Recently I had the opportunity to fly with both of my young children for the very first time. We’ve traveled many times together, but it has always seemed more practical to take road trips, for one reason or another. I’d grown accustomed to the freedom of packing a big crate (or two) of toys and books and crafts in the backseat to keep them entertained in the long hours of travel. There was always a little more room to stash a handful of pencils, or one more favorite doll.
The plane trip was less forgiving, in more ways than one. After that experience, and the anticipation of more flights in our near future, I dreamed up this little trinket tote. It provides a finite amount of storage for small playthings, as well as a catchall for found objects in our destination — we can count on every adventure leaving us with heavy pockets full of pebbles or shells. When opened it becomes a little play mat for tiny things. I’ve designed this one for my son’s little collection of miniature cars, but I believe the merit of this project is in what it might inspire you to create for your child. An ocean, a fairy garden, a jungle, or a cityscape — no matter what, a few scraps of fabric is all you need to make a handy trinket tote and creative play mat for travel.
Tiny Car Travel Tote
Two 15 x 15 fabric scraps – for bag outer and playmat background
Gray or black wool scraps for road
Blue wool scrap for lake
Ribbon or twill tape for drawstring
Yellow embroidery floss
Air-erasable pen or chalk pencil
A note on materials: I used only materials I had on hand in my scrap bin. The gray wool was from a moth-eaten blazer I’d used in another project. You can choose any palette you wish; I chose simple bright fabrics for ease of demonstration. I recommend using a scrap of Peltex for the bridge and stabilizer for underneath the road. You might also find benefit in using double-sided fusible interfacing to secure your applique before sewing.
Begin by cutting the bag outer and playmat background to size. I chose 15 x 15 inches because the final 10 x 10 play area will fit on an airplane tray table. Set aside the bag outer for later.
Use a piece of paper or cardboard to make a 10 x 10 inch square as a template. Center it on top of the background fabric as shown in the diagram. Mark the edges of the working space with an erasable pen or chalk so you can visualize the boundaries of your design.
On your 10 x 10 template, sketch your road or water designs. If you want to create a little bridge, as I have, add an inch of fabric on the end of the road when you cut it so you have extra to work with.
Once you are satisfied with your design, cut the elements out of felt and arrange them on the background fabric.
Attach the pond and stream by pinning carefully and stitching close to the perimeter around the entire piece.
To prepare the bridge, measure how long you want the bridge, then cut a strip of Peltex and a matching strip of gray wool. Sandwich the interfacing in between the pieces of wool and edge-stitch them together just in the bridge segment.
Next carefully pin the roadway down. Leave the bridge and roadway beyond it unpinned for now. Machine-applique the road onto the background, beginning and ending the stitching at the very edge of the bridge, backstitching to secure.
Now position the bridge and pin the rest of the road in place, trimming off any excess. Stitch down the remaining road.
Using embroidery floss and a tapestry needle, handstitch a center dashed line down the road. When you reach the bridge, shift from catching the background fabric with the needle to just stitching through the two layers of wool. Once the bridge meets the ground on the other side, continue as before.
Assemble the Bag
The tote can be finished in two different ways.
Place wrong side of bag inner together with wrong side of exterior fabric and use double-fold bias tape to finish all four edges.
Place both pieces of fabric right sides together and stitch using a ½ inch seam allowance. Leave a generous opening, near the bridge, for turning. Turn and clip corners, and use a turning tool to straighten the seams. Press. Edge-stitch around all four sides to finish.
For either method, once the bag inner is sewn to the bag outer, fold down each corner towards the outside of the bag.
Leaving a channel for the drawstring, stitch along each flap parallel to the fold. Thread one long ribbon through each of the four channels. Secure the ends together in a knot, making sure that the bag will lie fully open.
To close the bag, simply cinch tight. Fill with tiny trinkets and stash in your carry-on for some easy creative play.
Bernadette Emerson is Co-Editor and Publisher of Rhythm of the Home. She enjoys sharing art, craft, and music with her young children and community. She has recently moved with her family from Colorado to the Midwest, where she is enjoying all that life has to offer.