Sea Creature Floor Pillows 2 of 2 (with Better Cheater Box Cushions)

Boxfish Cushion 31

Phew. This was a long time coming. LongJohn went through a period of time where he was particularly uncooperative so getting this done was a bit of a challenge. As you know, a while back (a WHILE back) I made a whale floor cushion for grown-ups to sit on while hanging out on the floor with LongJohn.

Boxfish Cushion 2
My two assistants.

With the second old pillow I had, I made him a boxfish. Why a boxfish? Well the pillow is rectangular, and I’m making a box cushion. So it makes sense to make nature fit my plan. Plus I had a gorgeous scrap of blue jacquard that looked very similar to a boxfish in pattern. That pretty much settled it.

Boxfish Cushion 3

I only had a small piece of it though, so I had to carefully hoard my trimmings. That’s why some of the bits and pieces I’ve tacked onto this sucker look a little weird.

Boxfish Cushion 4

So here’s the stuff I planned to use for the snout of the fish.

Boxfish Cushion 5

Here you can see the bits I got for the tail. And then I happened to have some gorgeous orange stuff with a bit of embroidered detail on it I decided to use for the rest of the fins, so I loosely cut out basic shapes.

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Don’t forget the eye, which I made out of felt.

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I freehanded the sewing of the fins.

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And once they were sewn I trimmed the excess, turned them inside out and sewed lines in from the scallops for further separation. I realize that’s a terrible description – hopefully the picture makes more sense.

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Then I stuffed it!

Boxfish Cushion 11Definitely trim the excess when you’re sewing otherwise when you turn it right side out it won’t look right.

Boxfish Cushion 12Boxfish Cushion 14

 

Here’s the tail. The tail was definitely the weakest of my half-assed derivations.

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Especially seeing as I wasn’t paying close enough attention and didn’t sew it far enough and it came undone. Rather than fixing it properly I just ran the machine over it a bunch of times. I’m now passing it off as a war wound from some battle the box fish had with whatever predators they deal with.

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Stuffing the snout.

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Because I only had *just* enough fabric, I didn’t have any leftover to hem the edges of my open seam, so I rummaged through the basement and found some gray grosgrain ribbon that I folded in half and sewed over the raw edges.

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Now for the complicated process of attaching the fins to the whole shebang. This was wayyy easier than doing it with that stretchy whale fabric.

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Turn everything inside out and securely pin everything in place. Sew, sew, sew!

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Now the eye …

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Everything is attached except for the side fin and the snout, both of which will be hand-sewn because they’re hella awkward and not on seams.

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Also the tail, which is not on a seam either. I cut a hole in the side and stuffed that in.

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That was easy to sew with the machine.

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Next I take the corners and flatten them so the seam is in the middle. Then I sewed across to make an isosceles triangle, with the base being the height of the pillow.

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There’s my pretty box corner, with the tail attached!

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Now the job of hand-sewing on the snout and fin.

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Complete! LongJohn loves it, and we enjoy having a second place to plant our butts.

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The Canadian Car Poncho

Car Poncho 32

There’s the idea that you shouldn’t put your kid in a big puffy snowsuit in their carseat because the snowsuit doesn’t allow you to do up the straps as tight as they need to be and that could be unsafe if you were to get into an accident. Accordingly, they sell these things called “car ponchos” for small children, and they’re all fancy with faux fur trim and buttons and snaps and zippers and whatnot and they cost like SEVENTY BUCKS. Seriously? Eff that. Also, this is CANADA, and here it’s always colder than it is in other places. So most of those fancy car ponchos are wayyy not warm enough to combat that howling wind when it’s minus twenty.

Car Poncho 2

I figured, seeing as I’m doing all this sewing these days, why not make my own? At the fabric store near us, fleece is pretty expensive, usually about $7 a metre, but at IKEA, you can pick up a POLARVIDE fleece blanket for $5.99, and they’re almost 2 metres. They come in a variety of colours depending on the store and the season, and sometimes they go on sale and they’re even cheaper. I picked up two, for layering.

Car Poncho 1

FOR THE LAZY: Just use one blanket. Sewing two together is less than easy.

One side of the fleece has little round flibbety things that stick out, so I cut them off using my rotary cutter.

Car Poncho 4

FOR THE LAZY: Leave ’em on.

Then I went through a million permutations of how to layer the blankets together so that the raw edges were inside the blanket. But it was much too complicated for me so I just folded each in half on the short edge and flipped them so the folded edge of one blanket was against the open edge of the other.

Car Poncho 5

FOR THE KEENERS: Sandwich the open edges inside so that the folded edges show on both sides.

Then I started sewing the blanket together, starting with a straight line right down the middle, followed by another that bisected it perpendicularly.

I kept going, dividing each un-sewed section in half and sewing through it, then I sewed around the edge. I did this to keep the different layers from bunching around each other. Four layers of fleece is hella bulky and it was really tricky with my little pink machine.

Car Poncho 6

FOR THE KEENERS: Maybe try a bias binding on the outside edge, or sew your lines radiating out from the centre at angles.

So now I have this big bulky blanket with four layers of thin fleece all quilted together. I need a head hole in the middle.

Car Poncho 7

Here I am doing a very scientific measurement of LongJohn’s head diameter using a salad plate. It’s a little big, but babies heads grow alarmingly so I know it’s better to go too big here than too small.  If you’ve ever tried to shove something too small over an angry baby’s head then you know what I mean.

Car Poncho 8

Car Poncho 9

Then I used the salad plate as a guide for cutting out the centre hole.

Car Poncho 10

I waited until everything was sewn together before cutting out the hole because I knew I wouldn’t necessarily be able to line up all four holes properly if they weren’t already permanently stitched in place.

Car Poncho 11

I’m trying to figure out what to do with the circle I have left. Any ideas?

The resulting hole was a bit jagged (cutting through four layers of fleece at once with a circular blade is also less than easy). But it was easily tidied up with a pair of scissors.

Car Poncho 12

Then I had to consider the hood. I was considering not doing a hood but babies don’t wear scarves and I didn’t want LongJohn’s neck all exposed to the elements, especially seeing as the head hole was so big.

The VITMOSSA blanket, also from IKEA, is only $2.99. It’s a thinner fleece with a bit of stretch, and I figured that if I doubled it, I’d get a decent flexible hood.

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I measured a distance of slightly over half the way around the circle and I cut a length of the blanket accordingly.

Car Poncho 14

The idea here is that if I fold the piece over itself, the seams line up and the hood forms naturally.

Car Poncho 15

Car Poncho 16

Because I want this thing to be reversible, I opened up a few of the centre seams in the poncho so I could sew the hood into the space in the middle.

Car Poncho 17

Then I folded the rectangle that I cut out in half across the short side again. Inside-out.

Car Poncho 18

And sewed up the two open sides perpendicular to the fold.

Car Poncho 19

Turn it right-side out and then line up the two seams.

Car Poncho 20

Tada, a hood! It has a pointy top so I would not recommend making this out of white fleece, if you know what I mean. Just to be politically correct.

Car Poncho 21

FOR THE KEENER: Sew down the pointy top.

Then I pinned it into the head hole of the poncho.

Car Poncho 22

You can see here that it fits between the two colours of fleece.

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Pin, pin, pin.

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The hard part here was now sewing the hood into the poncho (that’s six layers of fleece, if you’re counting). I had to shove so much bulky blanket through the little arm of the sewing machine. And then rotate it as I went around in a circle. Slow and steady was the best course of action here.

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Once finished, you can see how it works on the gray side …

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… and on the red side. I actually had to go around on the red side again because I’d missed a layer in my excitement.

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FOR THE LESS LAZY THAN ME: Be more careful and get all the layers sewed at the same time.

And now the test on my model.

Car Poncho 29

As you can see it’s roomy in the neck at the moment but I can always pin or clip that closed for now. He’ll fill out soon enough. He’d wear the poncho like this when I was carrying him or he was walking around. Which hopefully is far distant in my future.

Car Poncho 28

Then here he is in his high chair, which is standing in for the carseat (because it’s freaking cold outside today and I’m not going outside just to take a picture for you guys). The back of the poncho flips over the back of the car seat and the front part can be twitched aside while you do up the straps snugly against your little one. Then you just tuck it back down again and your kidlet is warm and snug!

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I’m making another one for a friend with a much bigger baby (makes a great gift!) and I’m confident my head hole size (22cm diameter) will be entirely appropriate. I also have enough left of the VITMOSSA blanket to make a thinner, warmer-weather poncho too!

Car Poncho 30

A Panacea for Winter Skin

Oatmeal Lotion 12
Mmm … paste …

Thanks, climate change. When I first moved to Ottawa over twenty years ago, winters were long and dark and dry and COLD. Like, -30°C cold. Now they’re still that cold, but interspersed with warmer, sunnier days where everything melts, potholes form, and we start to believe that the worst is behind us. For like, two days. And then it gets really cold again. And our skin really pays the price for all this temperature variation. So here’s an easy, quick and relatively cheap solution to our winter skin woes, one that everyone in the house, including the baby, can make use of. If you have eczema you might find this a lovely soothing lotion.

Oatmeal Lotion 1

In a double boiler, or a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water, plop 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1/4 cup shea butter. Let that melt.

Oatmeal Lotion 3

While that’s on the go, take a heaping 1/4 cup oats (rolled or quick, not steel cut), and use a food processor or spice grinder to reduce them to a fine powder.

Oatmeal Lotion 2

Oatmeal Lotion 4

Once the oil and butter have melted, remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool for a while, until the sides start to harden. If you live in a cold place, pop some plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and chuck it outside in the snow for a bit. Or shove it in your freezer if you’re impatient. Full disclosure: I left mine outside too long and it froze solid. What you’re looking for is something mostly solid but still mixable. If it’s too liquidy then the oatmeal will sink before it’s properly mixed in.

Oatmeal Lotion 6
Sometimes having winter right outside your door is actually a convenient thing. Sometimes. But not very often.

Tip in a few teaspoons vitamin E oil and 5 drops each lavender and chamomile essential oil. The essential oils are optional if you’d prefer to go scent-free.

Oatmeal Lotion 7

Oatmeal Lotion 8

Then plop in your ground oatmeal.

Oatmeal Lotion 9

Give that a serious whaz with a hand mixer until everything is uniform.

Oatmeal Lotion 10

Spoon it into a container and leave it for a few days to allow the oatmeal stuff to work its way into the oils. This lotion is a little grainy when you first rub it in, so I prefer to put it on at night, but it soaks in nicely.∗

Oatmeal Lotion 13

∗If you’re not a fan of the grains of oats, you could try a few options (I haven’t tried these but they seem logical): you could infuse the oats in the oils as you heat them and strain them out, or leave the powder in there and it might be a bit softer. Or you can take the oats out altogether and use oat straw extract – Avena sativa – instead, but this stuff is pretty pricey.

Sea Creature Floor Pillows 1 of 2 (with Cheater Box Cushions)

Whale Floor Cushion 44

Let it be known here that I hate sewing and I’m really, REALLY bad at it. One hundred percent of my sewing projects here at Ali Does It could be done one hundred percent better than they are. But I don’t have the patience or desire to do a better job, nor do I have the money to purchase these sorts of finished projects instead of doing them myself. I’m hoping that rather than being a direct how-to for all y’all out there in the hinternets, these sorts of half-assed half-assery will be more inspiration than instruction.

Whale Floor Cushion 43
That said, I can still do pretty awesome stuff sometimes.

I’ve been moving these old pillows from place to place. They’re not useful to us and they have a weird shape. But I thought they’d make nice little floor pillows, and now that LongJohn is spending more time on the floor it’s a good way for those of us with less flexible knees and older backs to join him. And because everything we make for him tends to be marine-related, I thought I’d make the cushions into sea creatures.

Whale Floor Cushion 1

What inspired that idea was this dress. This is a bridesmaid dress I wore to a wedding over a decade ago. I hated it then. I hate it now. It was really expensive to purchase the fabric and I had to have it professionally made because the pattern was too complicated and the fabric too finicky for my mother and I to deal with. And after it was done I felt like a WHALE in it. So let’s make a whale.

Whale Floor Cushion 2

This first cushion turned out wayyyy better than I expected, especially since I totally half-assed everything, didn’t measure a thing, and considering that this stupid stretchy velour crap is THE worst material in the world to work with. It didn’t even PHOTOGRAPH well. Every picture turned out BLURRY. GAH.

Whale Floor Cushion 3

With LongJohn looking on, I “measured” the pillow to the dress to gauge how much I was going to need to cut off.

Whale Floor Cushion 4

Cut made! Time to unpick all the stitches.

Whale Floor Cushion 5

Now I needed to kind of square off the pieces I had removed.

Whale Floor Cushion 6

See? KIND OF square. If I wasn’t catering to the patience of a seven-month-old, I would have used my rotary cutter and mat and done a better job. But meh. Cutting this stuff left little flecks of gray velour everywhere. Ick.

Whale Floor Cushion 7

I had some bits here from what I cut off that I thought could make a decent little tail for my whale. This is not going to be an anatomically correct whale – more the cartoonish sort.

Whale Floor Cushion 8

I took a Sharpie and drew a basic shape on the back.

Whale Floor Cushion 9

Then tried my best to cut it out of two pieces at the same time. This material is so slidey and stretchy though … The other piece there is for the bottom of the tail, to make it more substantial.

Whale Floor Cushion 10

And here is my poor approximation of a cartoon whale’s fin. I’m only doing the one fin because this whale is more like a flounder or sunfish and is entirely one-sided.

Whale Floor Cushion 11

Even pinning these pieces is next to impossible ….

Whale Floor Cushion 12

Sewing them together and getting the bottom panel in involved much swearing. Good thing LongJohn wasn’t listening.

Whale Floor Cushion 14

Then I grabbed some polyfill loft (actually I used twice what you see in the picture) and gave the tail and fin a thorough stuffing.

Whale Floor Cushion 15

They ended up looking way better than I expected them to.

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Then I hemmed the two back pieces of the cushion so that I could overlap them and have an opening without having any raw edges. I like to make my cushions so that I don’t have to add snaps or a zipper – just a little overlapping envelope of fabric. I’m lazy.

Whale Floor Cushion 21

But there’s still the front of the cushion to do, and that cushion needs a face.

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Here’s my attempt at a face. It’s really hard to sew non-stretchy materials to stretchy materials.

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So it ended up being all wrinkly like this. But it looks like a happy whale, right?

Whale Floor Cushion 23

Now to put the square pieces together. Again, nothing lines up, but it doesn’t matter because everything is so stretchy and impossible.

Whale Floor Cushion 26

Whale Floor Cushion 29

I had to seal in the edges of the tail in order to sew it on without a disaster.

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And even that was tricky.

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Here it is all sewn together finally.

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With the cushion in place I put a pin where I wanted the fin to go. I ended up hand-sewing the fin on because it was impossible any other way.

Whale Floor Cushion 32

And I also attacked my super pointy corners. The pillow has rounded edges so I didn’t want those corners to stick out too far – whales are roundish after all. If you were doing this for real you’d be taking the corner of the cushion here (inside out) and flattening it at an angle that the seams you’ve sewn match up, one on top of the other. Then you iron it to make a pleat, and you pin it. I did none of those things, save more or less lining up the seams.

Whale Floor Cushion 33

Then you measure the height of your pillow or box (because in the assembly of your pillow you’ve left enough room to account for this) and you sew across the pillow corner to match that height. Again, I eyeballed this. I’m a terrible person.

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But then when you flip it inside out again, all those pointy corners have disappeared! If you have stretchy material and a round cushion, you now have rounded edges. If you have non-stretchy material and a square cushion you now have box edges. Congratulations!

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Everything turned out with a few gathers and wrinkles but I blame the fabric for that.

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LongJohn doesn’t care. He just likes to punch it a bunch while yelling. And that’s really all I was going for.

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The next cushion will be a box fish – wish me luck!

Moveable Memories

Moveable Memories 1

For Christmas, I gave the Pie a stick. This stick, to be specific. It’s actually a piece of moulding too knotty for my dad to use, and I scavenged it out of his garage. Trust me though, I have a plan.

Moveable Memories 2

I’m sure all of you have a relative with a cottage or grandparents’ home where, be it a door jamb or a piece of wall panelling, they have accumulated the heights of all the family members as they’ve grown over the years. At the cottage my great-grandfather built (now owned by my mother’s cousin), these height markings go back several generations. And it’s always sad when the time comes to leave that house behind, together with those memories that are so firmly a part of the house. Sometimes you can get away with removing the fixture they’re on, but sometimes not.

We plan to stay in this house for a long time, but you never know what will happen, so I wanted to make sure that when we leave we can take our memories with us.

First order of business is cutting down the wood to fit. I made sure it was cut so it sits above the moulding on the floor, runs parallel to the doorjamb in our guest bedroom, and ends at the top of the lintel, so it’s low profile. Then I drilled three holes (one at either end and one in the middle), and sanded it down.

Moveable Memories 3

During one of LongJohn’s naps I popped just outside the backdoor and spray painted the whole stick white. Then I had to kick around my newly white leaves so the Pie wouldn’t see them. Fortunately it snowed soon thereafter so I was safe.

Moveable Memories 4

Once the paint was dry I started marking distances with craft paint. We use mostly Metric in Canada but because we’re so close to the United States we are pretty fluent in Imperial as well, so I decided to go with both. For the centimetres I made a bigger mark every 10 and for the inches I made a bigger one every 6. I also made sure to start my measurements on the stick at the distance it sits from the floor, which when you take into account the moulding at the bottom of the wall, was about 10cm. In retrospect I wish I’d used a finer paint brush but what’s done is done.

Moveable Memories 6

I added in the numbers in a different colour (again, wish I’d used a finer brush). Then I sprayed the whole thing with a clear lacquer to keep the markings fresh.

Moveable Memories 10

Then I wrapped it and hid it behind a bookcase. Now when we take our measurements, we mark them in permanent marker and I dab a little clear nail polish over them to keep them from rubbing off. And when we’re ready to leave, we can take it with us!

Moveable Memories 12

Tread Carefully!

Tread Carefully 1

We moved into a split level house specifically to cater to the needs of tiny children and aging dogs. Grenadier, believe it or not, is now six years old! He’s still spry and sprightly but next year will mark the beginning of his senior life and he’s slowing down in little increments. I see him hesitating at the bottom of our 5-step jump between “upstairs” and “downstairs” and it makes me sad. Slippery hardwood is hard on old joints. Not to mention that in a few months I’m likely to be watching LongJohn make his first forays up and down that mountain of stairs.

Tread Carefully 2

So I thought I’d make the stairs a little safer for all of us. You may remember that I put some adhesive grips on our deathtrap stairs in Elizabeth, but I didn’t do a very good job there. It’s amazing how home ownership will prompt you to make sure you do something right the first time.

At first, I thought I was going to be stuck buying black or gray adhesive grip tape and that I was going to have to get creative with how I laid it down so that it wouldn’t look like I’d just slapped safety tape on my stairs. I was going to have to MEASURE for crying out loud. Pah. Then I discovered that 3M makes CLEAR safety tape, so I picked up a roll of that. I also needed a rubber roller to properly apply this stuff, and 3M sells that too. Handily, my mother, who has done some printmaking in the past, had a stock of them so I nicked one from their basement for free.

Tread Carefully 4

First things first: measure (or eyeball) and cut strips. Now that I didn’t have to worry about laying things down in fancy patterns, I cut one piece to fit the stairs (according to the package instructions), and then measured each subsequent piece to the first one.

Tread Carefully 5

Then I had to sit there with LongJohn in the Jolly Jumper while I painstakingly rounded all the edges.

Tread Carefully 6

Because one of the travelers in our house has four legs with small feet, I put a few extra strips in place to ensure that Gren could find grip no matter where he stepped.

Tread Carefully 7

Next, I had to clean and de-grease the steps to ensure that the tape stuck. I used a Magic Eraser to gently abrade the finish of the stairs and make it more welcoming to the adhesive. The instructions recommend stripping the varnish off completely but there is no way I’m doing that!

Tread Carefully 3

Then you just stick the stuff down! Peel off the edge, line it up, and away you go.

Tread Carefully 8

Once it’s down, take the roller and go from the middle outwards, pressing quite hard (my hands were sore the next day).

Tread Carefully 9

Done! You can see bubbles in mine because the floor isn’t perfectly smooth.

Tread Carefully 10

It’s funny, you know – the tape shows up here quite clearly on my camera, but when you’re looking at it with the naked eye it’s barely visible at all. You can only see the bubbles on the top step when you come upstairs and the sun is shining brightly through the bathroom window. So it’s pretty much invisible. And everyone feels a lot safer!

Tread Carefully 11

Tread Carefully 12

Baby Hack

So Ali Does It has never been a parenting/mommy blog, and it’s not my intention to become one. For one thing, I know nothing about parenting. I am totally winging it. But I do have a kid now, and sometimes things come up that are useful for me because I have a kid, so you’ll see them on the blog. But I’ll try not to overload you too much with that stuff.

For various reasons, we don’t have a change table in LongJohn’s room and we change him on the floor. This was our setup for a while, with a portable change pad overtop a mattress pad, with a burp cloth added for softness. Ghetto, I know, but it worked. Except that when LongJohn peed on me (he is a boy after all), the pee would run up his back and into his hair and I didn’t like that overly much.

Change Mat Hack 9

I have this dog bed left over from back when we were doing Gren’s rehab training – it never really suited our purposes so we didn’t use it, and it was just kicking around. It has a nonskid backing and is nice and cushy without being too soft. Plus it washes well in the machine. Perfect.

Change Mat Hack 1

I cut it in half.

Change Mat Hack 2

And used some of my grosgrain ribbon to finish the raw edge on both sides.

Change Mat Hack 3

Don’t judge my stitchery. I’m not even sorry to be bad at sewing.

Change Mat Hack 5

Then I grabbed some vinyl leftover from way back when I made lunchbags (yeah, that was a long time ago). LongJohn helped me cut it out (you can see how long this project took me by how much he grows in the photos in this post).

Change Mat Hack 8

I hemmed along two sides of it, because LongJohn is really kicky and I didn’t want him to cut himself on the sharp edge.

Change Mat Hack 11

And I attached snaps to all four corners of the vinyl and then the underside of the mat.

Change Mat Hack 10

Then I snapped it on and here we go! The vinyl ends where the baby’s shoulders go, preventing pee from getting into the hair, which is key. The vinyl itself is easily wipeable, and unsnaps so you can put the mat in the washing machine. Because the snaps are on the underside of the mat, there’s no chance that tiny fingers can find them to undo them. The other mat I finished the edge and I used it as a playmat for LongJohn until he outgrew it.

Change Mat Hack 13

There’s LongJohn in situ to give you an idea of what it looks like in action. This was taken so long ago that now his legs extend far past the mat – but it still works great!

Change Mat Hack 14