Calendar

This is the instructions for the beginner-level sewing project to make the 40-day countdown calendars, for Advent and/or Lent. Cut-out-and-sew fabric for either calendar can be ordered from St. Tabitha's Workshop (links below). Finished product will help your family track progress through the two major fasts of the liturgical year, and is machine washable! Each pocket has the countdown number on the outside, and the date or the day on the inside so you don't have to constantly count the days on your paper calendar to figure out where you left off. Pockets are big enough for the "Welcoming the Christ Child" ornament set for Advent, and strong enough to collect change while doing the Food For Hungry People Lenten fundraising calendar. The fabric also allows for using the stickers from the Pascha Passport on the Lent calendar, with easy removal after Pascha.



  • Fabric: Lent and/or Advent
  • Thread: purple (Gutermann Col. 938) and/or red (Gutermann Col. 420)
  • Fusible interfacing (a very small piece about 4" square)
  • Popsicle stick (one for each calendar)
  • 1/4" or 1/2" double fold bias tape, ~1 yard per calendar


Sewing Instructions

First: Prepare the fabric

1. If you order your fabric from my website (not Spoonflower), the fabric comes already machine washed and dried to remove the pretreatment used at the North Carolina printing factory, and also to preshrink the fabric before sewing it. I use a small amount of Arm & Hammer "Free & Clear" detergent and no dryer sheets during the one wash/dry cycle. It's possible that the fabric is not completely shrunk to its full expected shrinkage, but further shrinking will be minimal and should not affect your finished product.

2. Iron the fabric on the reverse side, or use a pressing cloth on the right side, on a hot or cotton setting.

Second: Cut out the fabric

1. Cut out the backing (solid red/purple with dates/days and horizontal lines) along the edge of the solid color.

2. Cut out the 8 strips of five squares along the black lines so that you have a 1/4" border of solid red/purple around a row of 5 squares.

3. Cut out the blue square with the star, or the blue Annunciation tile and the candle (leave plenty of white fabric around the candle).

4. Cut out the banner pennants with a straight cut along the tops of the pennants, and pinking shears along the sides. Alternatively, you can apply fusible interfacing to the pennants and then cut all sides with straight shears. The goal is to prevent the pennants from fraying when handled.

Third: Make the Calendar

1. Fold and finger press (or iron) the top 1/4" of the 40-39-38-37-36 strip toward the back; sew it down with a straight edgestitch (about 1/8" from the top of the strip).

2. Fold the bottom 1/4" of the strip toward the back; iron flat. Fold the sides back; iron flat.

3. Align the strip so that the bottom just covers the top horizontal line on the backing; pin in place.

4. With a straight stitch, sew the right, left and bottom edges to the backing fabric with a 1/8" topstitch. Start on the top right side, pivot at the corner, sew across the bottom, pivot at the corner, and sew up the left side.

5. Cut the threads and reposition to a vertical line that separates two numbers; sew a straight line with a straight stitch, backstitching on top and bottom, to make a pocket. Repeat until all five pockets are made.

6. Repeat steps 1-5 above until all eight strips and all 40 pockets are made. Clip the threads flush.

7. Finish the side edges with a 1/2" rolled hem.

8. Finish the bottom edge with a 1/4" rolled hem, being careful not to sew through your bottom row of pockets.

9. Finish the top edge and make the hanging sheath: fold the edge 1/4" back and iron, then fold the top edge back so the folded edge is flush with your vertical rows of stitches (or the top of the top row of pockets). Iron flat, pin, then sew across the top of the top row of pockets with the calendar facing up to secure the hanging sheath. The sheath will be about 1” and easily fit a dowel up to 1/2" diameter, or a skinny curtain rod.

Fourth: Make the Placeholder

1. Apply fusible interfacing to the back of the star/candle; trim around the star/candle.

Or, 2. Trim around the star/candle with pinking shears.

3. Glue the star/candle to a popsicle stick.

Fifth: Make the Banner

1. Set out the pennants in order with the top corners touching. Lay the bias tape down along the top of the pennants to decide how much bias tape you need to attach all the pennants and to hang it where you want to (icon corner, door, Christmas tree, mantle, etc). About 6" of bias tape from each end is the least amount needed to tie a simple knot on a nail.

2. Pin the pennants into the bias tape folds and cut your bias tape.

3. Sew the bias tape closed starting at one end of the bias tape, continuing down the bias tape to enclose the pennant tops, and ending at the other end of the bias tape. Be sure to backstitch on each end.

Sixth: Make the Annunciation Tile (Lent Calendar)

1. Apply fusible interfacing to the back of the Annunciation tile and trim off the solid blue around the edge; or, cut around the tile in the solid blue area with pinking shears.

2. Attach to the Lent Calendar pocket where March 25th/April 7th falls during Lent for the current season. Use a sewing pin, a small clip, two magnets, etc.

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