Make a play or picnic mat 4

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Sewing Bee Fabrics Tutorial
How To Make A Patchwork Play or Picnic Mat

How to make a waterproof patchwork picnic mat

When the weather was forecast for lovely sun all week I decided I would have to upgrade from the makeshift washing basket play pen for some outdoor play time.

Here's what you'll need:

4ft x 3ft PUL fabric (this is a waterproof breathable fabric - you could use something else but I liked the idea of not worrying if the ground was a little damp still).

3ft 11inch x 2ft 11inch wadding (I used 7oz thickness)

Enough cotton patchwork pieces to cover the area. Remember to add your seam allowances so the smaller you cut your fabric pieces, the more seams you will be putting in. Allow an extra 1/2 inch per seam (1/4 inch seam allowance on each piece you are joining will be lost) and 1/2 inch for joining both ends. So for example 1 strip downwards might have 5 rectangles - thats 3ft width plus 4 seams to join them at 1/2 inch each (= 2 inches) plus an extra half inch to join it to the PUL at each end so you would need the fabric to be 3ft 2 1/2 inches. If you are novice I recommend adding at least an extra half inch as it is easier to trim it down to straighten up the edges than to find you have one strip shorter at the end!

I used strips about 6 inches wide with a variety of lengths to give it a more random look and a border of 3 inch birds to give a focal point at the bottom.

Optional - As this is intended to come out only when it's garden weather, I wanted it to be able to roll up like this:

Rolled summer mat storage tutorial

To do this you will also need 2 fabrics strips 2 inch x 1ft and some poppers. I used KAM poppers.

How to make it:

Once you've cut out all your patchwork pieces, you want to start assembling them in strips. To do that, place the 2 ends you plan on joining pattern side together and sew a basic running stitch. Join all in a row the same way so it should look like this:

Joining a row of patchwork pieces

Iron it out and flatten your seams open so they sit flat like this:

How to join patchwork pieces

Once you have sewn all your strips, you want to join them together. Do this exactly the same way - pin patterned sides together and sew a basic running stitch to create a hem. Once you have done this, you should have made up the front of the mat. Pressing the hems out should look something like this from the back:

Pressing seams open patchwork

Then, lay it down on top of the PUL fabric so that the sides that you want on the outside are on the inside.

Patchwork from the back free play mat tutorial

Pin all round the edges then it's time to make the straps if you want the mat to roll up out the way.

Fold the 2 long fabric strips in half with pattern inside. Leaving the ends open, sew right down the length of the fabric so you have a tube. Use a chop stick or similar to help turn it right side out.

Turning strap right side out

Repeat for the second strap. Sew closed one end of both straps. I used a ladder stitch to make a hidden seam. Iron it flat if you want more of a flat strap look. You are going to sew it in to the hem so pin the straps towards the top and bottom on 1 side of the mat with the rough edge pointing outwards and the strap loose on the inside. Sew hems with a running stitch on 3 sides of the mat including the side with the straps attached. To make them more secure I sewed it, back stitched over then sewed again so the straps were held in place with 3 rows of stitching.

Attaching waterproof PUL backing to play mat

Joining strap inside a seam patchwork picnic mat tutorial

Before you turn it right side out, check your wadding sits comfortably. If you have lost a little more than expected in your seam allowances then the wadding will bunch up inside making a bumpy mat, so just trim the wadding down. If your wadding seems too loose, you can always do an extra set of stitching along the offending loose seam edge to make it fit more snug. Then, roll your wadding into a cylinder as tight as you can and sew the 4th side of the mat leaving a gap in the centre big enough that when you turn it right side out you can now pass your wadding roll inside and spread it out flat.

How to turn play mat right side out

Ladder hidden stich closing opening

Now all you need to do is add your poppers. I like to wind the strap around the mat so I can be sure I'm putting the popper on the right way around.

KAM snaps strap to tie mat

When using the mat, I just tie the strap in a little bow. Now all you need to do is wait for the warm weather!

Patchwork picnic mat free tutorial

free guide how to make a baby play mat


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4 thoughts on “Make a play or picnic mat

  • Emma

    Hello! Found your amazing site when I was looking at buying PUL to make a waterprrof sofa topper as I’m so fed up of cleaning up spills! I cannot find anything like this to buy at all, so going to make my own with fleece and PUL. I was wondering how the blanket with PUL dries after washing? Pocket cloth nappies have a ‘hole’ which I always think helps with drying but then CSP is all stitched in and it dries ok. What do you think? also, does the PUL stay on the bottom with use, or do you have to reshape the blanket a lot to keep it in place?

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      The PUL is always the quickest side to dry! Nappies have absorbant materials inside that are designed to hold water. You wont have a problem unless you are going to fill it with towelling. I just hang my mat up cotton side out and it dries with no problems. The PUL stays put happily and it’s been used a lot with my 2 little ones and I’ve not had problems with them scuffing it out of shape. Although, when I tried machine washing it, the wadding bunched up inside so I did pull it back out and add some stitches dotted around to hold it to the cotton layer and it’s been fine since. For a sofa, there will be more bum wiggling, and you’ll be using more fabric, so you will probably want to top stitch around the edges and add some quilting, even if it is just some knots that go through each layer spread around. You can always use the tumble drier to help seal any holes if you wanted to do more. Fleece is very good at wicking away moisture, so it should dry quickly with no problems.

  • Karen Duckworth

    Loving these. I had a really bad accident last year and have not done much. I’ve since retired and am wanting to get going again. Bought some materials from you that are crying to be used!
    Love your tutorials and am getting excited and inspired. Going to get hubby to get my machine out. LOL. I just wondered if you’ve ever made a playmat with some sort of drawstring that could be used for Lego for them to play on them draw strings into a bag to store Lego diploma in. With a bit of a soft edge on it to keep pieces in?

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Thank you so much for the lovely comment. I haven’t made that type of mat, but if I was going to, I would quilt the mat as a flat mat, then add a tunnel going around the circle with just enough room for the drawstring to pass around the edge. Then I would ideally put in grommets (or you could do large button holes) around the edge and pass a rope through it. I hope that makes sense. I’d love to see how you get on!