This animal play mat is the perfect way to blend form and function— saving those little kiddo knees from hard floors and engaging their imagination in the process. You can customize this rug according to your kiddo’s animal preferences, but I thought the lion was really fun. Let’s talk about how to plan out and assemble your own quilted animal play mat using beginner sewing skills and just a little patience.
-1.5 yards of furry tan fabric
-1.25 yards of medium brown upholstery fringe
-quilt batting (thickness is up to you)
-thick black embroidery floss
-white embroidery floss (not shown)
-small pieces of white and brown felt or fleece
-embroidery or darning needle
-marker (not shown)
-straight pins (not shown)
-sewing machine (not shown)
Step One: I unfolded my furry fabric into one single layer and began to sketch out the shape of the animal body.
Step Two: Once I had a rough shape that I liked, I folded the fabric in half and cut out half of the shape to get a perfectly balanced body.
Step Three: Use the body-shaped fabric you cut in step two as a template to cut out another piece of furry fabric and a piece of quilt batting. Then pin the layers together as shown above, making sure the furry sides are facing each other and that the batting is pinned to the wrong side of one of the furry pieces of fabric.
Stitch about .5″ from the border of the pinned pieces to connect them, pulling out the pins as you go. Make sure to leave about a 6″ unstitched area on one side of the animal body shape in order to flip the quilt right-side-out. Then you can use the sewing machine to stitch the opening closed.
Step Four: Use a circular object as a template to cut out two circles from the scrap pieces of furry fabric as well as one circle of batting. I used a 14.5″ serving platter for my template. Then cut out the pieces for your animal’s ears (two furry pieces and one batting piece), making sure there is enough length to tuck inside the hem of the head, and also making sure there is a .5″ border for stitching the ear pieces together. Then cut out the felt pieces for your animal’s mouth, nose, and eyes.
You can get creative with the animal ears and facial features. If you practice your shapes with paper first, it’s easier to confidently cut into the felt. It took me a couple of tries to get shapes that I liked.
Step Five: Stitch around your ears, making sure the fabric is layered the same way your animal body was layered in step three. Cut out little Vs around the bend of the ear before flipping it right-side-out. This keeps the fabric from puckering.
Step Six: Embroider the felt facial features onto the furry side of one of your circles that you cut in step four. I used a pencil to lightly draw the lines of the mouth to make sure my embroidery was straight.
Step Seven: Stitch the batting to the back of one of your furry circles. Use a wide stitch and only stitch .25″ from the border of the fabric.
Step Eight: Attach the fringe to the batting-lined fabric from step seven (pinning then stitching it in the direction shown above). Then stitch the ears to the embroidered circle as shown above. The ears will be facing the inside of the circle/face as you stitch. I pulled them up for the picture so you could see how the face was shaping up.
Step Nine: Layer the two pieces from step eight as shown above, with the right sides facing each other. Make sure all of the fringe is tucked inside the circle as well as the ears. Pin the pieces together, and then stitch .5″ around the edge, leaving a 4-6″ opening so you can flip it right side out. Then hand stitch the opening closed.
Tip: Things can get really bulky depending on what kind of fabric and fringe you are using, which made it almost impossible for me to machine stitch the two head pieces together. If you are worried about your sewing machine being able to handle all of these layers, I would suggest leaving off the batting from the head and stuffing the head with Polyfil before closing it up. It would be more cushioned and would make a nice pillow too!
Step Ten: By now you have flipped the body of the animal right side out and closed the opening. Now you need to finish the quilt by tying together the layers. Begin this simple process by using safety pins (or better yet—quilter’s safety pins) to connect the layers of the quilt. You can measure out your tying points, but I just eyeballed it. This is really up to your personal preference.
Step Eleven: Use a darning needle and yarn to tie the points that are pinned. To tie them, slip your threaded needle through the three layers of fabric to the back, then leaving about a .25″ space, pull the needle back up to the front of the fabric. Make sure you leave a long enough tail of yarn to tie at the end. Do one more pass of the needle through to the back and then the front (leaving the same .25″ space), then tie together the ends of the yarn, trimming off the excess.
I used a double layer of yarn to tie the quilt, but a single layer would work nicely too.
Step Twelve: Pin the animal head to the body with safety pins. Then use a darning needle to slip stitch the head to the body. This part is pretty quick and easy, and so satisfying because you can see the animal mat come together before your eyes!
I was able to put this little guy together in less than a day, and I would say I have moderate sewing skills. Lucy loves it and roars at the lion each morning before laying on it. So gratifying!
I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated by this project, but I ended up being really surprised at how straightforward and relatively easy it was to make! I’m already anxious to see if I have time to make some different animal quilts for all of the little kiddos in my life. Lions and tigers and bears— Oh my! –Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella of the Signature Collection.
This is so cute I had to make it for my granddaughter. In my small town I wasn’t able to find soft plush fabric so made do with a lambskin fleece in a golden orange color. Finished measurements are 50″ wide by 65″ long. The head is 19″ diameter. I stitched the head together (including batting), leaving about 5 inches unstitched. Then I machine stitched the back of the head to the body using the opening to wrangle the fabric through. I then stuffed the head to make it a pillow before hand stitching the opening closed. He’s such a cozy guy to lie on and I can’t wait to see my granddaughter’s face when she sees it! Thanks for a fun project
I am making this lion and I am having trouble embroidering the claws. Yarn is too thick to go through the layers and floss does not show through the nap of the fur. any suggestions?
This will depend on your yarn but sometimes you can make it thinner, like unraveling embroidery floss before using. Something to try if you’re having trouble with the thickness.
Thanks for the great DIY project. It was the inspiration for my project. I decided to make mine an elephant, by adding elephant ears and a trunk lightly stuffed with fiberfill. It turned out soooooo adorable! My grandson will love it.
My grandson in San Diego loves Daniel Tiger. It would be great to adapt this patter to a Tiger – I know he would love it!!!
I like it very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Great idea and thanks for sharing.
This is the sweetest and cutest DIY I’ve come accross !!!
What a great idea! I can see so many other animals that you could make this with. Have emailed the link to my Mum, would be a cool gift for a grandma to make for her kids to have at Grandma’s house
Looks great 🙂
This reminds of the ursine rug anthro used to have.
I’m going to be an Aunt in within a month and their theme is jungle and this is just too perfect! I may have to try it although I don’t know if I’m quite this crafty. It turned out so well. I love the little face!
Gosh, this has to be one of the cutest projects I have seen! So cute.
This is seriously the cutest thing I have ever seen!!! I don’t think I could make it but I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I had kids.
Well, this is about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.
You’d definitely need to sew this one, but if you wanted something similar without the sewing project, Pottery Barn sells some really cute plush animal mats with stuffed heads! After I saw them, I wished I had stuffed my lion head instead of having it flat like the rest of the blanket. -Mandi
I love those blankets! I was inspired by the trim around the lion’s head on them. Such a great idea for a mane! -Mandi
I couldn’t even tell you much about my machine besides the fact that it’s a Kenmore. I found it for $50 at a garage sale and have had it serviced once. If you’re just doing basic sewing, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting anything too fancy! 🙂 -Mandi
Such an amazing idea!
My son would love it ; )
Awesome lion! Thank you for your inspiring projects, this one is definitely on my to-do list for my nephews!