In this post, I’m sharing how you can make your own DIY Sensory Mat for adults. Sensory mats are also sometimes called fidget mats, fiddle mats, or twiddle mats. Approximately the size of a place mat, sensory mats can fit on a table, lap, or wheelchair tray. Sensory mats can help people to stay calm, relax, or de-stress by providing a variety of textures and sensory experiences in a small space.
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. I am a brand ambassador for Baby Lock and Velcro Companies and this post is part of those ongoing collaborations. All opinions and words are my own. Additional materials were generously provided by Fabric Wholesale Direct, Fairfield World, Oliso, and Sewing by Sarah.
I first heard about sensory mats a few years ago in the context of mats to help babies learn and to soothe and stimulate children with autism, but recently I learned that sensory mats are also used in facilities and programs for adults with dementia.
I’m sharing an easy sewing pattern for a DIY sensory mat. It doesn’t require any special skills and it is beginner friendly… but, you’ll need a little patience because some sections (I’m looking at you, Poly Pellets!) are a bit fiddly. (By the way, if you’re looking for crochet DIY sensory mats, check out Craft-Her’s free patterns for the Fidget-Sensory Blanket for Alzheimer’s and the Clever Fidget-Sensory Lap Mat.)
If you’re looking for places to donate your DIY sensory mat to, check out my Ultimate Guide for Sewing for Charity for Beginners, or search “sensory mat” on VolunteerMatch.org. As with all charity sewing, be sure to check with the organization you plan to donate to about any restrictions. Some do not accept projects with buttons, for example.
DIY Sensory Mat
Sewing Tutorial by Underground Crafter
Sensory mats help to provide safe tactile and sensory stimulation for people living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and related issues. The sensory elements of this particular mat include:
- Fabrics with different fiber content that have different tactile experiences.
- An Insul-Bright interior that makes a “crinkly” noise.
- Polar Fleece and fabric tape/bias tape tags of different sizes for fingers to explore.
- A removable piece of Faux Fur attached to the rest of the mat using VELCRO® Brand SLEEK & THIN™ Sew On Fasteners.
- A weighted pouch filled with Fairfield Poly Pellets Stuffing Beads that is “squishable.”
- A denim pocket that can hold additional items.
- Approximately 15” across x 13” tall.
- Baby Lock Brilliant sewing machine with standard presser foot and walking foot for sewing over thick seams. You can see my unboxing of the Baby Lock Brilliant below.
- If you can’t see my unboxing of the Baby Lock Brilliant above, click HERE to watch it on YouTube.
- Cutting mat, 45 mm rotary cutter, and acrylic ruler.
- Fabric shears.
- Pinking shears.
- Quilting pins and pincushion.
- Denim or jeans needle.
- Oliso Mini Iron and Sewing by Sarah Wool Press ‘n Lock Tiles™.
- Basic sewing supplies (seam ripper, thread snips, etc.).
- Fabric in a variety of textures and fiber content.
- For my version, I used several fabrics from Fabric Wholesale Direct, an affordable manufacturer and retailer of a wide array of fabrics. Specifically, I used:
- Cotton Flannel in Fuchsia – 1/2 yard
- Plaid Cotton Flannel in Simon – 1/4 yard
- Polar Fleece in Burgundy – 1/4 yard
- A sample of Fox Faux Fur.
- Additionally, I used:
- The back pocket and some scraps from a pair of upcycled jeans. Get 11 tips for upcycling jeans here.
- Several small pieces of fabric tape I had left over from making the DIY Tag Blanket. Visit that post for instructions on how to make fabric tape with a Clover 1/2″ Bias Tape Maker, or substitute a small amount of single or double fold bias tape.
- 100% cotton thread in your choice of color for stitching and bobbin.
- VELCRO® Brand SLEEK & THIN™ Sew On Fasteners.
- Fairfield Poly Pellets Stuffing Beads.
- Warm Company Insul-Bright.
- Small kitchen items to include in the pocket. I used a mini rolling pin and a plastic fork; plastic measuring spoons are another option.
Prepare for sewing
- Iron the fabric yardage to press out wrinkles and folds.
- Cut fabric pieces for front. You’ll need:
- 1 rectangular piece including a back pocket of a pair of jeans, with as much space around the pocket as possible. Measure this piece after cutting it out.
- 2 pieces of the Cotton Flannel in Fuchsia cut to 9” each (or the same height as your jeans pocket).
- 1 piece of Plaid Cotton Flannel in Simon cut to 6.5”.
- 1 piece of Polar Fleece in Burgundy cut to 6.5”.
- 1 strip of each of these fabrics (cotton flannel, plaid cotton flannel, polar fleece, and denim) cut to approximately 2.5” by the remaining width of fabric.
- Cut fabric and Insul-Bright for the back. You’ll need 1 piece each of the Cotton Flannel in Fuchsia and Insul-Bright, each cut to approximately 17” x 14”.
Prepare Removable Fur Square
- Position the VELCRO® Brand SLEEK & THIN™ Sew On Fastener hook side up across the diameter of the Fox Faux Fur sample piece. Cut the fastener so that it is slightly shorter than the diameter.
- Position the cut hook and the uncut loop sides of VELCRO® Brand SLEEK & THIN™ Sew On Fastener together. Trim the loop side of the tape to the same length as the hook tape.
- Separate the fastener. Sew one VELCRO® Brand SLEEK & THIN™ piece with the hook side up at the center of the Polar Fleece square, leaving at least 1” on all sides. Sew the other piece of the VELCRO® Brand SLEEK & THIN™ Fastener with the loop side up to the wrong side at the center of the Fox Faux Fur sample piece. Position the hook and loop pieces together to attach the Faux Fur to the Polar Fleece Square.
Prepare Weighted Pouch
- Pin together 2 square pieces of Cotton Flannel with right (front) sides together. Sew along 3 sides with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
- Clip bottom corners. Turn right side out. Position Cotton Flannel pouch next to jeans pocket with right (front) sides together. Pin in position.
- Sew pieces together with 1/4″ seam allowance.
- Pour Fairfield Poly Pellets Stuffing Beads into Cotton Flannel pouch. IMPORTANT: Fill the pouch only half way, or less. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to sew the rest of the project.
Assemble Front of Sensory Mat
- With right (front) sides together, sew the Plaid Cotton Flannel piece to the Polar Fleece with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Sew additional 2-1/2″ strips of any fabric to these pieces until this row is slightly longer than the width of the row formed by the jeans pocket and Cotton Flannel pouch. Finger press all seams flat or towards the heavier fabric.
- Pin the right (front) sides of these two rows together, being careful to push the Poly-Pellets towards the side of the pouch that is unpinned.
- Starting at the side with the pouch, and making sure that all Poly-Pellets are away from the pins and out of the path of your sewing needle, sew these rows together with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
- Finger press all seams flat. Pin an additional 2-1/2″ strip of the Polar Fleece to the side with the weighted pouch. Starting at the side with the pouch, and making sure that all Poly-Pellets are away from the pins and out of the path of your sewing needle, sew together with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Change to Walking Foot
- To finish your project, you will need to change to your walking foot.
- If you’ve never used a walking foot before, a video demonstrating how to change to it is available HERE on the Baby Lock YouTube channel starting at 4:48.
Assemble Sensory Mat
- Trim 2 to 3 pieces of 2-1/2″ strips of Polar Fleece to 4” to 6” long. Trim 2 to 4 pieces of fabric tape or bias tape to 5” long.
- Fold pieces of Polar Fleece and bias/fabric tape so that the short, raw edges are together. Pin to the right (front) side of your Sensory mat with the raw edge attached to the outer edge. Do not attach any Polar Fleece or bias/fabric tape pieces to the weighted pouch, to the extra piece of Polar Fleece on the side, or to any seams.
- Once you are satisfied with the positions, layer the project together as follows. Position the Insul-Bright at the bottom (there is no right or wrong side). Position the Cotton Flannel piece for the back on top of the Insul-Bright with the right (front) side up. Position the front piece with the right side down (facing the Cotton Flannel). Your pieces of Insul-Bright and Cotton Flannel for the back may be larger than your front piece.
- Pin the long Polar Fleece strip (shown at left in the photo above) towards the inside as shown in the photo below. Trim the Insul-Bright and Cotton Flannel for the back if necessary.
- Using your walking foot – and being careful to move the Poly-Pellets away from the needle when sewing around the pouch – sew around the short edge with the pouch and both long sides using a 1/4″ seam allowance and reinforcing your start and end stitches. On the final short edge, leave an opening approximately 4” long.
- Trim any excess fabric outside of the seam allowance and clip the corners.
- Using the opening, pull the right (front) sides of the sensory mat out. With the pinking shears, trim the strip of Polar Fleece as desired. Pin the seam opening and sew closed with a top stitch using reinforcement stitches at start and end. I used a visible seam as part of the tactile experience, but you could use invisible thread or a coordinating color thread instead.