Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kindergarten Dreamer: Make a Nap Mat

I told Joe that the only way I can handle transitions as my children grow is to craft my way through them! Making a nap mat to send with Mary Ashley to kindergarten was a useful project, and I relished the idea of tucking her in at nap time each day with a soft hug from Mommy.

The day before school started, Mary Ashley and I did some shopping for cozy sleepy-time fabrics.

I estimated that we would need 1/2 yard of fabric for the pillow, 1 yard for the blanket, and 1 1/2 yards for the mat. Mary Ashley loved the plush pink fabric we discovered at Hobby Lobby, and I thought it would work well for the pillow. I wanted to use fleece for the blanket, and Mary Ashley snuggled right up to the bolt when she found her perfect choice at Hancock Fabrics: pink with pastel butterflies. (I realized afterward that attaching a pre-made blanket would have been the quicker option.) A soft yellow flannel with pastel polka dots, also found and Hancock's, was a perfect coordinate for the other fabrics. A spool of pink grosgrain ribbon would tie everything together, and a crib-size package of batting and a square of 1" thick washable polyurethane foam would add softness without too much bulk.

I didn't have a pattern, but I could picture what I wanted: a narrow mat with attached blanket and pillow that could be rolled up and carried like a satchel. I started by spreading the flannel on the floor. Then I folded the batting into thirds lengthwise and placed it on top of flannel. I folded the flannel in half over the batting. With the batting tucked inside, I cut the flannel down, allowing for seam allowances for the top, bottom and right side of the mat.

Before stitching the mat together, though, I needed to attach the fleece blanket. Originally I had planned to attach the blanket to the bottom of the mat so she could pull it up over her, but Mary Ashley preferred the blanket attached to the side so she could pull it across her. So I cut the fleece down to suit the length of the mat and pinned it to one long side of the flannel. (I left the full width at this point, so I could adjust that dimension later.) I wanted the blanket to lay across the mat right-side-out, so I pinned the wrong side of the fleece to the right side of the flannel. Then I used a straight stitch to sew the fleece to the flannel.

Next, I rolled up the fleece so I would avoid catching it in the seams as I sewed the mat. I folded the flannel in half, right sides together, and pinned the bottom and right side. Then I sewed these two pinned sides of the mat, careful to stitch inside the seam securing the blanket to the mat. I turned the mat right side out and pressed it smooth. Then I tucked the batting inside. The project was starting to take shape!

It was time to make the pillow, so I cut a rectangle of foam and cut a strip of our fuzzy pink fabric to wrap around it. Then I folded this in half, right sides together, and sewed the two short sides together. I turned the resulting pillowcase right side out and slipped the foam inside.

To attach the pillow to the mat, I first folded the raw edges of the open edge of the mat to the inside. Then I slipped the open edge of the pillow into the mat opening and pinned it in place. A straight stitch across the top of the mat finished the mat and attached the pillow as well. The pillow could rest on the mat or be flipped up to give extra length.

To finish the fleece blanket, I spread it across the mat and had Mary Ashley lie down so I could estimate how much width I needed to leave. I then cut away excess fabric and finished the edges by cutting a fringe and tying the strips together.

With the mat itself completed, I folded the blanket to the inside and rolled up the mat. I then pinned ribbon to the outside of the mat to get the right length for handles. With this adjusted, I sewed the length of ribbon end to end to make a ring. Then I pinned the ring to the mat and sewed it into place, leaving the handles loose. Sewing the ribbon through both layers of flannel and the batting keeps the ribbon in place, but it also serves to keep the batting from shifting.

I finished this project so late the night before school started, I did not have time to add a monogram. But that would be cute to add as a finishing touch to the blanket or to the outside of the mat.

Mary Ashley was so pleased to awake to a new nap mat! Above, left, Mary Ashley shows how easy it is to carry. And above, right, from the side you can see how it folds open.

If you want to make a nap mat for a little dreamer in your life -- whether for school, daycare or a trip to Grandma's -- I will try to answer any questions about this project in the comments section.

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