One of my biggest sellers this year has been my preschool/toddler buckle mats. I’ve lost count on how many I’ve made, but it was all started via a request from a friend. Truly, people coming to me with their custom orders is why I love doing what I do.
While these larger mats are made to order, at one point I decided to make a smaller version to sell at markets. These are much quicker to put together and a great beginner project for learning how to make a great quiet activity for a child.
One of my goals in the next year is to start writing more tutorials and patterns…so here goes! A tutorial for making your own pint size buckle mat and I spy toy.
cotton fabric for the top
stiff felt for the middle (regular felt can also be used for softer mat or a thin cotton batting)
regular craft felt for the back
cotton scrap fabric for the straps
small piece of vinyl
1/8 cup of poly pellets (which I just discovered you can buy a small bag of at JoAnns)
small jewels, buttons and/or beads for the I Spy game
2 side release parachute buckles
a 4 inch circle template
Cut your cotton fabric, stiff felt and felt back into 6 1/2 by 6 1/2 inch squares.
For the straps, cut two of each coordinating fabric into 5 1/2 long by 4 inch wide strips.
Making the straps
Take your strap pieces and lay them wrong side up on your ironing board.
Fold them in half, wrong sides facing and press.
Open them back up again, and fold each long end towards the middle and press.
Fold in half again and press and repeat with the remaining straps.
Take them to your machine and using a 1/4 inch seam, stitch down the long end of the strap.
Flip it over and repeat on the other side. Then repeat with the remaining 3.
Attaching the straps
Pin the straps in place onto the cotton piece and baste these to the sides of your square.
Making the I Spy Mat
Take your 4 inch circle template and cut out a piece of vinyl for the back. Just a hint…don’t put a pin through the pattern or the vinyl because it will put a hole in your vinyl. Just hold the pattern and do your best to cut around it.
Go to your machine and stitch around the circle with a 1/4 inch seam, being careful not to pull too tightly on the felt as you go around the circle.
Make sure to leave a roughly 2 inch opening to fill!!
Now you are ready to fill with your poly pellets, charms, beads, sequins, buttons etc.
Go back to your machine and starting at the opening, stitch the opening closed and stitch a second time around the circle on top of your original seam. I like to do this for aesthetics and also because it gives an extra line of stitching for safety.
Now you want to baste your felt piece to the piece of stiff felt. If you are using batting or regular felt, I still suggest basting this piece, but it’s not as necessary.
Putting the square together
Now you are ready to sew your squares together. Make a sandwich using the basted I spy mat and the cotton piece with wrong sides together. You want your I Spy mat and your straps facing out.
Sew a roughly 1/2 inch seam around the sides two times. Again, I like this extra line of stitching for looks, but also to give an extra measure of strength for the straps.
Because my squares never come out just perfect due to pulling etc, I take my rotary cutter and cut about 1/4 inch off on the sides to even them all out and straighten them up.
Adding the buckles
Now you are ready to add the buckles. Make sure they are put together and slide the ends of the straps through the ends of the buckles. Pull the straps to make sure that the buckles are even in the center of your mat.
Fold the ends of the straps under and pin in place.
Open the buckles up and take it to your machine and sew in the middle of the fold. Make sure to do a lock stitch (stopping and starting at the beginning and end) or tie your threads before you snip them.
You Made It!!!
Check to make sure all your loose threads are tied and snipped. Pass it to your nearest toddler and proclaim victory!
**please respect that this is my design and share only with a link to this original tutorial and please give credit where credit is due. Also remember that this is a toy with tiny parts and while even the best sewers will tie up all their loose ends, children who are at the age of putting things in their mouths do not need to play with this unattended.** Thanks!!! ~ aimee