Panel Play Mats

Two weeks ago I hit 24 quilt shops in an hour and a half!  How did I manage that?  Because someone had the genius idea to have the small scattered quilt shops of East Texas set up booths for the weekend, in a centrally located fairgrounds building.  The aisles were packed and sales were brisk, so I think it was worthwhile for the shop owners and I hope it is repeated!

About every second booth had these play mat panels by designer Deborah Edwards for Northcott Fabrics.   There are four panels with road ways and train tracks, for little ones to use with their little toys cars.  They were very cute and I bought two sets, one for my grandson and one for the kids next door.

Since we live in the country, I felt the need for there to be a rural area to go with all the city life in the panels, and I thought I would just add some big green borders around the sides.  On my drive home, I was planning, “Okay, I will need some batting, and what will I use for the backing?”  Then I realized if I used batting, small toys placed on the mat would fall over; and if I sewed all four panels together into one mat, we might get some sharing problems: and then if I enlarged that with borders, it would get awkward to handle and throw in the washer…

So my clever idea was to keep the play mats child-size, by sewing only two panels together, and putting a “rural area” on the back of each one!   This way they can be flipped and rotated in a variety of layouts.  They can also be separated if there is a squabble or if only one needs to be washed.

I didn’t want to use batting, but I did want to give it a little more body, so I used some gridded interfacing I have.  It’s non-fusible, so I stitched it to the panels along some of the roads and train tracks.

Four panels, two play mats.

Four panels, two play mats. Deborah Edwards for Northcott.

Two play mats arranged a different way. If I had sewn all four together, there wouldn't be as much variation possible.

Two play mats arranged a different way. If I had sewn all four together, there wouldn’t be as much variation possible.

I made the rural sides separately, from some bright green fabric (also Northcott) that I had purchased about 5 years ago.  I wanted these to be pretty plain to contrast with the city prints, and have lots of room for toy animals.  While I was digging around for the green fabric, I came across some large squares of jungle animal print that I had already bordered.  The fabric wasn’t very good quality, so I had never turned it into a quilt.  Fusing it onto the background fabric stabilized it beautifully, and it became a zoo out in the country.

If the panels are arranged with one city side and one country side visible, a driveway to a parking lot lines up with one of the roads, because you have to have a way to get to the country!  I also made half of a pond on each mat.  I fused the shapes down and then practiced satin stitch to cover the raw edges.  I even made a little satin stitch speed bump!

I didn’t want to quilt everything together, because I didn’t want shadows of the city shapes like cars and buildings to appear on the country side.  I could have done free motion quilting of grassy shapes, but I just put the two sides together pillow-case style.

The two country sides, with pond, parking lot, and zoo. Lots of open space for toy animals, etc.

The two country sides, with pond, parking lot, and zoo. Lots of open space for toy animals, etc.

Country and city together.

Country and city together.

Zoo fabric.

Zoo fabric.

I will admit that if the panels are lined up right, a toy car can drive off a city road and into the pond, but you’ve got to leave room for silliness.  🙂

I had so much fun working on this.  I could have happily added parking space lines, gazebos, and hot air balloons, but I didn’t want to get too carried away.  I went ahead and gave it to the kids last night — they liked it and hopefully it will give their mom a few minutes of peace during these hot summer days!