Ok, less of the bad puns. With the impending birth of a new niece or nephew, I’d decided to make some quilty bits and bobs for the new arrival. I’d already come up with a vague plan for a quilt, but while browsing through the Moda Bakeshop I saw the beautiful changing mat in this post. Having helped out with my best friend’s small children, I can appreciate how useful these things are, so I decided to make one similar for my sister and her husband (and the new baby!). My local fabric shop had just got in some very pretty seashell/beach themed fabric, too, which I thought would be perfect to use, especially as they live near the sea! And hopefully not too girly, since my brother-in-law will be expected to make use of it too! (Not sure I completely succeeded there, but at least it’s not covered in flowers…)
I had no pattern to start with, only three half-meter pieces of the pretty seashell fabrics, some additional coordinating fat quarters, some sheet plastic, a packet of baby wipes (for working out dimensions) and a lot of determination! To make the challenge extra fun, I also decided that I could finish it in time to enter the Cardigan Agricultural Show the following day. Why yes, I am a bit insane, why do you ask?
I really like the look of French Braid patterns and I thought it would suit the fabrics I had. To throw in some extra interest, I used a navy blue to make squares at the point of each braid and used different width strips so that the stronger solid coral colours I’d chosen hopefully wouldn’t dominate as much. Unfortunately, my rapid skim-read of a couple of online tutorials for French Braid meant I missed some important information, and instead of making one of each pair of strips longer than the other, I made them both the same length. This meant that my resulting braid was rather uneven (the different thickness strips contributed to this too) and not wide enough for what I wanted. Gah! Luckily, I’d only used half of the strips I’d cut and I had exactly the right number left to make the same braid over again. To make the pattern, I made up another braid that exactly matched the first, then trimmed the sides so that they formed a mirror image when placed next to each other. Despite this not being at all part of the plan, I was quite pleased with this fix and how it came out. Unfortunately, the resulting panel was still a little narrower than I wanted, so I returned to my offcuts and salvaged a couple more braid strips to attach to the outside (it mostly got eaten by trimming and seams, but was still necessary). The final French Braid panel was sandwiched with some poly-cotton batting and backed with sturdy calico, then echo-quilted either side of each diagonal seam.
I still had quite a few strips left over from making the French Braid outer, so I pressed them into service to make the pockets you can see in the photo above. To test my pattern before jumping in with the proper fabric, I’d made a quick “sketch” pocket out of some cheaper fabric to make sure that my pack of baby wipes would fit comfortably; in fact, it was a little too roomy so I made the final version slightly smaller. In a modification of the original design, I made a hole in one pocket so that wipes could be easily pulled out of it without having to remove the pack from the pocket.
Figuring out how to attach the pockets to the mat was a challenge initially, which I solved by cutting the back of the pocket with a tab that was then sewn into the side of the mat when it was all assembled. A tab was added to one side and velcro was added so that the pockets fasten snugly when the mat needs to be folded. A similar method was used for the main tab at the top of the mat; I made sure I used the fluffy side of the velcro there so that it wouldn’t be scratchy if the baby’s head was placed on it!
Constructing the mat was quite a fiddle, and I really struggled with the plastic until I remembered to turn the foot pressure on the sewing machine right up to maximum. After that, it was a little easier! As well as the pockets and the main fastening tab, I added a couple of metal D-rings attached by fabric tabs for the strap to attach to. A gap was left to turn the mat right-side-out, then I top-stitched around the finished mat to give a nice finish. And yes, I did finish it in time to enter it into the show – it was an epic crafting session that was finished at about 6am in the morning!
After all that, it didn’t place at Cardigan Show. However, I entered it into Nevern Show a couple of weeks later and it not only won a 1st in the patchwork class, but also Best Craft Exhibit as well! On the back of this success, I also entered it into the Pembrokeshire County Show and it won 2nd place in the patchwork items class. To my great surprise, the Christmas table topper I’d made for mum won 1st prize in the same section! (I thought they’d got it the wrong way around, personally, but I wasn’t going to argue too much!)