Monday, June 21, 2010

Baby Activity Mat

I want one of these for my daughter. I don't want to pay $25.00 (the cheapest I've seen) for a toy she will never look at again as soon as she can crawl. (Three months tops)

"Hmmm... could I make that?"

My plan was to go buy a hula-hoop, but my husband informed me that he had an eight foot section of  pex-pipe leftover from our bathroom remodel. I am kind of bummed, because I was really, REALLY looking forward to finding out what, exactly goes inside a hula-hoop to make that rattling noise, but that will be a discovery for another day. 

This turned out so cute, and was very simple, and I LOVE it!

You will need:

A Hula-hoop (or about 8 feet of pex-pipe. I used 1/2 inch diameter)

about a yard of fabric for your play mat  

coordinating material for your pole covers (I used scraps, it worked out to about 1/4 yard total)

A craft spotter (you know, a buddy to hold the poles in the air while you're trying to fit them under your sewing machine foot. Weight-lifter have spotters, sometimes crafters need them too.)

Batting (choose whatever loft you like. Hopefully like me, you'll have some scrap batting laying around that you can use.) 

A sewing machine

an extensive vocabulary of {swear words}. Haha, just kidding! There are kids in the room! (Just say them in your head)

First, cut the strips for your pole covers. My poles were 48" and 1/2" diameter, so I cut strips 3" wide and pieced them together to make a strip 125" long (you'll want extra!). 

Press your super long strip in half, right sides together and stitch it down the long end.
Now you have a long tube of inside-out fabric. Turn it right side out. 
Here's a trick that will save you at least a half an hour and maybe 15-20 curses.

Cut a piece of yarn or twine (not thread, it will break) about 30" long. Thread one end through a large yarn needle and tie it TIGHT. Tie a knot in the other end of the twine.

Push the needle down the tube until the end of the twine is flush with the end of the tube. Pull the twine to the edge of the fabric tube, and stitch into place. Now stitch it again. You do not want that stitch coming undone halfway through turning this tube inside out!

Now push the knot down into the tube, and pull the needle through to the end of the tube. Pull on the twine to work the fabric through the tube until it is all right side out. 

Phew! That was the hardest part. I promise!

Now run your pipes down the fabric tube, and stitch each tube closed flush against the plastic pipe, with at least 4 inches of fabric overlapping either side of the pipe. 

They should look like this

You'll have a bit of fabric tube leftover, keep it! We'll use it later!

Cut your fabric into two 27 x 27 squares. 

Cut your batting about 26 x 26. I used 2 pieces of high loft batting, but I have hard floors in most of my house. If you have nice snuggly carpet, you should be fine with one layer.

Lay your batting out flat

Place your fabric squares on top of the batting, right sides together, like this. Make sure you center the batting. Now pin it. I know. I hate pinning, too, but if you don't I {cannot} be responsible for all the bad things that will happen!

Sew a straight stitch around 3 sides of you fabric square, leaving a 1" gap (guessing is okay!) on each side, on the left of each corner. 

Now turn it right side out like a sock. Your batting should be sandwiched between your fabrics, which are now facing right sides out. 

Fold the edges in and pin, and sew, leaving the same 1" gap on the left corner. 

Now get your craft spotter. Tell them not to be scared! 

I'm sorry that there are no pictures of this last step, but my spotter and I were too busy maneuvering crazy bendy pipe to take pictures. 

Take one of your fabric covered poles and stuff the 4" overlap of fabric into one of the corner gaps you left when sewing. Pin it. Do it! 

Now sew it in place. I used a straight stitch, but went over it 3 times to make sure it was nice and strong. 

Get your other pole, and stick its fabric overlap into the next gap. Pin and sew. 

Okay, here's the funky part. Are you ready? Don't be scared! You either, spotter! 

Bend your pole until it lines up with the opposite corner. Have your craft spotter hold the bend in place while you stuff in the fabric overlap and pin it in place. Don't let go, spotter! Manuever it under your sewing foot and QUICKLY sew it into place. Quick! Before your spotter lets go and the pin flies out into your face!

Repeat for the other pole. Give your spotter a high five! The hard part is over!

Your play mat should look more or less like this.

It will very easily fall over. Take a chunk of the leftover fabric tube, about 8-10" long, and sew both ends shut to make a lovely tie. 

Tie the tubes together like this,

And you are done!

If you don't have toys to hang from this, make some with your fabric scraps, and attach them to your poles with grosgrain ribbon... or something. 

And look how much my daughter likes it... 


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  1. Soooo cute Amber! I'm tempted to try it. I think I may just simplify even more and use a blanket we already have for the mat.

  2. That would be even EASIER! Make it and link it up! :D

  3. Okay you are brilliant. I don't understand how companies can charge $60-80 for those play mats. I got one for $20, but it was at a consignment store. I love reading blog posts that show you don't have to engage in the highway robbery that sometimes happens with different products. :0)

  4. SO FABULOUS! I like the way you think! :o)

    I've made a tent with disassembled hula hoops before... You will be disappointed to know that it's just a handful of gravel that makes that fantastic hula hoop noise -- no magic pebbles!

  5. This is so great!!! If only I had been all computer savvy to see an idea llike this when I had babies!

  6. I LOVE this! Love the hula hoop idea, my husband would have insisted he had something in the garage for me to use to ha! You did good! Your right, so much money for something that gets so little use!

  7. This is darling, even thought she isn't happy at the moment. How funny is that!

  8. Great job! I'll have to think about doing this if I don't get a mat at my baby shower. Bookmarked!

  9. This is darling!! I found you from Creations by Kara. Great project!

  10. Visiting from Tot Tuesday...
    This is adorable!! And you made me laugh with the picture of your daughter. :)

  11. um, awesome idea! I never would have thought to just make one, but after seeing your tutorial, it wouldn't make sense to buy one! Yours is so cute. And your little girl is adorable (even when she's screaming:)

  12. Sew Wonderful and Sew Smart! Love the last snap and love your sense of humor. Thanks for sharing! Happy Sewing! :o)

  13. I love it! And your description! This is going into my favorite for when my next baby comes along!

  14. Awesome! Isn't it just so cool to make something for almost nothing that would cost a lot otherwise. I'm sure Amber will come to enjoy it. ;-)

  15. Just love what you did and so creative! I shared with my husband and we laughed remembering the gift we were sure our little one would enjoy and how much she HATED it! She did like the cloth house I made that draped over a folding table, so much so that just last year when we were packing to move, she told me she was not ready to let it go. She's a sophomore in college this fall! You, too, will enjoy these kinds of moments! That was just precious to share. Thanks.

  16. This is awesome!! Those playmats are sooo expensive, and making it yourself means you can get one in exactly the colors and prints you want. I linked to your tutorial over at Craft Gossip Sewing:


  17. I loved the play mat I had, used it for 5 kids, and it completely wore out. I'm prego again and I never even THOUGHT of making my own. You could even add textured sections and interest items on the bottom like some of the commercial ones have, for even more fun. I am bookmarking this, thanks!

  18. This looks so good, I wish I thought like you when I had my son 11 months ago... well hopefully I will get another chance to try this out!!!

  19. I was smiling as I read this because of your sense of humor, but I laughed out loud when i saw the last photo. She loves it! lol.

    It is really cute, though! You did a great job!

  20. Thanks for linking up to the Mad Skills party!

  21. This is great. I did a web search for how to make one of these things, and came across yours. Thanks for the easy-to-follow instructions. It looks awesome, and I am glad I don't have to buy one, since this is my 3rd baby (I always borrowed one before, but it seems like the babies only like it for a couple months anyhow). Love the picture of your daughter "enjoying" it.

  22. This is fabulous! You did an amazing job creating this for your baby!

  23. How cute! And a great tutorial too! If you can find a way to safely attach jingle bells (and I mean really safely - babies will put anything in their mouths!) to the top of the poles, when your baby kicks the poles it will jingle - and most babies love that! Mine had toys with jinglies in the center, and my granddaughter would kick that thing all day to make it "sing"!

  24. Yoo hoo! You've won the Hope Studios, Tutorial Tuesday giveaway for last week! Reply back to this comment and I will set you up with the shop owner. Congrats :)

  25. That is totally awesome! Hopefully your daughter will grow to love it. ;)

  26. We have one of these somewhere but yours is adorable. I think you've inspired me to give it a makeover.

  27. Awesome. I had to pop by and see what you'd done even though I don't think my teenagers would appreciate this. I love that you made it with things tou already had too. Great job!

  28. Thank you for your tutorial! I made one...
    I hope my soon to arrive daughter likes it... :)

  29. Hey there - thanks for your comment! :0 I posted the pics on the Flickr site. :) E

  30. You make me laugh. Thanks for the tutorial

  31. oh YAY! I'm going to try this out for my LO! I want to be able to wash the mat though so I'm going to make to hoops attach to the corners via HD snaps (or eyelets with ties, I haven't decided yet) so that I can detach them for laundering.

    I'm also going to make loops from gross grain ribbon and sew those into the tubes of fabric that cover the hoops, so you can just clip a toy where ever!
    Great tutorial/idea. Thanks!

  32. Thanks for sharing, I made a mat using your tutorial for the arches you can see it here

  33. This is awesome! Thanks for the in-depth tutorial. I knew there HAD to be a cheap alternative for an activity mat because they are not worth the $50 that they are sold for in stores!

  34. maybe its the fact that im super slap happy from exhasution and too many hours at a 105 degree farm today, but i was laughing so hard i was crying when i got to the bottom and saw that picture. HILARIOUS! oh, and like everyone else has said fantastic idea, but you already know that. Im sure i will think about attempting to replicate it in the near future.

  35. This is great! I was searching for details on a baby activity blanket for the book I'm writing. This is just perfect. Love it!

  36. great job dear. i love craeting thgs for my boy. its so much fun to see them enjoy what you creat for them.

  37. im making a baby playmat for my assignment at school and didnt know what to use for the arch but thanks to you im on my way to an A

  38. ...there are little rocks inside the hula-hoops I bought from the dollar store :)


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