I have a confession. I hate Thomas the Tank Engine. I think I have some acceptable reasons: slightly racists, slightly classist, slightly misogynist, saturated in the media and full of gender stereotypes that perpetuate violence and mean behaviour. Aodhan pretty much feels the same way, but is drawn to the characters. So often when we are at the library, Aodhan will see a Thomas book or video and want to take it out, telling me “don’t worry, there will be a kind one in here, mom.” No matter how many times we have gone through the process, he can never handle more than a few minutes of reading or watching, and he asks to turn it off or skip to another book.
Obviously, the guy loves trains, and the idea of talking trains is interesting to him. The expensive alternative has been populating his wooden railway with copious amounts of characters from Thomas. I think it is an ok-ish alternative. He makes the personalities up himself and it has given us any entry point for talking about rough bumping and bashing that we note in other kids who are playing with Thomas train tables when we are out and about.
While walking through a fabric store last November, Aodhan spied a Thomas fabric that was actually not too hideous and he asked if I could make him a pillowcase with it. We picked up a few of metres and added it to my stash. After the pillowcase was made, I was inspired to use the remaining fabric to make him a portable train mat and a massive bag to store the many trains that populate our house. Perfect Holiday Gift! (Just please avoid judging my drawing skills. I said I can sew and craft, I never said I could draw).
Both of these gifts are super simple to make, taking not more than an hour for the pair. You could easily change up the patterned fabric to suit your kiddo’s interests and by no means do you have to stick to the idea of a train mat. What about a 2D community? a grocery store layout? a 2D dollhouse? a giant map? The ideas are endless.
The Train Mat
1. 1.5 meters of cotton fabric (any design)
2. 1.5 meters of duck cloth or other heavy fabric (I actually used a drop cloth that I picked up at home depot)
3. 30 cms of ribbon or twill tape
4. fabric markers (you could take it to a whole other level of crazy and do the scene with bits of felt or cotton)
5. sewing machine
7. fabric scissors
8. ruler and cutting mat (not needed, but mighty helpful)
Using your super awesome and purpose built fabric scissors, cut your duck cloth and patterned cotton into a square of 1 meter by 1 meter. Now head over to the drawing board and using a pencil, sketch out the scene that you want on your mat. Go over this with the fabric markers and let it dry.
Now, start by cutting the twill into 15 cm strips and pinning it onto the right side of your printed fabric and make sure they are laying in the middle. Now lay your duck fabric, drawn on side down (facing the right side of your cotton) and you should now have a little sandwich with your twill tape all bunched up in the middle. Pin this baby together. When you get to the twill tape, pull out the pin that you had in there and stick it through all three layers.
Place one side of your sandwich into your sewing machine, giving yourself about 1 cm seam allowance. Now – go! Sewing all around the perimetre (remembering to reverse at the start) but leaving a 4 cm gap.
Take your time and turn the mat out, using a knitting needle or pencil to push out the corners. Your twill tape should now be hanging from the one side of the mat. Use a hand sewing needle to sew up the gap.
You can go an extra kilometer and using your machine, do a top stitch around the edge of your mat, or add some detail by top stitching around the tracks, roads or buildings.
Get some trains and test drive this puppy before the kiddos get home.
The twill tape and cute fabric make this an eco-friendly gift by not needing any additional wrapping. Just roll the mat up, tie the twill or ribbon and pop this sucker into a stocking, under a tree or at the end of your kiddo’s bed.
Here is a little tease of some of the amazing companies I am going to be giving away lovely goodness from!!!
I am linking this up to the Natural Parents Network Homemade Holidays!