Monday, March 28, 2011

The Busy Baby Placemat - Tutorial

Sitting in a restaurant over the weekend was an eye opener for me.  My son was sitting in a highchair and he was very very bored.  He kept grabbing everything he could get his hands on.  Needless to say he spent most of our dinner out in either mine or my husbands lap.  On our way out of the restaurant I knew something had to be done to insure a more hormonious dinner out next time.

Enter ... "The Busy Baby Placemat"  A tutorial for all you families that could use some piece and quiet at dinner.  This isn't an "original" idea.  I've seen things like this around the internet.  But, mine has lots of rings and dings that will surely keep baby happy for years to come.  This thing has a chalkboard on one side with two holders for chalk, and an eye-spy mat on the other.  Either way you use it it's wipiable and has 4 rings to attach toys, silverware, etc.  The top of the mat sports two suction cups to adhere it to the table and it has an elastic strap with a snap to keep it all rolled nice and neat in your bag.

Materials Needed:
Basic sewing supplies:  sewing machine, thread, scissors, etc.
Oil Cloth (or any other wipiable fabric)
Clear Vinyl - Mine is nice and thin.  You don't want anything to stiff.
Chalk Board Fabric - You can find this online as well as most fabric stores.
70 2" Eye Spy Spuares - lots of different fabrics here... use up that stash of quilting cottons!
Fold Over Elastic (FOE) - Not necessary, but it's what I used.  You could substitute with regular elastic
4 D-Rings  - Again not necessary.  You could just attach ribbon and then clip on regular toy leashes.
Grosgrain Ribbon
Single Snap or Velcro
2 Suction Cups - Mine have a loop on top so I could thread 1/4" elastic through.  This allows the suction cups to be flipped over so the mat can be used on either side.

Step 1:  Cut out 70 2" quilt squares for your "Eye Spy" side of mat.  Arrange them on a table in a pleasing fashion and then sew them together using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Step 2:  Here it is all pressed.  I added a 3" wide border all around.  The "Eye Spy" side is finished!
Step 3: Time to work on the Chalk Board side of the placemat.  Measure your finished top.  Mine was 12 3/4" X 17".  So I cut my oil cloth to that measurement.  I then cut my Chalk fabric 2.5" smaller than my oilcloth and rounded the corners.  I used my pinking rotary cutter, but it's not necessary. Center the Chalk board fabric on the oilcloth and tuck your FOE (I used two strips of FOE per side so the chalk wouldn't fall out. If using elastic, I would use 2 1" wide pieces on each side)under the chalk fabric. Sewing this down on the oilcloth can be tricky.  I used some clear tape to hold the chalk fabric down and removed it as I was sewing.  You really don't want to use pins!
Step 4:  Gather your ribbon, FOR for closure strap, suction cups, d-rings, and 1/4" elastic.  Thread about 3" of 1/4" elastic through each suction cup.  Fold about 3.5 - 4" of grosgrain ribbon through each of your 4 d-rings and sew it down.  Roll over one side of your FOE and sew it down.
Step 5:  Place your FOE strap half way up one side and sew it down like shown in photo.  Next place your ribbon and d-ring pieces on the bottom and lower sides as shown and sew them down too.
Step 6:  Your doing great!  Almost done.  Now it's time to sew it all together.  Lay your chalk side like photo above. Then put down the clear vinyl cut to the same size as your oil cloth.  They lay down your "Eye Spy" side UPSIDE DOWN!  Don't use pins here.  I used some clips.  Hair clips, paper clips.... anything like that will work.  With a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the sides and bottom ONLY!
Step 7: Measure 2" from your sew line on the sides and make a mark.  This is where your suction cups will go.  Now this part and the next part are a bit tricky...  Sew across one side of the top and insert your suction cut between the vinyl and the oilcloth and sew down.  Do this to both sides.  You want to leave 8" or so open in the center of the top so don't sew all the way across just yet.
Step 8:  Now clip your corners and turn it all around.  This part was a pain!! The vinyl and the oilcloth was sticking to each other and it was hard to turn.  Be patient and it will go.  Top stitch around making sure you close the opening. Sorry, no photo of that.

Step 9:  Prep your chalk board by rubbing chalk all over it really good.  Wipe it off with a dry or slightly damp cloth.
 Step 10: Congratulations!  Your finished.  Find a cute child old or young to play with your new Busy Baby Placemat.  My son won't be using the chalk side for a while.  We'll be clipping toys onto the d-rings and he can look at all those pretty fabrics while we are at restaurants. 

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