A play mat is something you only need for a short period of time, and its also something that takes up quite a bit of space. Play mats can be quite garish, so I never had one with my first daughter. With the second, however, I decided I wanted to make one (maybe mostly as an excuse to get some of my fabric printed). This tutorial will walk you through the process of “re-upholstering” a play mat.
I first looked at different kinds of play mats, and decided the easiest way to make one would be to buy one second hand and re-use all the “hardware”, that way all I needed was a piece of fabric and a sewing machine.
I bought this pink play mat at a charity shop for three pounds. Its not too bad as play mats go, but the fabric is hideous polyester – which is a magnet for hair and dust, and I wanted something that I would like to touch, especially since I would be putting a baby on it. I got to work planning and measuring and decided to make a simple round shape, adding interest by printing different designs on the fabric to make it look like a quilt.
The fabric I used is a heavy cotton twill fabric, which was very nice to work with and feels sturdy and soft. If you find a round play mat and want to use the same fabric I did, you can order the panel in my shop on any of the base fabrics available on spoonflower (I debated between the cotton twill, the thick organic jersey or the cotton / linen fabric). Most of these designs are also available in my shop as single fabrics / wallpaper / gift wrap as well. Depending on the shape of the play mat you’re re-doing, use any fabric, or design your own like I did! This tutorial I wrote a few years ago walks you through the same design process I used here.
The following photos show the steps I took for making my play mat. These are kept quite general, since every play mat will be different, but they show some things to consider if you’d like to redo a play mat of your own.
- Step 1: This photo shows the back of the play mat. Before you take it apart, look at how its sewn together and think about how you want your new play mat to look. I made a few changes, such as deciding not to sew the petal shapes, but to do a simpler stuffed circle around the edge instead. I also designed my play mat to be slightly larger. I couldn’t make it too much bigger, because then the arches wouldn’t fit. If you’re designing your own play mat and printing it, rather than using existing fabric, make sure you measure and plan everything carefully, because you won’t be able to cut more fabric.
- Step 2: Take off any fittings you will need.
- Step 3: These are the pieces I reused: the stuffing from the petals, the batting from the bottom of the play mat, the buttons and clasps for attaching the arches, and the arches themselves. I kept the original fabric for these.
- Step 4: Once I knew the diameter of the play mat, I created a file in gimp and filled it with different designs. When the fabric arrives, don’t forget to wash it first, so that it won’t shrink when you wash it after you’ve sewn it!
- Step 5: These are some of the designs I used. I used mostly existing designs and recoloured some of them to create an overall matching look.
- Step 6: Cut out the play mat, leaving a seam allowance, and cut out a piece of backing fabric the same size (I used an old curtain).
- Step 7: Calculate where on the back the clasps need to go (its helpful not to throw away the old play mat, so that you can easily see where to place things). Sew them on. To make the play mat bigger, and to shape the stuffed outer circle, I added four strips of fabric around the outside of the mat. Now sew the whole thing together, right sides together, leaving an opening for stuffing.
- Step 8: Pictured here is the stuffing going in. Before I stuffed the outer circle, I first put the round piece of batting into the play mat, and sewed around the inner two circles to keep it in place. You could hand quilt this, or use the machine like I did. This will leave you with a round tube around the outside of the play mat for stuffing.
- Step 9: Sew the opening closed by hand, then sew on your buttons if you’re using them, attach the arches, and your play mat is finished! I also printed a number of butterflies on the fabric, which I want to sew, stuff, and hang from the arches, but that hasn’t happened yet!