Lego play mat tutorial

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

The hexagon version features three classic Lego bricks appliquéd on (and buried somewhere under the Lego).

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

The hexagon mat draws up into a neat bag.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

The round mat features a Lego minifig, but you can appliqué anything you like. For example, appliqué a toy car on a mat that will be used for a child’s toy car collection.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

The circular mat also gathers into a bag.

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.

Materials

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Trace the design onto your fusible paper and iron it in place before cutting out the shapes.
(Note that my Lego man looks very small here. That was a mistake. I remade him much bigger!)

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Fold your top fabric in quarters to find and mark the centre point. Use the centre marking as a reference to place your appliqué design.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

With the appliqué just fused in place, mark the outer perimeter of your mat and pin or thread baste the quilt sandwich.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Use your free-motion or darning foot to draw/sew scribbly lines around your appliqué. Do not worry if one line is wonky; by the time you have sewn three lines in the same spot it will start to look straight again.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

To make a circle, measure 21 inches from the centre point in all directions. Mark frequently and cut out along your markings.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Measure and cut your hexagon. To check accuracy, fold your mat in half in all directions. If any sides are noticeably longer, trim.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Fold the fabric and pin the pattern in place twice to cut four pieces from each of the two drawstring casing fabrics.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Pin the drawstring casing around the quilted mat and sew with a ½-inch seam allowance. Clip the seams before pressing away from the mat.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Sew the four pieces of the inside casing together, but do not leave any opening for the drawstring.
Sew a line of stay-stitching ½ inch on the inside curve.
Pin the circle right sides together on top of the mat, matching seams, and sew a ¼-inch seam allowance around the outside edge.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Press and then sew a line of top-stitching ¼ inch from the outside edge.
Clip at intervals almost up to the line of stay-stitching. Finger press along the stay-stitching before pinning and hand sewing the seam in place.

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.)

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Sew three lines of top-stitching: one ¼ inch from the inside edge and two on either side of the drawstring openings, leaving a 1½-inch casing for the ribbon to pass through.

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!

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

The binding pieces need to be 2 inches wide and at least 5 inches long.
The drawstring casings need to be 6 inches wide and as long as the raw edges of your quilted mat (on mine, this was 24 inches).

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Hem the short raw edges of the drawstring casings with a narrow double fold and a line of top-stitching.

Pin and/or baste the drawstring casings as pictured.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Pin the drawstring casings as pictured, noting the small gaps in each corner. I also machine basted them in place before the next step.

Then, mark the centre of each corner binding fabric piece and pin in place. Sew as pictured.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

As you approach each corner, mark the centre of a binding piece and pin it in place. Sew, stopping ½ inch before the corner. Fold as pictured, then sew along the next side.

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.

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

After machine sewing the drawstring casing and binding down on one side with a ½-inch seam allowance, it will look like this. Press under three-eighths of an inch on the raw edges (bindings and casings), fold and pin as pictured. Hand sew in place.
Top-stitch ½ inch from the inner edge to conceal any raw edges within the casing.

Step 5: thread the ribbon

Lego play mat tutorial by Granny Maud's Girl

Thread the ribbon through the casing.

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?

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49 thoughts on “Lego play mat tutorial

  1. Carla, thank you so much. I saw Deborah’s version and really wanted to make one. My daughters play with Lego Friends, they are big fans. When they’re staying with my parents they’re always playing with my “old” Lego. This idea is brilliant for fast clearing up!

  2. I had a huge Lego box which I shared with my youngest sister. She went for horsey constructions: stables, fences, etc. I built houses. The whole lot went to my brother’s daughters, not without some grumping…. Anyway, I love the idea of this bag, but I would make pockets on the top surface, and make the whole thing a good bit smaller, and use it for hexies – you know what a bore it is when you have the fabric, papers, scissors and thread all out, and then suddenly you have to do something else? Draw up the cord, and there it is, all safely contained in a nice baglet. I may have have a go… The travel kit is all very well, but it’s rare that you have to put things away quickly and unexpectedly on a plane, and usually it doesn’t mean good things….

    • For a small sewing bag, I would suggest the round version, scaling down all measurements and omitting the quilt wadding to reduce the bulk.
      My Lego is one of the few childhood toys I kept. The Lego, a handful of favourite books and some stuffed toys with sentimental value (given me on the day I was born or made by Granny Maud) have survived the years. I do not have kids, but the Lego gets the most use – when friends’ kids come to visit.
      I was a house builder too. Dad thought I was destined to become an architect!

  3. Hello Carla… I wish you a Happy New Year. What a good idea and thank you for that detailed tutorial. I didn’t own any Lego when I was a child, but Lego was the favourite toy of my son (now 27) and we saved it all (including all the construction plans) – always at birthday and Christmas he got new and we spent a lot of time together to built it … ok that was often my part, his part was more deconstruction afterwards and building something of his own. When we moved last year we found a lot of these small yellow lego-heads in our old flat because they were always beloved toys for our cats too.
    I like Kate’s idea for a kind of working placemat too.

    • I am glad you got to make up for your own Legoless childhood by playing with your son’s Lego. Our small pieces used to always be found by my dad’s bare feet – with lots of cursing about the sharp edges!

      • My brothers are 21 and 23. The 23 year old LOVES Lego and he got loads of it for Christmas. He currently has a huge lego hotel in the corner of his living room which he has put mini electric lights in. It looks stunning when lit. I will have to find a photo of it.

  4. I love these!

    My mum still has my lego at her house. One day I’d like it to be shipped over so I can have it back! My mum has never wanted to get rid of it since they’re so expensive. Once I get it back I’ll have to start remembering what sets I did have so I can find all the booklets online… before the age of the internet I lost the booklet for this fancy Paradise hotel and even though I knew what it looked like I could never make it look the same!

    • A lot of the booklets are online. I have most of mine, except a very early train, which I might have most of the pieces for.
      My Lego has lived in three states, but I left it behind when I moved overseas.
      No one throws away Lego (because of the expense) and it is indestructible. Apart from the bits lost under the couch and to pet teeth, where does the rest go?

  5. I was a *huge* lego fan as a child. We had a small quilted blanket that we would lay out and dump the legos onto. When it was time to clean up, we just picked up the 4 corners and set it off to the side. I have fond memories of playing with legos with my younger brother and maternal grandmother (who lived with us before she passed). I think these are great, and you are never too old to play! I have to admit, my favorite detail in both mats is the rainbow ribbon around the edges. 🙂

    • I had a drawstring patchwork ‘rag’ square that I must have made when I was about ten. The Lego got trapped in the hand-stitched seam allowances. Now I have retired it, I am excited by the prospect of recycling a few of the vintage fabrics in it (not the ghastly polyester bits).
      I had to decide between one length of solid ribbon or two spools of rainbows with knots in the middle. Of course I chose rainbows!

  6. This is so clever! Thanks for sharing. I know a little girl who would love a bag for all of her teddies and pyjamas for when she goes to stay with Gran. Open it up and she can have a teddy bear’s tea party on the picnic mat 🙂

    • Initially, worried about not having enough play and storage space, I had planned to buy wider fabric – some dressmaking and craft cottons come in 1.5 metre bolts – but as soon as I saw the size of them I realised that the standard 1.1 metre bolts would be more than large enough. How much Lego have you got?!

  7. Hey, just to let you know I have nominated you for the Liebster Award! I love reading your blog 🙂 I have the optional rules on my page here 🙂 EmpressFibres

  8. I had one of these mats as a little girl .. ah happy memories! Have you seen the “new and improved” lego these days? It’s rubbish! You can only use it to build one thing … nothing like the awesome plain bricks we had and could play with. The only limit being imagination. Love the two options of mats 🙂

    • I had something homemade (by very young me) and a bit ratty.
      I have just had the traumatic experience of learning that some Lego mini figs have different body shapes ‘for girls’. Mini dolls? What? I am sure some of the new stuff is good, though, and you can still buy basic brick sets even though they can be tricky to find locally.

  9. That is such a clever project! My husband is huge lego fan and my 4 year old is starting to like them. The big ticket lego items in our house is the working carousel and the train set – and yes, it is currently up under our tree. It’s the only time my husband will set it up so my son has been asking if it’s Christmas yet since July just so he can play with it!

    • You have made me think. I am not sure I have ever bought my own Lego. When I was a child, it always came from Santa or my dad. Occasionally, my husband buys me a little box as a stocking stuffer. I have bought lots of Lego for children I know, but never for myself.

  10. How lovely Carla. I just love that lego man you have appliqued on. You’ve spent so much time writing out that tutorial – thank you on behalf of all of us. We have a range of expensive drawers and boxes for our lego. I think we would need a supersized version of this mat if we were to go this way – think queen sized bed sheet!! You’ll make a wonder step Grandma some day.

    • A supersized mat with extra strong ribbon and drawstring casing to manage the weight?! I was surprised how much spare room I have in mine. Maybe I need more Lego!

      I am looking forward to eventual step-grannydom. I will have to balance the teaching of table manners with lots of fun stuff.

  11. I was also mad on lego as a child. I had an entire city with roads, police station, petrol station, houses, etc etc! I bought my three boys masses of lego when they were little and although they enjoyed it, it was always me who did the building!

    • I honestly struggled to choose. I gave the one with the Lego man away because I thought my friend’s kids would like him more. For me, the difference was as much about fabric choices as anything. The hexagon one uses less fabric as the curved outer pieces of the round one take up quite a bit.

  12. Pingback: UFOs on retreat | Granny Maud's Girl

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