With several birthdays on the horizon, I have been wanting to try my hand at making some children’s toys and gifts. Here is the report of my first attempt. I used my son’s friend as a guinea pig, since his birthday came up first, to try my hand at creating a toy that was functional, but portable. I decided on a simple racetrack design and then added a couple of pop-ups for fun. The racetrack is a basic figure 8 with a bridge piece in the middle to shake things up a bit. To make sure the track could still fold and not warp the bridge I stitched down one side and then added a thin piece of hook and loop to the other end. That way it can be lifted and detached from the mat before folding.
In one corner I added a stadium filled with fans to cheer him on. After some searching on Google I found a photo of the crowd at Talladega and knew it would be perfect. After printing it on transfer paper I ironed it down on light colored fabric and stitched that onto heavy duty interfacing. The fabric covered interfacing was cut into a triangular shape with “feet” at each corner that are stitched to the mat to hold the stadium up and in place, but are flexible enough to fold down when the mat is zipped up for travel.
In another corner I created a garage for three vehicles; two race cars and a transport truck. The garage base is simply a strip of fabric sewn down into three basic pockets. In order to create the garage facade I used heavy duty interfacing covered in coordinating fabric and an iron on “Garage” sign. The doors flaps were created from more coordinating fabric with a thin strip of hook and loop to hold them in place for securing the cars during travel. After stitching the “legs” of the facade down at either end of the “garage” pockets, I then used a hand stitch to attach the very top edge of the pockets along the top edge of the garage facade. Again, this set up has flexibility to accommodate the mat during travel, keeping the cars in place, and then pops up when opened.
On the opposite end of the mat I added an air and gas tank in the pit stop area. Again, I used fabric covered heavy duty interfacing and iron on transfer paper printed with the words. The hoses were made using thin black elastic with a knot tied in the end to create a handle for little fingers. Both were stitched down directly to the mat and lay flat when the mat is folded for storage.
Before adding the backing fabric, I stitched two large jacket zippers into place, adding extra wide grosgrain ribbon for a handle on each side. After attaching the zippers I just folded the backing fabric over, mitered the corners and sewed the edges in place just as you would for a quilt. This was an easy way to add another fun fabric, clean up the edges and hide all the stitching on the underside of the track.
This is a very simple addaptation of a racetrack, meant to be as portable as possible. My son’s little friend seemed excited to receive this as a birthday gift, although the two little cars and transport truck had more of his attention initially. I hope that this will be something he can take along as entertainment for many years to come.
PS- This was my first attempt, next week I hope to share the second go around. So stay tuned!