Sunday, June 18, 2017

Quilted Playmat Tutorial

Last year I made an Arctic Playmat for my dear friend and her precious children, and she has since asked for a tutorial so that she can make more designs for her kids because they have enjoyed playing with it so here we go. Hopefully I won't botch my first tutorial up too bad. 🤞🏻

Materials needed:

- Sewing machine 

- Sewing scissors

- Fray Check

- Cotton fabrics of your choice in shades of blue.
(I used 6 different cotton batiks in different blue shades: the base water layer and the 5 different underwater ice depth shades. Your choice of playmat size and design will determine how much fabric yardage you will need. I used a yard for the base fabric, a yard for the batting and backing fabric, 3/4 of a yard of white fleece, 1/2 a yard for the bottom 2 ice layers, and fat quarters for everything else.)

- Thin batting
 (The kind used for making table placemats and runners.)

- White fleece 
(To be used for the iceberg portions that are above water.)

- Coordinating color quilting threads
 (Make sure to have plenty of your ocean background/backing color for your bobbin.)

My finished playmat measured approximately 34" wide by 43" long.

Creating your playmat:
After choosing a theme for the playmat, I scoured the internet for inspiration pictures that would help me make a more realistic aerial view design. I love this photo that shows the different depths of the ice and how it changes the appearance of the color of the water. It also gave me the idea to place icebergs floating out in the open, separated from the mainland.  (Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand)


 After brainstorming how I wanted the arctic playmat to look, I sketched it out on graphing paper and shaded it with colored pencils to have a visual idea of how it might look once it was sewn, and to serve as a guide for my project. 


After my design was complete and sketched out, it was time for fabric shopping!  I must admit that visiting my local fabric shop is my favorite part! For the different water shades I chose batik cotton fabrics and for the snow I chose white fleece. Once I had the batik fabrics washed and dry and pressed, I began cutting out my design. I always prewash my fabrics, just to be safe from bleeding or shrinkage over the years from play, washing, and drying . I layer my designs starting from the base fabrics and working my way to the top, and I will start sewing with my larger pieces first and will add the detail icebergs later.  

When I have the layout set, I carefully lift my stack of fabric pieces and mark positions whenever necessary with a washable fabric pencil or pen, that way they can be sewn in their proper positions once I am finished prepping them for sewing.


These lines merely serve as a guide for placement when sewing the lower pieces of fabric in the stack, and are not usually necessary for the upper fabrics or for playmats that don't have as many fabric layers.


Because this is such a dark project, I chose a quilter's choice white marking pencil to mark the position of my lower pieces. 

To prep my fabrics for sewing, I snip all the edges that are curved just shy of a 1/4 of an inch in, as if making tiny fringe along those edges. You don't want to cut too deeply, because you will be ironing the edges under at a 1/4 of an inch and sewing a 1/8 inch from the edge to adhere them to your playmat. If it makes you more comfortable, you can sew a stay stitch 1/4 inch border on all your edges before snipping so you have a definite border not to go beyond. I skip this step because it's more time consuming and I have made enough of these playmats now that the fringing process comes naturally. Any areas I am concerned might fray with use over the years, I go ahead and touch up with Fray Check liquid and let dry before ironing. 


Always iron the fringed edges up, right side of the fabric down towards the ironing board, so that they will be hidden under the edge when sewing.


Now that your fringed edges are ironed under, you should have nice, curved edges. Make sure to iron under your straight areas as well, so that all of your edges on your layers are ironed under. If the edge is lining up with the edge of the playmat however, it is unecessary to iron that edge under since it will be trimmed off later when squaring up your playmat. The fleece fabric does not need to be fringed or ironed under, it keeps a nice smoothed edge for sewing.


 Once your areas are all ironed and ready for placement, it's time to stack them and recheck your layout to make sure no adjustments need to be made. 


 If you are happy with your layout, carefully lift your stacked upper layers and set them on a nearby surface while your pin your bottom-most layer. Starting with your lowest layer, pin your fabric to your base fabric to prep it for sewing .


I often use the same backing fabric for the playmat as the base fabric on the front, which not only matches nicely, but serves as a great place holder for my layer stack. 


Once my bottom layer is pinned in place, it's time to start sewing the layers down one by one. Using a 1/8 inch seam allowance, sew around the edge of your bottom ice layer.


After those bottom ice layers are all sewn in place, it is time to move onto the next color layer and pin it, then sew it in place as well. 


You will continue to stack, pin, and sew the layers until you've reached your final color layer. 


Once those are all sewn in place, flip the playmat over and trim off any excess layer fabrics to realign your playmat edges before adding your batting. 


Now that the edges are trimmed, go ahead and square up your perimeter of your playmat using a ruler and rotary cutter in preparation for joining the sides. The upper fleece areas will be added AFTER sewing the edges, so that the side seams will not be too thick. 


Once the sides are trimmed up and squared up, it's time to add your thin batting and sew your sides. Make sure your batting comes all the way to the edges of your playmat and trim off excess where necessary. In order to make the final preparations for sewing the edges, stack your layers in this order (bottom to top): batting, playmat facing right side up, backing fabric facing right side down, and then pin around the perimeter of your stack leaving about a 5 inch gap on one of the sides for turning the playmat right side out once your side seams are completed. 


Your playmat should look like this before you sew the sides, making sure to leave that 5 inch turning gap at the bottom:


Now that you've pinned and prepped your playmat, sew around the perimeter of your stack layers using a 1/4 inch seam. I just line up my pressed foot with the edge of my fabric and use it as a guide. 


Once your edges are sewn, it's time to reinforce your corners. I just sew back and forth along the seam line a couple times to ensure a nice, sharp, and sturdy corner.


I also sew and trim the corner edges at a 45 degree angle to help the corners be nice and pointed after turning the playmat right side out, as shown in the photo below: 


Once all the corners are sewn and trimmed, it's time to turn your playmat right side out! Just reach inside your 5 inch gap and pull the fabric through your turning hole gently, smoothing the playmat out as you go.


Once it is finally turned right side out, it is time to iron and press the playmat flat, giving extra attention to the edges and corners. When you reach your 5 inch turning gap, iron the unsewn edge inside the gap so the edge lines up with the rest of the playmat perimeter.  


After you've turned and ironed your playmat, making sure your edges and corners are as flat as possible, it is time to sew a 1/4 inch seam around the perimeter of your playmat.  I like to pin my five inch turning gap closed as well, before heading to my sewing machine. Just like before, I like to use the edge of my pressed foot as a guide. 


Once you reach your turning gap, make sure you keep your seam nice and straight, to make sure it aligns and blends in with the rest of your edge seam.


Now for the fun part, adding all the white fleece "iceberg" land and details! Just like before, you will start with your lowest layer and work your way up to the top, adding your floating details at the very end. Pin and sew your 1/8 inch edge seam for each layer, working your way up to the top layer. 


The edges of the fleece keep a nice clean edge after cutting that make them easy to follow, just make sure you aren't pulling or stretching your fleece as you sew it down or it will bunch. 


Keep the fleece as smooth as possible.
Once you have your layers all sewn, flip your playmat over and carefully trim any excess that hangs off the edge, being careful not to accidentally snip your playmat base edges. 


Finally! It's time to add the floating pieces and stitching details! Just like you did with your blue layers before, snip and iron any "floating" blue layers, pin them in place, and sew them down with n 1/8 inch edge seam. Then place your white fleece smaller icebergs on top, pin and adhere them to the playmat with an 1/8 inch seam.


After I finally had all my layers sewn in place, I looked for areas I could add a little extra dazzle and movement, such as the appearance of dimension on the white layers and water movement around the floating icebergs.



Once you are happy with your final stitching details, scour the mat for threads that need to be trimmed and celebrate! Your playmat is complete! There are a lot of great tutorials out there for tote bags, and since I was giving this playmat as a gift, I chose to make one to store the playmat in along with a few extra goodies for imaginative play: glass "ice" stones, arctic creatures, and some hand painted wood blocks for stacking and "igloo" building. I love the free REVERSIBLE BOX TOTE tutorial by Let your imagination run wild! Chose a different theme or your own color scheme! Add your own special touches! And if you end up using this tutorial, please let me know and show me your creation! Thanks for visiting, and happy creating! 


Comments and questions are welcome! Feel free to sell your creations! But PLEASE share the link with others if you use this tutorial, that way we can spread the playmat love around!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Other Quilted Play Mats

After making our large pirate island play mat, we've made several more. Some for my boys, others as gifts. I even sewed some of them entirely by myself! (BE PROUD). Hope you like them!

Double-sided pond/stream:


Dinosaur World:

Arctic World #1:

Antarctic World (with storage bag):

I'll post a tutorial soon so you can play along! If you decide to make your own, I'd love to see! Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The quilt that started them all: Pirate Island

Not long after we moved to WA, a sweet friend from TX told me she was getting rid of her boy's Schliech animal collection. They had accumulated them over birthdays and holidays when the boys were younger, but they no longer played with them and she needed the extra room for other toy storage. She was purging some of their toys (and trying to make a little cash for storage containers) so she was selling 20+ animals for $10! Anyone who has bought them for their kids knows that many of the animals are more than $10 a piece so I knew that was a steal! I told her I would be happy to take them off her hands, as long as she let me pay her $20 instead. We only had about 5 animals at that time, and they were my boys FAVORITE toys. It was like Christmas morning when we received them and unpacked each cherished one! I don't know about you, but my 3 little boys are obsessed with animals and dinosaurs. Each day brings a new treasured tag-along from our animal drawer. Well, when I called my mom to let the boys share their excitemt about our new animals with their Gigee, she informed me that she was ready to get rid of her big collection of Schleich animals as well because the other older cousins had outgrown them and she too wanted to gain back some storage space at her house. And of course she wouldn't let me pay her (she is awesome and stubborn like that), so in the span of a month we went from 5 animals to around 100 for only $20! We had so much fun separating them by groups and using fabrics and blocks to create worlds for our animals and dinosaurs to play in! 

But after a few months of dragging fabrics out and putting them away, I got the idea to buy a play mat for the boys to play with their animals on. But when looking online, I was really disappointed in what online shopping had to offer. There were beautiful felt mats, but I knew my ruff-and-tumble boys would tear those expensive felt art play mats to shreds in 5 seconds and there was no way they'd last. And the carpet play mats were big and bulky and ugly and didn't meet my easy-to-stowaway criteria. Even the fabric play mats fell short because all them were a contradiction of 2D/3D/skewed perspective that made my inner perfectionist twitch. So when my mom came for her visit in the Spring, we set to work creating our very own quilted play mat for my boys. I drew up the design, we went shopping at my local fabric store, and over the next few days we cut and shaped the fabrics into an aerial view wonderland for our toys.

 My mom did all the sewing on this one (since I was still scared of my fancy shmancy new Pfaff my awesome husband bought me at the time), and I cannot praise her flawless stitching enough. This quilt is gorgeous!

Because we live in the Puget Sound area, we of course have a collection of tiny driftwood pieces and beach rocks that make such great additions to our play and add a whole new tactile/sensory level that contrasts the softness of the quilt and makes our pretend play feel even more real. 

Shown below are some inexpensive aquarium plants I bought at the pet store to use in our play as well and the boys LOVE them. Most of them were $1 or $2 a piece, and they have held up well. (I wouldn't recommend them for kids under 3 or children who still mouth toys, because some plant parts can detach and possibly present a choking hazard.)

I'm so extremely happy with how the quilted play mat came out, and I am very grateful to my mother for helping make my idea a reality. And now that I'm starting to make quilted play mats on my own for friends and family (and in the process conquering my fear of overly-complicated sewing machines), I truly appreciate all the love she poured into every stitch. And even though I'd always rather have my mom by my side while I'm sewing instead of a million miles away back in TX, I am so very grateful for these quilted treasures that remind of us her every time we play. Love you Mommy!

Thanks for stopping by! If you get inspired to make your own quilted play mat, I'd love to see! Happy crafting!