My favourite toy when I was a child was Lego, and I still have my (now vintage) Lego collection. Christmas was always a time of new Lego and lots of Lego building. I think that is what inspired the crazy idea that I need a new Lego play mat now (at my age!). Recently seeing Deborah of Sunshine Through the Rain’s hexagon mat was the tipping point.
To justify my foolishness, I made two: one hexagon and one circle. One is to give away to children who play with Lego.
If you are inspired by this free tutorial and have a Flickr account, I would love to see pictures of what you make. Please post a photo of your Lego play mat on the Granny Maud’s Girl stuff Flickr group.
To make your own Lego play mat, you need:
- 1.1–1.2 metres of fabric for the front
- 1.1–1.2 metres of fabric for the backing
- 1.2 x 1.2-metre piece of lightweight quilt wadding (anything low loft)
- scraps of fabric for the appliqué (optional)
- Vliesofix or Heat N Bond Lite for the appliqué (optional)
- two 1-metre pieces of fabric for the drawstring casing (circle version only)
- six 6 x 24-inch pieces of fabric for the drawstring casing (hexagon version only)
- 5 metres of about 1-inch wide ribbon for the drawstring
You should have some basic free-motion quilting experience, and a walking foot on your sewing machine will be helpful.
I bought 1.1 metres of fabric as many fabrics are this wide and it gave me a neat square to work with. However, I was able to make my hexagon mat a little larger than 1.1 metres in one direction thanks to the generous cutting of the Spotlight staff. I think they gave me closer to 1.2 metres.
The finished measurements are:
- hexagon – 1.3 metres (point to point), 1.15 metres (side to side)
- round – 1.25 metres diameter.
When selecting fabrics, feel free to choose something bold and patterned for the back, but I suggest choosing something simple for the side that will have the Lego piled on top of it. It can be tricky to see the small pieces on a busy pattern. I am not a fan of solids (boooring!), so I chose a simple star print. If you choose a simple print or solid on both sides, your mat will be truly reversible. A bold colour like orange or aqua that is not one of the Lego standard primary colours will help the pieces stand out.
Apologies for the weird mix of imperial and metric measurements. We buy fabric in metres here, but I sew in inches. I learned with my great-grandmother’s tape measure and now use imperial quilting rulers. I trust everyone’s intelligence and ability to do conversions!
Step 1: create the appliqué design
Fold and iron your front fabric in quarters to find and mark the centre. This centre point will be used to centre your appliqué design and as the centre point from which to measure your hexagon or circle.
For my appliqué designs, I chose two images I found online. You can use any design you like, but I suggest you go large! I enlarged the Lego bricks to 10–11 inches and the minifig to 21 inches tall. (My first attempt at the minifig was the size of an A4 piece of paper and much too small. I hope to use it on a bag.)
Trace the design onto your Vliesofix or Heat N Bond Lite and follow the manufacturers’ instructions to fuse it to your fabric. Cut it out, and fuse it to the front piece. Do not sew it yet.
Step 2: quilt the mat
Make up a quilt sandwich of backing, wadding and front fabric with the appliqué design fused on. I use masking tape and a clean area of floor. Try to align the top and backing fabrics as closely as possible when layering.
Using a washable or otherwise erasable marker, mark the outlines of your mat by measuring from the centre point out. For the round mat, I started from a centre point near the Lego man’s belly button and measured 21 inches in all directions to form a circle. You do not need to be too precise at this stage; I measured simply so I would not quilt into the corners more than I needed to.
Pin or thread baste the layers together.
I used the method explained in my scribbly stitches appliqué tutorial to sew the outline of the appliqué design. Essentially, I use my free-motion quilting foot to sew several lines of stitching around all the edges to ‘draw’ the shape.
For the Lego bricks, I used black top thread and white bobbin thread to hide the outline on the reverse side. For the minifig, I used black thread both top and bottom, so the outline of the figure is visible on both sides.
After I had outlined the appliqué shapes, I free-motion quilted large loops or stipples across the remaining area, extending a little beyond the edges of my marked hexagon or circle. I kept the quilting large and loose. The quilting is just to hold the layers together, and heavy quilting would make the mat stiff and less flexible.
Step 3: cut out the mat
After you have quilted the layers together, remeasure your circle or hexagon. You will find everything has shrank a fraction and you will need to adjust your measurements.
For the circle, I measured 21 inches in all directions from the centre point for the circle. I marked at frequent intervals and then cut out the circle by following my markings. I then had a 42-inch circle.
For the hexagon, I measured 21 inches from the centre towards the selvedges and marked a line perpendicular to the ironed lines and parallel to the selvedges. If you have a 60 degree marking on your ruler or an equilateral triangle ruler, it will help you to mark the other four sides, which should be an equal distance from the centre. Cut out the shape on your markings.
Step 4: make the drawstring casing
All seams are ½ inch unless otherwise specified.
Binding the circle mat
Print and tape together this arc pattern for the edges, made to suit a 42-inch cut circle. You can use it as is or trace it onto a piece of tracing paper or lightweight interfacing and use that as your pattern.
From each fabric, cut four pattern pieces as pictured. The four pieces together will form a large ring or circle. One fabric will be for the inside/front of your mat and the other will be for the outside/back. On mine, I used white for the outside and yellow on the inside.
Sew the short ends of the four outside fabric arcs together to form a large circle, leaving a 1½-inch opening in the middle of each seam. This will be where the drawstring is later threaded. Press open the seams.
Pin and sew the outside fabric circle to the edges of the mat, right sides together. Sew with a ½-inch seam allowance. Clip the seams and press.
Sew the short ends of the inside fabric arcs together to form a large circle, as you did for the outside arcs but omitting the openings. Press open the seams.
Run a line of stay-stitching ½ inch from the inner edge of the circle.
Pin and sew the inside fabric circle to the outside fabric circle. A narrow ¼-inch seam allowance is enough here.
Turn, press and top-stitch ¼ inch from the edge.
Clip the seam allowance at intervals up to the line of stay-stitching. Finger press along the line of stay-stitching and hand sew it down.
Press. Machine sew a line of top-stitching ¼ inch from the edge.
Sew two lines of machine stitching on either side of the drawstring openings to form the drawstring casings. (Note that my drawstring opening is slightly off centre because of a miscalculation. It does not have to be perfectly centred as long as you are consistent.)
Binding the hexagon mat
From the scraps of the front (or back) fabric, cut six pieces 2 x 5 inches. These will be used to bind the corners.
From the drawstring casing fabric, cut six 6 x 24-inch pieces of fabric. Each piece should be 6 inches wide and about the length of one side of your hexagon quilt. I mixed two colours, but feel free to use up six scraps!
Fold a narrow double hem along the short ends of the drawstring casing fabric and top-stitch to finish the raw edges. Each piece should now be at least ½ inch shorter than each side of the raw-edged mat.
Pin and/or baste the drawstring casings as pictured.
Then, mark the centre of each corner binding fabric piece and pin in place. Sew as pictured.
The next step is to press under a ⅜-inch seam allowance and hand sew in place. The binding sits inside the casing, and I found sewing a few hidden stitches inside the casing tube to just hold it in place gave a neater finish.
Finish the casing by sewing a line of top-stitching ½ inch from the inside edge. The stitching should run along close to the edge of the quilt wadding.
Step 5: thread the ribbon
If anything in these instructions is confusing, leave a comment and I will try to clarify.
Remember – I would love to see pictures of what you make. Please post a photo of your Lego play mat on the Granny Maud’s Girl stuff Flickr group.
My husband and stepdaughter already know that when I eventually have step-grandchildren I will be buying a Lego train set for under the Christmas tree. Neither is fooled that the train set will be for the kids, but I promise to share.
Were you a Lego fan when you were a child?