Sunday, October 6

Day 6 - Travel Car Play Mat

Welcome back, friends! This month we're working on 31 handmade gifts for everyone on your list. You can find links to the full series here.

Today we're kicking off kids week, and I've got a little something for the boys. It's a travel car mat!

This rolls up into a nice little bundle, perfect for tucking into a diaper bag or backpack to keep the little guys occupied.

It opens up to be a play mat and even has built-in storage for a few favorite cars.

Here's what you need to make one:

  • 1/2 yard cotton (for the outer fabric, I used a cute transportation print)
  • 1/2 yard cotton (for the inner fabric, I picked one that kind of looked like grass)
  • 3 sheets black flannel
  • 1 sheet red flannel (or whatever color for the car pocket)
  • 1 sheet yellow flannel
  • optional felt scraps for decorating
  • thread
  • ribbon
  • cars
  • car mat template (download it here)
Start by pre-washing and drying your cotton fabrics. Then cut a piece 18 x 15" out of each.

Print out the template. Use the template to cut one of each road piece out of the black felt. Lay the pieces out on the right side of the inner fabric. The top straight run should be set down about 1" from the top edge of your cotton fabric and flush with the left and right edges. The layout is the top left piece is Road A, and the top right is Road B. On the right (coming down from B) is Road C which should be flush with the right edge and tucked under Road B with about 1/2" overlap. Then on the left (coming down from Road A) is Road D which should be tucked under Road A about 1/2". Connected to the end of Road D is Road E which should be set under Road D about 1/2" and be flush with the bottom edge of the cotton fabric. You can see in the pic below how the pieces fit together. Pin them in place.

Now you can make the car pocket. Cut a piece 4" x 10" out of the red felt. Line it up so the bottom left corner of the felt is set in 3/4" from the bottom and left edge of the cotton fabric (see the pic above). Pin just the left edge in place. Now (look at the pic below) slide one of your cars under to see how big each pocket needs to be, and pin on the other side of the car to set the pocket size (you'll be stitching along where each pin is). Repeat to mark spots for three cars (you'll have some extra felt left over, just trim it off after the next pin).

Now with the car back in the first spot check how deep the pocket needs to be. Pinch down the bottom edge of the pocket and pin it down at the bottom of the car. You can see in the pic below the nose of my car is at the top of the pocket and I've pinned right below the bottom. You'll be stitching along these pins too, so you can trim any extra below them.

On the template you printed there are also pieces you can use to make trees or houses for your mat, or even make up your own! Go ahead and lay out anything else you want to add and pin it in place.

Now you can start sewing everything down! With black thread stitch right along the edges of the road pieces, and be sure to stitch down any seams where the pieces overlap.

Then switch to red and sew around the outside and bottom edges of the car pocket where you pinned it. Then sew a line between each pocket where you marked it with a pin (sorry! I don't have a good pic of this part, you can see it in the finished pics below).

Then use any other thread colors you need to sew down any other pieces.

Now you can make the lines for the road. I just cut a thin strip of yellow, then clipped it into shorter pieces like this:

This is where I was feeling lazy. If you have more patience than me you can totally sew all these little yellow lines down. But I just grabbed some Elmer's glue (so they'll probably fall off if I ever have to wash it. Fabric glue would be better but I didn't have any. My bad.) and glued those puppies down.

Now cut a 30" piece of ribbon. fold it in half and pin it so the folded edge is flush with the right side of the cotton fabric and set up 2 3/4" from the bottom edge of the fabric. Pin it down, and pin the tails in the center of the mat so they don't get in your way for the next part. **you can see how I sewed the car pocket down in this pic.**

Lay your outer fabric face down on top of this and pin around the edges.

Stitch around the edges with a 1/2" seam allowance, leaving a 4" opening for turning on one side.

Clip the corners.

Flip the mat right-side-out through the opening and push the corners out nice and square.

Tuck in the fabric at the opening and pin it closed. Pin around the res of the mat.

Topstitch all around the outside edge of the mat with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Almost done! Now you just need some cars to put in it. I found a pack of three at Dollar Tree.

To get your mat travel-ready, start with a car in each pocket. Fold down the top third of the mat like this:

Then fold it down again like this:

Starting at the left side roll the mat up and tie it with the ribbon. If the tails on your ribbon are too long you can trim them shorter now. I cut the ends of my ribbon at an angle and it isn't fraying, but if you're worried about it you could fold the ends over and stitch them.

This is when I had to try to get it away from B long enough to take pictures. This is a big hit with him.

Since it rolls up so small you can even throw it in your purse! Perfect if you're going somewhere that there won't be toys, like overnights at a hotel. Just open it up for lots of little boy fun!

Here's what it cost for me to make one:

$4.00 - outer cotton fabric
$2.80 - inner cotton fabric
$1.25 - felt @ $0.25 per sheet (I used leftover scraps for my tree)
$0.00 - thread, left over from other projects
$1.00 - cars from dollar tree
$0.25 - ribbon from Michael's clearance bin

Total: $9.30

But if you're careful you can get three mats out of the cotton fabric! If they cut your fabric sloppy you may have to make them a tad narrower than mine, but that's totally fine. Just trim your roads if they hang off the edges a bit. You'll still have to buy more black & red felt and cars, but if you make three mats with the same fabric you'll only be spending about $4.50 per mat!

And if cars aren't your guy's favorite thing, no sweat! You can totally get creative with this and make it work for all different kinds of toys. You could make a mat covered with trees and a mountain or two and put dinosaurs in the pockets. Or make an airport and put planes in the pockets (your pockets might need to be a little wider for that). Or even make an underwater scene and put toy fish in the pockets. Really, just think of some small toy he likes and you can make a mat to go with it. You could even make a mat for a girl by putting shapes of beds and chairs on the mat and putting small dolls in the pockets!

Are you guys excited for kids week? I love finding things to make for B! But tomorrow I'll be mixing it up a little bit with something just for the girls. See you there!

P.S. You can make a mat for any theme you like! In Our Pond made this sweet pirate map version to use with Safari Ltd. Pirates


  1. What a clever idea! So excited to make several of these for Christmas in various styles (3 cars, 2 princess themes, 1 train, and 1 dinosaur). I hope they turn out and lovely as yours!

    1. What a great idea! I'd love to see them when you're done! :)

  2. I love this. Wondering how long this actually entertained a kid?? Thinking of making them for airplane presents for a trip we are doing with a 2 and 4 yo.

    1. I don't really know how long? My kids will play with the mat for a while but then they ditch it and keep playing with the cars without the mat. :)

  3. I love this idea. I'm going to make it soon. Thank you.