Thursday, February 2, 2012

Portable Felt Car Mat!

Phew! I finished it in time for The Boy's buddy's 3rd birthday party last weekend!

Happy Birthday, Big D!

This may look somewhat familiar (from this post), but as it is pretty much impossible to get two exactly alike, it is actually unique.

Original Recipe and Next Generation
The new one looks so bright and shiny and clean next to ours:

Ooh, grungy!

But that just goes to show how much love this one has gotten in the last year. This thing gets played with A LOT. And it's traveled to the beach with us many times. It's even gone to Montana!

So not a real tutorial, but here's a rundown on how I did this in case you are so inspired:

1. Make a list of items you would like to put on your map.
2. Plan out your "road" on a sheet of paper, then tentatively figure out where you'd like things to go.
3. Lay out your felt--I bought a yard of medium green for the background, a yard of dark green for the backing/trim, and a yard of gray for the road. It's 72 inches wide, so a yard gets you a lot. My mats are about 36" wide, and the main part of the mat (not including the garage) is almost square, so I have about half of my light green and gray leftover (plus scraps). I needed more for the dark green since I used that to make the garage pockets at the bottom.
4. Trim the lighter green a bit so you can see dark green all around the edges. I made my light green a square about 36x36. Then lay the gray on top, trim it to the same size, fold it in quarters, and cut an arc so that your gray is a circle.
5. Draw out your road on the gray felt (I used a sharpie). It doesn't have to be perfect because you are going to flip it over before you sew it down--but if you want roads to go a certain way, remember to do it backwards. I didn't really care, so that's why the basic design is opposite of the first one I made.
6. Flip the felt road over, then pin and sew it down to the light green square along the edges of the roads. I made an executive decision to only use white thread for the whole thing, even though it's contrasting with some of the buildings, to save time switching thread. The continuity of all white thread actually looks cute, I think.
7. Cut out all of your little buildings with as much detail as you want. I cut every little thing out of felt the first time, and it took forever. For this latest incarnation I relied a lot more on fabric paint, and I think it looks just as great. For size, I made sure each building was big enough to hold a die-cast car (even the bigger Disney Cars ones, because that's what my little guy likes best).
8. Once your buildings are cut out, lay them out on your road. Figure out if any of them need to be trimmed down to fit. I made mine have a "neighborhood" area, a "downtown" area, etc.
9. Once you know you've got everything how you want it, sew the details onto the buildings, then pin and sew the buildings to the light green mat. This part is KEY--I chose to leave the bottom edges of the buildings open, so they could be used as garages, and this is one of my son's favorite features.
10. Lay the finished light green mat on the larger dark green piece, then fold the end of the dark green up about 6 inches. Sew seams every 3.5 inches or so across the bottom (I left one larger pocket at one end for bigger cars).
11.  Fold your mat in thirds lengthwise, then roll it up.  Then cut a length of ribbon long enough to wrap around the rolled up mat and tie in a largish bow.
12.  Now  fold the ribbon in half and pin the fold of the ribbon between the dark and lighter green pieces of felt at the center of the top of the mat.
13.  Pin and sew the lighter green square to the darker backing, making sure to sew the folded ribbon inbetween at the top.
14.  Paint your details on the mat, such as yellow lines down the center of the road, crosswalks, lettering on signs, etc. You could paint your building details before sewing those down, but I chose to do all of the painting at once.Then paint the letters "GARAGE" on six of the center pockets.

That ended up being long.  Sorry!  Now for another long list--here are all of the buildings and decorations I have put on the various car mats I have made, for your inspiration.  Many of these were added to our mat after the fact by request from my child.

1.  Houses
2.  School
3.  Church
4. Stores (toy store, grocery store, cafe, ice cream shop, car repair shop, gas station, car wash)
5. Public buildings (police station, fire station, bus/train station, library)
6.  Park (tree, flowers, slide, merry go round, swings, seesaw, pond, fountain/statue)
7.  Street signs/markings (stop sign, railroad crossing, bus stop, pedestrian sign, crosswalk, stop light)
8. Sports fields (soccer, baseball)
9.  Railroad track
Other:  construction zone, zoo, Mater's garage, park and ride

These are so much fun to personalize too--you can add landmarks from your own neigborhood, add kids' names, etc.  Have fun!  I'd love to see pics of other people's ideas--we're always adding to ours, and there are still a few blank spots left!

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