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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thomas the Tank Engine Play Mat - DIY Sewing Tutorial

My nephew is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. He is almost two years old and he can't get enough of that blue "Choo choo!" He has shirts, and movies, and toys. For Christmas I really wanted to make him something that he would love. I took the idea of those travel Match Box Car road play mats and tweaked it to make a train mat.

Its a pretty simple idea. Just two pieces of fabric sewn together with a map on one side. I painted the train tracks and did simple felt appliques for the lake, houses and mountain. The great thing about felt is that you can just cut it and stitch/glue it in place. There are no raw edges so there is a lot less work. If you don't want to sew felt, just paint on whatever landmarks you want on your map.

That's the cool thing about this project, you can make the map look like whatever you want it to look like. If you want lakes and rivers, just put them on there! If you want a whole village, just cut out some village shapes (squares and triangles for houses are so simple) and glue them on the map. You could even have train tracks going from your home to "Grandma's," just paint labels under the houses. Its so easy to make this a totally custom play mat!

What You Will Need:

  • mat background fabric (I used green to look like grass) cut a 21" x 21" square
  • mat border fabric (I used blue clouds) cut four strips of 2" x 21"
  • mat back fabric (I used Thomas the Tank Engine fabric) cut a 23.5" x 23.5" square
  • snap fabric (I used the same as the border fabric) cut a 3.5" x 4" rectangle
  • small bits of felt 
  • fabric paint
  • embroidery floss
  • one button (optional)
  • one square of Velcro (both male and female sides) or a snap set
  • the usual stuff (sewing machine, matching fabric, scissors, ruler etc...)
Note: Use a 1/4" seam allowance unless otherwise noted.

Plan out what you want your map to look like. I did a very simple sketch so I knew what I was working towards. Once you have a plan you can get started with the map details. Cut out shapes such as squares and triangles for houses, an organic triangle for a mountain, and a blob shape for a lake. Either glue or stitch these landmark details in place. Add whatever shading or detailing you want. Now, paint on the train tracks. The tracks should be 1.5" wide. I used a small piece of paper that was 1.5" wide so I could make sure the width was even. Neither the landmarks nor the tracks need to be perfect. Let your paint and glue dry completely (overnight is best) before moving on.
Sew on the borders. First sew on the top and bottom borders, line the edge of the border fabric up with the edge of the map fabric, right sides together. Press the borders open (see the first picture). Then sew on the two side borders using the same method, these will be longer than the top and bottom borders because they will over lap the top and bottom borders. Press these open.

Fold the snap tab fabric in half length wise, right sides together. Stitch up the raw edges and one end, leaving one end open. Trim the seams to about 1/8". Turn the tab right side out, poke out the corners with a dull pencil or corner turning tool and press.

Stitch the male side of the Velcro square in place at the finished end of the tab. (If you are using a snap this is where you would attach the female side of the snap in stead of the Velcro.)

Stitch a button on the opposite side of the tab from the Velcro. This button is just for show and won't be functional, so don't worry about it being very tight.

Layer the back fabric and the map right sides together. From the bottom left side (where I have my lake) of the map, measure 6" in and lay your Velcro tab with the button facing up (like in the picture). Pin this in place in between the two layers of fabric. Stitch around the whole map through the map border fabric and the back fabric making sure to back stitch. Leave a hole about 4" for turning.

Trim the corners Turn the whole thing right sides out, pushing out the corners with a dull pencil or a corner turner. Turn the raw edges you left for turning inside, press. Press around the whole map. Top stitch, as close to the edge of the fabric as possible, around the whole map (making sure to catch the raw edges that were left for turning). Stitch the other Velcro square to the back of the mat 6" from the top left corner.

That's it! It such a cute gift for a little boy who loves trains.

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