Thursday, May 27, 2010

Repost: Fabric Roads

I sat down yesterday to cut out pieces for some more of my fabric roads.   I'll be at my in-laws on Monday and am hoping I'll get a chance to finish the edges on my mother-in-laws serger, since it's a lot easier than using my zigzag stitch.  Boy liked the fabric roads I made for him a year or so ago, but he's REALLY been loving his set now that it has some curves, intersections, and ESPECIALLY the parking lot.

Since I had to pull the post up to get the measurements I needed (one of the great things about blogging...I've got details from all my past projects to look through), I figured I'd go ahead and do a repost for any of my new readers who might have missed the original post on 733.

Fabric Roads! 

They're perfect for the little guy in your life.  I thought of making these over a year ago after watching my then 18 month old son get frustrated with toy train tracks, hot wheels tracks or pretty much every other "road" that has to snap or hook together in some way.  These are perfect for those little guys who LOVE cars, but have a hard time with hooking all that stuff together...and now that my son is older, he still loves these roads that can be taken anywhere and used on pretty much any surface...even on Daddy!
Initially, last Christmas I just made him straight roads.
But this morning when my son woke up to intersections...
...and a PARKING LOT, he almost thought it was Christmas all over again!
The best part about these is that they're easy to make, and there are lots of options for making them even easier than I did.

Materials:  Black Fabric (1 yard can make a pretty good set.), white thread, yellow thread, sewing machine is helpful, but optional depending on what kind of fabric you choose, scissors or rotary mat.

I chose to use stretch denim, but only because it was on clearance at Jo-Anns for 1 or 2 dollars a yard.  The ideal fabric would be a little heavy (like denim, upholstry fabric, etc) and not have any stretch to it.  Old jeans would work great too and make the project almost free.  My goal was to make these cheap, so if I hadn't found the denim on clearance, my plan had been to use flannel (because it was on sale for $1.50 /yd at the time.)  If you want an option with no machine sewing, felt could also work, although they might not last as long if your kid is hard on toys since it can be stretched out of shape.

So to get started with the cutting...
Straight Roads
I made my roads 5 inches wide.  This seems to be a good width to fit the typical size matchbox cars.  I made some 36 inches long and some are 18 inches long.  Personally, I like the 18 inch long roads the best.  (Sorry no picture here...but this is the easiest one.)

For the intersections, I started by cutting a 9 inch by 9 inch square piece. 
Then I cut 2 inch by 2 inch squares off each corner. 
This leaves road parts to be 5 inches.

Curved Roads
I cut a 9 inch by 9 inch square piece. 
Then used a dinner plate to make the outside curve. 
Then I used the edges I'd already cut to guide me in cutting the other side, so that the road is 5 inches wide all along it.  These were the trickiest to cut, so you might try them last.

Parking Lot
I sent some of these to my nephew a year ago when I made them for my son, and when I was talking to my sister about the new pieces I was making, she told me that the best extension to a set would be a parking lot.  How right she was!  Every boy I know who's into cars loves to drive them and then line them up in neat rows.  The parking lot can be any size you want. 
I made mine is 9 inches by 13 inches because that's what the pieces I had left worked out for 9x12 would probably have been better because then it would work out more evenly for the parking spaces.  The lines for the parking spaces are spaced 2 inches apart and 3 inches long.

Now on to the sewing!
Once I cut my pieces, I used black thread to make a fairly wide zigzag stitch to sew around each of the edges. 
I kept the stitch length pretty short because the fabric I was working with tended to unravel fairly easily. 
If you have a serger, that would work even better.  This will keep the edges from unraveling and getting frayed. 

When you're ready to sew the lines, you'll want to start by marking the middle of the fabric to help keep your lines straight.  I just used a regular pencil and my quilting ruler.

To make the traffic lines:
I used a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine with a VERY short stitch length.  You may want to experiment on a scrap to see what width and length of stitch works best for your sewing machine and fabric.  To avoid getting the stitching too bulky when I stopped and started my stitching I went back and forth with a straight stitch to secure the thread and then sewed my line.  If you're just sewing a dashed line, you'll want to go straight down the middle. 
If you're going to make a double solid line or a solid and dashed line, you'll want to work just off to the side, and then use your first stitching line to guide the second line. 
I used a mix of solid and dashed lines for variety and because I found the solid lines easier...but they look kind of boring if that's all you use.

When I made the dashed lines, I made sure to secure the thread by going forward and back with a small straight stitch off to the side each time.  To keep the lengths of the dashes approximately the same, I kept on eye on where the lines were in relation to the foot.  When I could just see the first part of the dash coming out the back of my presser foot like this:
I would secure the stitches and then move the fabric forward, until I could just see the beginning of the blank space at the back of my presser foot like this:
And then repeat until you're finished!

Just BEWARE!  Traffic at your house might get pretty congested!


  • If you prefer to sew by hand, you could easily make the traffic lines with embroidery thread instead.

  • If you don't like to sew at could make the traffic lines with fabric or puffy paint.

  • You could use felt as the fabric if you don't want to zigzag the edges.

  • If you want an even cleaner look for the edges, you could use a narrow hem instead of a zigzag stitch.

The possibilities are really endless!  If anyone makes these, I'd love to hear about it and if you have any questions about the details you can email me at polly.helping.little.hands (at) gmail (dot) com.


  1. Haha! I love the comment about traffic jams. Thanks for the very clear instructions. What a great toy for young drivers.

  2. So, how long did it take to do all of those lines? That would be my big hold-up. I can't imagine doing that stitch for that long.

  3. Ticia, The lines actually go pretty fast...especially the solid yellow lines. I just push my foot pedal down all the way and the machine zooms over it. The broken lines do take a bit more time because you have to secure the thead each time. You could always use fabric paint instead for the lines and that would go a lot faster.

  4. Love this idea with the stitched lines - if only I sewed!


  5. i am absolutely going to do this for my son! he would love love love love it!

  6. Thanks for the great idea. I made a set and my son loves it. You can see my finished project on my blog Hammer & Thread

  7. This is the BEST fabric road set I have seen! It is so versatile, stores easily, and, with my serger, will be machine washable. With two car loving boys in my househole, I have a feeling this will be the most loved Christmas gift of all time!
    The best part: all it will take is some of my fabric scraps, some time, and a lot of love. So glad I found this post!


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