I recently got a passel of paper mache boxes from AC Moore. I don’t use paper mache that much, and now I’m wondering why because it paints and decoupages wonderfully. Anyhoo, I laid my boxes out on a table, thinking about what to do with them – then it came to me. DIY advent calendar! Sometimes crafty ideas just land in your brain, and that’s exactly what happened. I can honestly say that this is one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done. Read on to see how I decoupaged it and view more pictures. I’m getting caught up in the holiday magic, what can I say?
Gather These Supplies
- Large canvas – 30″ x 40″
- Paper mache boxes – 25 in various sizes, mine are from AC Moore. They come in some great sets!
- Mod Podge Gloss
- FolkArt Acrylic Paint – Asphaltum, Grass Green, Pink, Red Velvet, Yellow Citron
- Scrapbook paper – Making Memories Noel Collection, enough to cover all of your boxes
- Cardstock – Bazzill Basics in coordinating colors
- Sizzix eclips machine with the Tween and Look At Me cartridge (to cut your numbers, or buy the numbers pre-cut/as stickers)
- Prima poinsettias
- Wood or chipboard circles – various sizes
- Rhinestones – red and brown
- Buttons – pink and brown
- Paintbrushes – multiple sizes
- Craft glue
- Hot glue gun
- Craft knife and mat
- Mini sticky notes (optional)
First of all, you have a big canvas to cover! What I suggest is to take your FolkArt paint (I used Yellow Citron) and create a wash. To do this, pour some paint into a bowl and add water until it’s soupy. Paint the entire canvas with several coats. If you do this, you’ll only have to use two bottles of paint rather than ten. Allow the canvas to dry.
Lay your canvas onto a table and spread out your 25 boxes. At this point you need to decide the layout and then take a picture of it so that you can remember where each box goes. Let me tell you that I almost fell off a mini-ladder taking this photograph. Please photograph your advent calendar boxes at your own risk.
Lay out your papers on top of the boxes, cutting small pieces for the smaller boxes. Arrange the papers so that no two that are alike are right next to each other. I would estimate that I used about 12 sheets of scrapbook paper – remember that the smaller boxes only use small pieces, so you can use scraps for those.
This next step takes some time, so settle in with your favorite Christmas movie. For each piece of paper, lay the corresponding lid down onto the back side and trace with a pencil. Do one lid at a time.
Use your ruler and craft knife to cut each sheet of paper to fit the lid. Work through all 25 boxes and then clean up your big paper mess. Or if you are like me, don’t clean up until paper is everywhere and it takes twice as long to clean up.
Decide what color you are going to paint each box. This is where the mini sticky notes come in handy. I wrote down the color for each box on a sticky note, placed it on top and then checked to make sure I didn’t have all the pink boxes right next to each other. I made a few adjustments on color choices after I laid the whole thing out.
Once you’ve made your decisions, paint the boxes. You don’t have to paint the entire tops of the lids, but you should paint the inside so that it’s pretty when you open it. I’m watching you. I will know if you don’t do it! Paint all of the boxes and allow to dry.
Decoupage the papers down to the tops of the boxes. Work one box at a time. Spread a medium layer of Mod Podge on the top of the box and then smooth down the paper thoroughly. A brayer helps a lot in this situation. Wipe away any Mod Podge that comes out the sides of the paper with your brush. Allow to dry for 15 – 20 minutes.
Mod Podge the lids of ALL of the boxes on top of the paper, then decoupage the boxes themselves. I wouldn’t Mod Podge the insides, because it’s really not necessary. I wanted to show you this close up of the fun Making Memories Noel paper on box #25 – isn’t it awesome?
Paint your wood or chipboard circles with your coordinating paint colors. Why did I add circles? It gives the boxes some interest and texture, and also provided a place to put the numbers on some of the boxes with busier patterns. Allow your circles to dry and then Mod Podge them.
Use your craft glue to add ribbon to some of the boxes. Again, you are adding interest. Not all of the boxes need ribbon, just some of them. I added ribbon across the tops of a few lids as well. Allow the ribbon to dry.
I had a BLAST with this part. I have a Sizzix eclips machine, and I absolutely love the Look at Me font from the Tween and Look at Me cartridge. Again, the mini sticky notes will come in handy if you want to tag your boxes with the color of cardstock you are going to use AND the number. Then you can make sure your colors and numbers are spread out evenly. As you can see, I put my eclips to work. What you don’t see is me doing the hamster dance is the background because I don’t have to cut out a jillion numbers in various sizes by hand.
Tip: If you don’t have a fancy machine, use clip art to cut out the numbers or buy them at the craft store.
Place a bit of Mod Podge on the center of each box (or wherever you are placing the numbers) and lay the numbers down. Mod Podge over the top and allow to dry. You can get creative with your placement. As you can see, I didn’t put everything in the center.
You are about to get serious with some hot glue. I used several large sticks gluing all of the boxes down. If you have a hard time remembering where the boxes go, remember that you took a photo at the very beginning of this project, so that should help.
You can really have fun with where you put this advent calendar, and with all of the things you can put in it. That’s why some of the boxes are big and some are small. Candy can go into the smaller boxes and fun gift items into the larger boxes. #25 is the biggest box for that reason! Would you like to see a few more shots? Here’s a detail shot and then me finding a surprise in box #14. Happy Holidays!