Some of the easiest people to shop for at Christmas are small children. Just get them a bright shiny toy and they're happy, right? Well, what if a toy is the last thing the children on your list need (because they already buckets upon buckets overflowing with them)?
So what do you get the kids who have everything? Clothes? Mom and Dad might appreciate it, but that's just going to be chucked over the shoulder and not given a second thought. After seeing a picture of my nephews watching tv while lounging on the floor (which looked mightily uncomfortable), I had my answer. Something that's not a toy, not books, not clothes, but definitely something that will get use and love from the kids -- Pillow Mats!
Not only are they functional, but they can be squished down for storage and are super easy to make. Two of these can easily be made in an afternoon.
Things You'll Need
1 twin-size duvet
4 standard-sized pillows (or 8 if you're making 2)
1 spool of thread in a coordinating color
I found another tutorial for these over on Southern Disposition, and totally rolled with the idea to purchase a cheap twin-sized duvet rather than making the entire sleeve for the pillows. Not that that would be hard, but it's just less work for me.
So, once you've made your purchase and are ready to begin, start by laying out your duvet. Mine was 64" x 86". This should be enough to make two pillow mats.
Standard pillows (which I purchased on the cheap at Ikea) typically come sized 20" x 26". But just to be on the safe side, let's check to make sure that 4 pillows (~80") really will fit inside the duvet.
Now the goal here is to make two of these, so fold the duvet in half length-wise. Place your pillows along the duvet to make sure you have plenty of space to make about a 3-4" flap past the end of the pillow (this flap will be tucked in and help prevent the pillows from sliding back out).
Lots of room going this way, too. Excellent.
While the duvet is already folded, go ahead and cut it down the middle. No need to be absolutely precise. Set one of the pieces aside, we'll come back to that when we're done with round one.
Cutting the duvet in half leaves each side at roughly 30". The final width we're going for is 25-26". So place a mark at 26" from the finished side (so ~4" from the raw side) down the length of the fabric. Connect your marks to form a straight line.
Cut along drawn line only through the top layer. Thus, the bottom layer should stick out ~4".
Go ahead and hem up those raw edges. I pressed down a 1/2" fold, then turned it over and pressed down another 1/2" fold to form a finished edge before hemming the bottom layer. I followed suit with the top layer, only using 1/4" folds instead.
Now, fold over the longer bottom layer "flap" and slide it underneath the top layer. Make sure your folded bottom layer edge is even with your top layer edge, then pin to hold in place.
Next, make the individual pockets for each pillow. Measure out the length of your duvet, as it never really seems to be what the packaging states it is. Mine was about 82". Divide by 4. This gave me about 20 1/2" for each pocket. Since I had horizontal stripes, I decided that if it was close enough to the 20 1/2" mark, I would just use those as guides instead so the stitching would blend in more. Luckily, this worked out for me.
Mark off every 20 1/2", down the length of the fabric. If you don't have stripes, you may need to add additional marks going across width-wise as well -- be careful that you are able to erase them if necessary though!
Stitch width-wise across your fabric to form four pockets. Each seam should include the top and bottom layers, as well as the flap from the bottom layer in between.
Finally, stitch around the three edges of the duvet that are already sewed shut with a 1/4" allowance. I like to do this just to give a little extra finished look. And, if you're using a duvet from Ikea, there should be an open spot along where the bottom of the duvet used to be (to get the actual comforter inside), and this solves the problem of stitching that up. Simply fold in the edges around the opening 1/4-1/2" or until it lines up properly with the rest of the duvet. The finishing 1/4" stitching should close it.
Stuff those pillows inside...
And you're done with the first one! Simply rinse and repeat with the remaining half of the duvet for the second.
So where does this smart non-toy gift idea rank up there price-wise?
1 twin-sized duvet = $24.99
8 pillows @ $1.49/pillow = $11.92
1 spool of thread @ $1.26/spool = $1.26
Final Price = $38.17, or $19.09 per mat
So much more awesome than a Bat Cave. Okay, maybe not more awesome for the kid, but I can guarantee you I know which one will hang around longer as the kid grows up!
One final note: These are completely machine washable, even the pillows -- another kid-friendly bonus!