Seven years ago, when I was pregnant with my fourth child, I made felt play mats for my oldest two boys. Those car play mats have been played with so much that they look pretty worn out and some of the pieces have come off.
This year I decided to try to make a felt play mat for my nephew and one for my youngest son for Christmas. I used my original design as a guide and tried to make these new felt play mats even better.
Today I am going to show you how you can make either a car or a train play mat out of felt for a child in your life.
There are several great things about these play mats.
First, they are made from felt which is cheap (unless you choose wool felt) and very forgiving for even the most novice seamstress.
Second, they have a pocket to hold cars or trains and handles which makes them great for on-the-go play.
Third, the bright colors are engaging which means these felt play mats are sure to inspire lots of open-ended play.
Would you like to make one of these for a child on your gift-giving list? Here’s what you will need to do to make either or both of these fun, homemade toys.
- Felt in Assorted Colors
- Rotary Cutter & Mat (Optional but very handy)
- Sewing Machine
- Sew-On Velcro
- Car Applique Pattern (Set Page Scaling to None when printing)
- Train Applique Pattern (Set Page Scaling to None when printing)
- Paper-Backed Fusible Web (Optional)
Felt Play Mat Instructions
1. Choose 2 colors of felt, one for the outside and one for the inside.
2. Fold each piece of felt in half and cut them one at a time to a size of 12 1/2 inches wide by 25 inches long.
Using a rotary cutter, mat, and a ruler or 12 1/2 inch quilter’s cutting tool makes the job much easier. Folding the fabric (be sure not to cut the side with the fold) makes the felt easier to manage when cutting.
I chose green for the inside of both of the felt play mats to mimic the look of grass. I chose red for the outside of both because it is a nice, bright color which will hopefully be hard to lose. 🙂
Ironing Wrinkled Felt
You may notice in the picture below that the felt is wrinkled. To remedy this I used a spray bottle of water, a flour sack towel (pressing cloth), and an iron to get the wrinkles out. You do have to be careful not to melt the felt with a hot iron and no pressing cloth, but I just wanted you to know that you can iron felt.
3. Cut a piece of gray felt to a size of 9 inches by 22 inches. This will serve as the race track.
4. Round all 4 corners of the grey felt you just cut in step 3. It is easier to get them even if you fold the felt first.
5. Fold the felt so that it is 22 inches long by 4 1/2 inches wide.
6. Measure over 2 1/2 inches from the right and the left and make a mark with a pin.
7. Measure up from the bottom 2 inches and make another mark on each side of the felt.
8. You are now going to cut the middle out of the felt. Using the marks you made in steps 6 and 7 as a guide cut 2 inches from the fold the entire length of the felt being sure to keep 2 1/2 inches on each side.
When you unfold the felt you will have a 4 inch rectangle open in the middle of the felt. This is going to be the race track.
Using Fusible Web
I want to talk a little about using fusible web.
When I made my first set of felt play mats I used non-sewable fusible web to adhere all of the little pieces. I did this to save time and make the process easier.
While this worked for a while, my boys played with the mats so much that some of the pieces ended up missing.
That is why this time I stitched everything in place instead.
If you want more control than using pins then I suggest purchasing the type of fusible web that can be sewn. Then, adhere the pieces with that and sew around them for extra security.
Bzzz. Time out is over. Let’s get back to work. 🙂
9. Pin the gray felt race track to the center of the green (or whatever color of felt you chose for the inside). Use a ruler to measure to make sure you have the race track centered.
10. Sew around the inside of the track using a small zig-zag stitch and coordinating thread.
11. Sew around the outside of the race track using a small zig-zag stitch.
12. Cut out 22 yellow rectangles using the printable pattern piece as a guide.
13. Pin the yellow rectangles to the center of the race track, evenly spaced around.
14. Sew around all 4 sides of each rectangle using a straight stitch.
Sewing on the Appliqué Pieces
Now it is time to cut out the rest of the pieces you will need to finish this project.
15. Use the printable pattern to cut out the tree trunks, tree tops, pond, fish, car body, car window, wheels, and checkered flag.
16. You will also need to cut two handles (1 inch x 11 inches) and a pocket (6 inches x 9 inches) out of whatever color of felt you want.
17. Sew the tree trunks to the center of the race track and then sew the tree tops on top of them using a small zig-zag stitch.
18. Sew the pond to the center of the race track using a small zig-zag stitch. Sew the fish on top of the pond and then use a permanent marker to draw an eye on each fish.
19. Sew the black squares to the white rectangle to form a checkered flag and then sew it on top of the race track.
Be sure not to sew it directly in the middle or the play mat won’t fold properly. Make sure it is to the right or left of the center by a few inches.
Next you need to sew on the car appliqué to the pocket.
20. Use the printable pattern pieces to cut out the car body, window, and wheels.
21. Sew the car body to the pocket piece using a small zig-zag stitch.
Center the car on the left and right but place it only about 1/2 to 1 inch from the bottom. Do not center on the top and bottom because you will be sewing velcro at the top and don’t want to sew over the car.
22. Sew the window near the top of the car body, sew the white circles to the center of the black circles, and then sew the wheels to the bottom of the car. Use a small zig-zag stitch for all of this.
Sewing on the Pocket
23. Cut a piece of velcro loop and a piece velcro hook that are 8 1/2 inches long. The velcro I used was 3/4 of an inch wide.
24. Pin the piece of hook velcro to the back of the felt pocket, centered left and right, 1/2 an inch from the top.
25. Use a straight stitch to sew all the way around all four sides of the velcro.
26. Pin the loop piece of velcro to the outer piece of felt you cut in steps 1 and 2. Place the top of the velcro 5 1/4 inches from the top edge of the felt and center it to the left and right.
The top edge of the outer piece is a short side. The picture above shows the velcro and felt turned to the side. The top is on the right side of the picture.
27. Sew around all 4 sides of the velcro using a straight stitch.
28. Pin the pocket to the outer piece of felt, lining up the 2 strips of velcro. Make sure the pocket is even on the felt before sewing it in place.
29. Sew around the pocket on three sides (Not the top where the velcro is.) using a triple stitch for durability.
While you can use a straight stitch, the pocket will be holding cars and you don’t want the stitches to pull due to the weight of the cars.
If you don’t have a triple stitch on your sewing machine you can sew a straight stitch and then sew over it with a small zig-zag stitch or another row of straight stitching.
We are almost finished. Lets get those handles on the play mat and sew the front to the back.
Now is also the time to personalize the play mat. I cut out letters from felt and placed them above the pocket. You don’t have to do this step but it is a nice touch for what would otherwise be a blank area.
If you have an embroidery machine (Like I used to have in another life. Did I ever tell you I used to have an embroidery business? That’s another story for another day. Anyway.) you can embroider your child’s name to the play mat.
30. Pin the handles to the back side of the outer piece of felt 3 inches from each side with about 1 inch of the handle ends below the edge.
31. Pin the outer piece of felt to the inner piece of felt with wrong sides together.
32. Sew around all 4 sides of the play mat using a straight stitch and a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
33. When you sew over the handles backstitch and then sew over the handle again.You want to make sure they are securely sewn onto the play mat, so you should sew over them more than once.
I sewed once, backstitched over once, and then sewed over them again which meant 3 lines of stitching on each handle.
Guess what? We are done. Whew!
You should now have a felt play mat for your child to enjoy. This is what the outside of the play mat should look like.
The pocket on the front is a great way to use the play mat on the go because the velcro keeps the cars from falling out.
Here’s what the inside should look like when it is being played with. My little guy had to test it out for his cousin. Quality control. 🙂
I purchased the little cars from a really nice Etsy shop called Stillpoint Woodworks. They are a great size and I love that they are handmade.
Making a Train Play Mat
While I love how the race track turned out what if you have a train lover and want to make a train track instead of a race track?
Never fear, I’ve got you covered.
You are basically going to do many of the same things as I explained for the race track version. First, you will need to do steps 1-8 from above.
Go ahead, I will wait.
You’re back? Great.
Now, here is where things will be different. After you have made the race track you are going to cut out the center so that you have two skinny pieces of track that are about 1/2 inch wide.
You will have a piece that used to be in the center (at the top of the picture below) that you won’t need, and you will have two skinny pieces that you will need.
Ignore my cutting. I trimmed up my edges before sewing. I didn’t do this with as much precision as I should have. However, it worked.
You are then going to pin the two skinny pieces of track to the center of the inner piece of felt. Be sure to use a ruler to make sure they are evenly spaced on the large piece of felt and evenly spaced from each other.
Use a straight stitch to sew around each piece of track on both sides. You are basically going to sew 4 times, 2 times on each piece of track on the left and right of each.
Next, you are going to cut out the train track cross pieces from black felt using the printable pattern as a guide. You will need 32 total rectangles.
Pin the rectangles to the track and then cut off any excess felt that is hanging over the edge of the track.
Sew around each rectangle on all four sides using a straight stitch.
You will then follow steps 15-33 from above to finish the play mat.
Be sure to use the train pattern pieces and not the car pattern pieces or else you will have a train track on the inside and a car on the pocket.
Sewing on the Appliqué
If you need a little more explanation of how I made the train appliqué here you go.
I cut out all of the pieces and then stitched them to the pocket piece in this order: train body, window, top of train, front of train, smokestack (with zig-zag stitch smoke), two small wheels in the front, one big wheel in the back, thin rectangle to connect the second wheel to the third wheel.
Be sure to sew all of that on before sewing the pocket to the outside of the play mat.
Speaking of the pocket, here it is in action.
I think Joseph is going to be so excited to have his own train play mat because he has played with his brothers’ car play mats for years.
I have ordered Joseph a personalized engine that will have his name on it that I will give him with this play mat. I think he will be excited.
If you have any questions about my instructions please let me know. I always try to make sure my instructions are accurate but I am human and have been known to make mistakes. 🙂
Printing the Appliqué Patterns
I first want to say that the appliqué in my pictures was freehanded. I decided to create printable versions for you. I’m kind of excited about it because this was the first time I have used Illustrator to draw appliqué patterns.
When you click on the links a new page will pop up with the patterns. If you try to print directly from that page some of the pattern may get cut off.
I recommend saving the file, opening it in Adobe, and then printing it. Be sure to set your printer to not scale. It may say something like “Page Scaling” and then you will have a drop-down menu. Choose the option “None” to be sure the pieces print at the correct sizes.
If you want to make sure that the patterns printed at the correct size, measure the wheel at the top left of each page. It should have a diameter of 1 1/2 inches.
Happy sewing and please let me know if you make a felt play mat using this tutorial.