How To: Make a Dinosaur Playmat

How To: Make a Dinosaur Playmat

Tammy Everts
Oct 10, 2008

After seeing Holly's dinosaur playmat in our recent Amy Butler contest, many of you wrote to ask if it would be possible to get a tutorial on how the mat was made. The playmat is Holly's own custom design, and she's been kind enough to write up detailed instructions -- along with additional photos -- for all you fellow dino-enthusiasts. Keep reading...


  • approximately 1 yard brown fabric. I chose one that has a crackly pattern that resembles rocks.

  • scraps of blue, beige, grey and green fabric with patterns that resemble water, rocks, leaves and grass for appliqued shapes.

  • scraps of red fabric for "lava" ties

  • four 12-inch zippers

  • thread to match colored scraps

  • transparent nylon thread

  • fusible web

  • thin batting


1) Cut two squares out of the brown fabric, approximately 22 inches wide and long.

2) Set one square aside. Following the directions on the fusible web, create applique shapes to iron onto the other brown square. (I made a blue pond, some random green shapes for a "forest," a brown circle under the small volcano and a beige shape where I wanted to put the cave later).

3) After ironing on the appliqued shapes, stitch around the edge. I don't have a fancy machine, so I just used the buttonhole stitch setting, which creates a narrow zig-zag. It would be easier and faster probably to just use a straight stitch close to the edge. On a project like this, a little fraying at the edge might actually add texture.

4) Create a "quilt sandwich." Start with the unadorned brown square, right side down. Add a layer of batting on top, then top it with the decorated brown square, right side up. Baste. (I use safety pins).

5) Flip your quilt sandwich over so you're working on the undecorated side and mark this design. I think you could make it any size you want, starting with the center square.

The idea is that by sewing through all the layers as marked, you create lines along which the mat will fold. I started in the middle and marked the center square with blue tape, then used the edge of the tape as a guide to sew a straight stich using the transparent thread.

6) Continue marking and sewing until the entire pattern is stitched.

7) Cut off the four corners in a curved shape, so that when the mat is folded up, the top is rounded like the opening of a volcano.

8) Insert the zippers.

The zipper gets placed with the teeth as close as possible to that line. The red dots show where I sewed the zipper on. The tricky part is that the zipper is sort of twisted so that it will curve around the bottom of the volcano when closed. So I sewed the red part, stopped, and then started again. So there is a tiny bit of the zipper that's not actually sewn on. If anyone has suggestions on how to do that better, I'd love to hear them! I also used Stitch Witchery or some kind of fusible product to stick the zipper down before I sewed it. I suggest just practice holding or pinning the zipper in place and zipping/unzipping it a few times to make sure you have it in the right place with the teeth facing the right way. It makes more sense once you see it.

9) Here's what it looks like partially zipped:

10) Here's what the back of the mat looks like when it's done:

11) The "lava" ties are strips of red fabric sewed to each side of the volcano:

12) The little volcano is basically a half circle folded into a cone shape, with the point cut off so there is an opening. I cut two pieces, one for the outside of the volcano and one for the inside, and layered batting between them to give it some shape and quilted random squiggly lines all over it.

13) To make the trees: cut a circle of green fabric big enough to wrap around a poker chip. Hand sew a running stitch around the edge and gather it up around the poker chip. Wrap a piece of plastic drinking straw with brown felt for the tree trunk and hand sew to secure it to the poker chip base. The palm fronds are a piece of felt hand stitched to the top of the tree trunk.

Holly sent in these instructions with a disclaimer -- I am self-taught when it comes to sewing, so I don't pretend to know what I'm talking about! -- but we beg to differ. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderfully inspiring project, Holly!

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