Tutorial: Kid designed ocean play mat

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matI’m so pleased to be participating in The Sewing Rabbit‘s K.I.D.S (Kids Inspiration & Design Series). I tried really hard to get Lily’s input on what I should make but I got “Circles”… yep that’s right “Circles”… I feel like this is my husband’s side of the gene pool speaking up here!

As you might be aware, we have recently started exploring Small World Play and I thought that maybe I could make something to complement that. We have several of Safari Ltd’s toob sets and I thought a non-messy set up for an ocean small world play might be useful.

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play mat

Initally, I planned to show my daughter pictures of underwater scenes so she could maybe do some observational drawing, but, well I sent the kids of with my hubby to visit family this weekend, so I could catch up on some work, and I managed to forget the all important “drawing” part of this series-doh! I briefed hubby and he asked Lily to draw an underwater scene. He actually asked her again whether there was something she would like me to make and again “circles”. So I figured well, why not make a circle play mat! The horizontal wavy lanes are the sea, the vertical lines are the seaweed, there is a shipwreck, a smiley fish and a jelly fish.


  • 28 inch diameter circle of light blue kunin eco-fi felt
  • 28 inch diameter circle of organic linen/organic cotton blend fabric
  • 28 inch diameter quilter’s dream green wadding
  • 30 inches recycled textile yarn in yellow, purple, blue and red
  • 74 inches recyled textile yarn in green
  • grey kunin eco-fi felt
  • purple kunin eco-fi felt
  • small piece of white kunin eco-fi felt
  • 2 upcycled black buttons
  • scrap of organic, fairtrade undyed muslin
  • 10mm thick dowel
  • recycled stuffing (use textile rags or old pillowcases)

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play mat

Decorate your circle of light blue felt. I mimicked the wavy lines from my daughter’s drawing by sewing on the recycled textile yarn.

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matTo create the seaweed, cut 21 x 3.5″ pieces of green recycled textile yarn. arrange them in groups around the mat. Sew one line across, then fold the yarn back again and sew another line on the back, to try and encourage it to stand upright! It works better in some places than others! I tried to keep some pieces of seaweed more spread out, like in the drawing. I then grouped a few closer together to make more functional play areas.

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play mat

Now the top of the play mat is decorated you can assemble the rest of the mat. Put your circle of wadding on the bottom, then your circle of organic cotton/organic linen fabric facing up. Finally put your mat top with right side facing down. Pin in place. Sew around the circle with a 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving a few inches as a gap for turning. Trim seam allowance to 1/4″. Turn right side out and top stitch around the edge. To quilt the mat, top stitch through all 3 layers, following the wavy lines. The mat is now finished!

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matTo make the shipwreck, cut out the pieces from the shipwreck template out of grey kunin eco-fi felt. Choose where you want the holes on the sidse of the boat and cut them out using pinking shears. Stitch all the pieces together. Start with the top of the boat then attach the top to the two side pieces. Sew this to the back of the boat and finish by sewing it to the base.

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matTo make the mast, cut the dowel into 2 pieces. the vertical piece needs to be 8 inches and the horizontal part is about 4.5 inches. Cut strips of felt slightly bigger than the dowel. Put the dowel in the middle of the felt, wrap the felt around and whip stitch the edges of the felt closed around the dowel.

With the vertical piece of dowel you want the felt to extend past the bottom of the dowel a little and leave the bottom seam open.

Use a few stitches to secure the horizontal mast about an inch from the top of the vertical mast. Now attach the sail to the mast. The sail I cut was approximately 6 inches by 5 inches, but it needs to be uneven and a little ripped, to mimic a shipwrecked sail!

To attach the mast to the boat, make a few cuts to the felt at the bottom of the vertical mast. then spread these ends out in a sort of a flower/star shape and stitch them to the top of the boat about 2 inches away from the front and centred.

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matThe shipwreck has lots of lovely holes for sharks and rays to swim through! The last thing to do is to make your giant jellyfish! I decided that this would be a monster of the deep, keeping the scale of the shipwreck and jellyfish in Lily’s drawing.

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matAs Lily’s jellyfish only had 5 legs in her drawing, I cut five, one inch strips from purple felt. Two, one and a half inch circles from white felt for the eyes, a six inch diameter circle from purple felt for the jelly fish base, and an eleven inch circle of purple felt for the body.

Using large stitches, sew around the edge of the larger circle, then pull gently to gather the circle until the opening is the same size as the smaller circle. This helps to position the eyes, which attach by centering the buttons on the white felt, on the purple felt and sewing through both layers. I also sewed a smile onto the jellyfish, one of the details in the drawing. stuff the body of the jellyfish and then using a combination of blanket stitch and straight stitch (when sewing through the jellyfish legs) sew together the edges of the jellyfish body and the base, arranging the legs equally and sandwiching between the two layers. Remove the tacking stitches.

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matStay vigilant for giant jellyfish attacking shipwrecks!

The Crafty Kitty | Kid designed ocean play matIt is interesting how as a grown up I seem to have developed this need to rationalise abstract ideas. For example, originally I included these wavy lines, just as a form of abstract decoration and I figured it would probably inspire some imaginative play. Then when I was setting the mat up for some photos, I decided that they were a little bit representative of an ocean current and so, as you can see above ‘crush’ from ‘finding nemo’ is currently riding the east-Australian current! Whoo!

I tried to keep as many features of the original drawing, but partly, because I ran out of sewing energy and partly, because I couldn’t find the right fit for it, I left out the smiley fish.

You just know this is the first thing that my daughter is going to ask for when she sees the new play mat, right?

Thanks Jess, for letting me participate in your fab series, and don’t forget to check back at the sewing rabbit, for the rest of this week, to see what everyone else has been up to!

5 thoughts on “Tutorial: Kid designed ocean play mat

  1. September 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Stephanie, this is just so so amazing!! What a fantastic and creative job you did recreating Lily’s drawing! love it!

  2. September 4, 2013 at 12:41 am

    This is so fun!!! I love the way you made the seaweed! Genius!!!

  3. September 5, 2013 at 2:54 am

    This is UNbelievably rad. Gnarly. Dope. Sick. I love it!