The following letter arrived (via Lorraine) for us to be Secret Santa to Ursula:
we, Mikey and Baby, the babies at NeverUschi, write to you! Well we cannot write of course so we have one of the big ones write for us. Mummy so seldom makes things for us we lack almost everything! So, we ask you, if we can have some of the following:
- A blanket or play mat, so we don't have to play on the floor in winter
- A book with pictures in it we can look at, or with stories the bigger kids can read to us
- A baby cardigan or a play suit for winter
- A baby toy, like a ball or building bricks
- Some pretty small buttons, so Mummy can at last make the baby dungarees she promised weeks ago. She has nice fabric in light blue, but she only has ugly or too big buttons!
Mikey and Baby (who doesn't even have a proper name...)
The playmat request caught my eye. I recalled the playmat which Fran had shown on her Sasha, Sasha, Sasha blog a couple of years ago from a seller on Etsy. I wanted to make something similar and needed to work out how to make the arches for the toys to hang from - they needed a flexible but strong core which would stand being curved under tension. I searched around in my husband's small workshop in our back garden and found some thin fibreglass rods about 4mm diameter - it was able to stand a gentle curve without snapping. However because it was quite thin it needed padding a bit so I used long strips of wadding inside the fabric covers for the rods. I had some 9 inch picture squares of fabric showing various scenes young children would enjoy, I had a few squares which showed a rocking horse and toys. I decided to make two identical playmats - one for the swap and one to keep for ourselves.
I set the picture square in a wide border of purple fabric (mitred), added wadding and the same fabric was used for the backing of the enlarged square, with the edges folded over to the picture side to tidy the edges. At the corners I used the surplus folded over edges of the backing piece to create the corner supports for the curved rod arches, these were fixed in place using large press studs, pulling the mat out taut. I enclosed illustrated instructions on how to assemble the playmat arches and hang the toys.
The tricky part is getting the arches properly into their corners and clipping the press studs then curving over the arch to fit in the diagonally opposite corner. The rods inside the fabric need to fit right into the mat corners otherwise they pop out. The fabric cover has a bit of slack to allow for the flexible rods, therefore sometimes the fabric bunches up at the ends of the rods which prevents them from fitting into the mat corners properly. The two arches clip together at the top with another press stud.
To make the toys which hang from the arches I found some thick pink boot lace in my basket of ribbons and cords onto which I threaded some colourful pony beads. Various larger beads or children's hair tie decorations provided the toys for the end of each hanging bead rope. Small brass rings were stitched to the cords and to the underside of the arches, and I used flexible coloured thick jewellery wire to make the looped hooks to attach the hanging toys to the rings under the arches.
|The completed playmat for Mikey and Baby in Germany|
|Close up of a corner showing the arch rod fixed into the corner with a press stud|
|The felt blocks on the playmat|
Our little gift for Ursula was a packet of tiny blue buttons of two different sizes to add to her button collection and enable her to complete the dungarees for Mikey and Baby.
|Baby Leo was allowed to play with the playmat and blocks before I sent it to Germany|
|Baby Leo liked the playmat|
|Mikey and Baby somehow managed to arrange their blocks to say 'Danke' (thank you) (photo by Ursula, published on Lorraine's blog)|
|The playmat I made for our Sasha babies, on Christmas Day|