Tutorial: Picnic Play Mat


Many of you have emailed asking me for details about the picnic play mat that won me the 1Month2WinIt title. I don't have a traditional step-by-step tutorial for you, mostly because I was entirely uncertain it was going to work and also because it was pretty hard to do.  But here's the gist.

- 8 fat quarters in an assortment of colors and patterns
- 1 yard background fabric
- 1 yard black lace string (in the cut ribbon/trim by the yard area)
2 yards yellow pleated trim
- various scraps of fabric in different textures
- black fabric paint
- ribbons in various widths and colors
- rattle and crinkle plastic

1. I started with some geometry. Ugh.  Luckily my friend's husband helped out.  Basically divide 360 (being the degrees in a circle's radius) by how many activity blocks you want.  I wanted 8 so 360 / 8 = 45*. So i knew I needed each block to be cut at a 45* angle.

2. Next I drew a sketch of each of the activity blocks I was planning.  Wanna see the sketches?  This is the very first crazy sketch where I got the thought.... Hey! What if I.....how would it....could I make it work?

And this is the sketch with each specific plan for the blocks. You'll notice not all of them came to fruition exactly as sketched, but flexibility and 11th hour inspiration should never be ignored.

3. Next I measured each block and realized I could make each background only using 1 Fat Quarter.  I headed to the store (JoAnns) and bought 8 fat quarters, backing fabric and 1 yard of black lace-up string.

4. Once home I headed to my craft room and grabbed various stashes of textured fabrics, all of my ribbons, stuffing and some velcro.  Then I got to work.  Here is a small description of each block and it's functions.  I failed to mention that some elements were stuffed, like the clouds.  There is also puff paint added for the watermelon seeds and caterpillar eyes.

5. Once I finished the activity blocks I sewed them together edge to edge like you would a quilt top. This left a large hole in the center.  I measured the hole and cut a circle of scrap fabric out to 2 inches larger than the hole. 

6. Next I took pre-made yellow pleated trim and sewed it around the unfinished perimeter of my center circle, adding three little loops of ribbon along the way for additional toys.  Then I set the newly finished center right on top of my outer ring and pinned it in place. I top stitched all the way around, joining it to the inner rim of the outer circle.

7. Next the quilter's sandwich.  The top followed by a layer of batting and the bottom fabric. Since the finished project is less than 45" across you can use just one piece of backing fabric. 

8. Then I machine quilted the sandwich together, sewing around the middle circle and then at each block's seam (what quilters call stitch in the ditch).

9. I trimmed the excess batting and made a binding with matching fabric and my trusty 2" Clover bias tape maker.  Added the binding and I was done!

Whew!  Seriously, it was really hard work, but we take this thing pretty much everywhere.  I used very light batting so it folds up compactly and is very portable.  After all that work, Bianca has never so much as glanced at any activity block except for the ant (as evidenced in the picture above).  Sheesh!
[ emilie ]


Megan said...

What a sweet idea, Emilie. Thanks for sharing. And that baby of yours is adorable!

Jess W said...

Aaah, that sandwich is to die for. I want to make this so bad.

Ricki said...

Wow, what an amazing play mat! I love it!

Analog Girl (Rachelle) said...

I love your sandwich. Your post says its from blue plate. Is this a pattern, store, website, etsy shop? I would love to get one. Thanks!

Ms. De said...

This is great Emilie! Definitely going to try it out for my new great nephew/niece!! (they won't tell me which it is ;))!!

Kristina said...

Awesome idea! How old is your daughter? She's adorable! My Adelaide is just about 6 months old, and i wonder how much longer she'll enjoy a play mat, if I were to make one for her. What do you think?

Anyhow, I LOVE this, and may try something similar!!!

Jenn said...

You are so creative! I just think of when my kiddos were that little they would move around in a circle and this would've been perfect!
Have a wonderful day!

chris said...

Really sweet and clever!

April JoAnne said...

dont feel bad that she only plays with the ant. My son was hardly interested in any of the stuff on his playmat until at least 13months.
Now at 20 months, even though he has "outgrown" the play mats, he is a lot more interested in all the interactive stuff on there than he was before.

Cara said...

This is such a great activity mat! I love it! I just might have to add this to my list of things to make for baby...

Carolyn said...

Wow that is amazing.

mylittlegems said...

way too cute! I'm pinning this so I can feature you later-LOVE IT! ;) THANKS for sharing! It is darling!

2 dogs + 1 cat + 2 humans said...

I've copied this and am in the process of making one for my friend!! It is such fun :)
thank you!

- Helen

Prudently Painted Vintage said...

Where do you get the rattle and crinkle fabric??

Juju Bag Lady said...

I just found this on Pinterest. I really had to look to find your original site and the tutorial. I LOVE THIS. I am a member of a Quiet Book Club and this would be a great activity for us to do as an exchange. So adorable!! I am sure it took lots of work as I know our pages in books take lots of work. Great job!!