If you have a toddler in your life, chances are you have toy cars in your life as well—probably more than you know what to do with! Little kids are amazing at transforming mundane surfaces into roads, construction sites and racetracks. With this DIY quilted play mat tutorial you can add a soft homemade touch to your toddler's imagination!
My daughter Fiona is a year and a half old, and she already has an extensive collection of miniature cars, trucks, and busses. I love to sit back and watch her push them around while saying, "Vroom!" (One of her first words!) Seeing her love of all things motorized inspired me to make this quilted play mat complete with retro houses and two-lane streets for her toy cars. I'm excited to share a tutorial with you that's full of color and texture so your little one can feel, crawl and race down the freeway! Vroom! Honk! CRASH! Full speed ahead!
DIY Quilted Play Mat Part 1 of 2: Wool Appliqué
In this three-part tutorial, you'll learn everything you need to know to make a DIY quilted play mat.
- Part I - make the quilted base of your play mat using the Fishing Net pattern and make the wool appliqué pieces.
- Part II - attach your wool appliqué to your quilt and finish your play mat.
Ready to make your own DIY quilted play mat? Put the pedal to the metal (of your sewing machine) and let's get started!
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DIY Quilted Play Mat Supplies
- Fishing Net quilt pattern
- Fabric for your quilt (see Step 1 for more information)
- Batting (I used wool)
- Fishing Net Play Mat templates (click to download PDF)
- Template plastic
- 100% wool felt in a variety of colors: I highly recommend purchasing the 6x9" Bellwether collection from Benzie Design. It gives you a variety of colors to mix and match and is the perfect size for the play mat house templates. Use code SUZYQUILTS2021 at checkout for 10% off your entire purchase through the end of 2021!
- Thread that coordinates with your wool
- Felt scissors (you might not want to use your regular sewing shears on felt)
- Chalk marker
- Glue pen
- Thread wax
- Embroidery scissors
- Embroidery needle
- Appliqué pins
Step 1: Make the Fishing Net Quilt
To start making your DIY quilted play mat, buy the Suzy Quilts Fishing Net pattern and make your base quilt following the instructions in the pattern. The throw size is a great size for a toddler play mat and the intersecting lines look just like streets—perfect for playing with cars!
Fishing Net is one of the fastest Suzy Quilts patterns. You can make the whole top in a weekend!
TIP: Here's how to get a neighborhood look in your play mat. For my Fishing Net base quilt, I chose a green print for Color 1, a light gray for Color 2, and a dark gray for Color 3. This creates a grass and street feel!
The fabrics I used in my Fishing Net quilt are:
Sewing the appliqué onto the top or completed quilt is up to you, just make sure you have a plan in place. My tutorials will focus on hand sewing the wool appliqué. But you can machine stitch it in place if you'd like to speed up the process.
I used wool batting for my Fishing Net quilt because I like the puffy look it gives to the grass sections of the DIY quilted play mat. However, if you'd like a flatter look for your play mat, try using bamboo or cotton!
Step 2: Prepare Your Wool Felt
Just like wool fabric or batting, wool felt will shrink when wet. So if you'd like to be able to wash your play mat in the washing machine, start by pre-washing your wool felt. Benzie Design has a great blog post about pre-washing their felt! The post focuses on Benzie's wool blend felt, but it applies to their 100% wool felt as well.
If you don't want to pre-wash your wool felt, plan to only spot clean your play mat to avoid shrinking.
Note about materials: I recommend using 100% wool for your appliqué for several reasons. For example, it won't hold creases easily. This means you can fold your play mat when it's not in use and won't have to worry about severe creasing (this is also one of the reasons I chose wool batting for my play mat.) Pure wool felt also pairs nicely with 100% cotton, linen, or other natural materials you may include in your quilts. And it's incredibly soft!
Most importantly, 100% wool is a high-quality material that will outlast felt purchased from big box stores and hold up to play better. Because of this, I recommend purchasing a 6x9" collection of Bellwether pure wool felt from Benzie Design, which gives you lots of colors to choose from. But you can also pick and choose your colors individually.
Make sure you use the code SUZYQUILTS2021 at checkout for 10% off your Benzie Design order through the end of 2021!
Step 3: Create Your Color Combinations
Once you have your felt, it's time to have fun and make appliqué color combinations! You can purchase a Bellwether felt swatch chart from Benzie Design (I turned mine into magnets like you see above), or play with your felt when it is shipped to you.
Each appliqué house is designed to use three colors (plus white for the windows). You can see some of the color combinations I used for houses on my quilt in the picture above.
The cars use two colors (plus black for the wheels). Here are some colors I used for appliqué cars.
And here's what I used for the trees and tree trunks! The appliqué template PDF also includes a school and school bus so you can choose even more colors for your DIY quilted play mat!
Step 4: Make Plastic Templates
This step is optional, but I find making plastic templates to be very helpful when preparing felt appliqué shapes. If you'd like to skip this step and use the paper from the template PDF instead, scroll ahead to step 5. Otherwise, keep reading!
Plastic templates are a helpful tool because they provide a harder surface for your chalk marker or pencil to bump up against when tracing the shapes. It's a lot like making very thin rulers!
You'll need a pack of template plastic to make these. First, use a permanent marker and a quilting ruler to trace the paper templates onto the plastic. Next, cut them out with regular scissors (don't let your shears near this!). I number each part of appliqué with a code so I can keep them straight (House #1 is shown above), and keep each house and car in individual plastic baggies to keep them organized.
Step 5: Cut Out Felt Shapes
First, decide which colors you'll use for which parts of your appliqué shape. For the house above, I chose to use the darkest blue for the base of the house, a medium blue for the roof accent and door, and a light blue for the house's trim.
Second, using a chalk marker or other removable marking tool, trace the template onto a piece of wool felt.
Third, trace all of the templates onto pieces of wool felt.
And finally, cut out the shapes using felt scissors.
Step 6: Stitch Felt Shapes Together
Now it's time to make your felt shapes! In the image above, you can see how your appliqué shapes will start to come to life once you've cut them from the templates.
To start, use a temporary glue pen to hold individual pieces of felt down, like basting in a quilt. Be sure to only glue one or two pieces down at a time to make sure they stay in place as you sew them.
TIP: If you use a glue pen like I did, the glue will get a little fuzzy from picking up felt fibers. So I keep a paper towel near me and occasionally wipe the top of the glue pen off to remove the fibers.
Separate your embroidery floss until you have only one strand. I used a set of DMC floss that coordinates with the Bellwether line of pure wool felt, which meant that the embroidery floss had six strands. For this step, we are using one strand to sew with to reduce thread bulk when attaching the appliqué in the quilt, which I'll cover in Part II of this tutorial.
Using a whip stitch, sew around each entire template shape so it is secured to the base (the biggest template shape). This step is very similar to hand sewing binding onto a quilt, and you can see a video demonstration of a whip stitch here.
Whip stitch all of your felt pieces together, and you're all done with this step! For my DIY quilted play mat, I made:
- 7 houses
- 7 cars
- 1 school
- 1 school bus
- 12 trees
In total, I used 40 colors out of the Benzie Design Bellwether collection to make the play mat as vibrant and fun as I could. Have fun playing with color combinations and making your appliqué neighborhood!
In Part II, coming on November 11, I'll show you how to sew your wool appliqué to your Fishing Net quilt using a blanket stitch.
Have you made a wool appliqué quilt before? Let me know your questions in the comments, and tell me who you'd like to make a DIY quilted play mat for!