DIY Car Mat Backpack

I’ve already properly conveyed how much Little Brother loves his hot wheels. But I was also at a loss as to what to get him for his birthday. We do not need any more toys in this house. Actually, I’ve made several trips to Goodwill this week getting rid of toys that no one plays with (in addition to other meaningless clutter).

So when I saw this idea for a car mat backpack over at A Happy Wanderer, I KNEW I had to make one for Little Brother’s birthday gift. Well, actually, I first asked Heather if I could buy one from her but she had just had a baby 2 days prior and wasn’t exactly sure she would be up to making one (rightfully so). So THEN I decided to make one. She is much more artistic than I am…and I’m sure she cuts fewer corners than I do…but I thought I would give it a shot anyway.

It is the coolest idea! It’s a backpack with zippers on both sides. The zippers unzip completely and it lays flat with a road inside! Perfect for storing cars AND playing with them!

Here’s what you’ll need:

-1/4 yard black cotton fabric (NOT knit, it stretches too much)
-1/4 yard green cotton fabric
-1/4 yard thicker fabric (I used corduroy…but you could use denim too)
-1/4 yard Iron-on webbing (I used Pellon 725 Heavy-Duty Wonder-Under Transfer Web)
-Two 12″ coat zippers (that come apart at the ends)
-2 pieces of 12″x12″ scrapbook paper
-Felt of various colors
-Acrylic Paint
-2 Shoestrings
-Black thread
-Threaded sewing machine

You can find complete instructions over at A Happy Wanderer, but I thought I would just give a few more details of what I did as well as a few changes I made.


I taped 2 pieces of scrapbook paper together to make the template for the road. I cut the scrapbook paper out, then ironed on the webbing to the black fabric. Using the scrapbook paper template, I traced the outline onto the black fabric and cut it out. Then I ironed it onto the green fabric.



I then sewed the road on using black thread.

I can’t paint. I’m not artistic in the least. So instead of painting on the extra buildings, ponds and trees (like at A Happy Wanderer), I chose to just sew on some felt instead and call it good.

I HAD to paint on the yellow lines on the road. But don’t look too closely. They’re unevenly shaped and spaced!

Trim the edges of the green fabric. Next, you’ll want to cut out your thicker material (corduroy, in my case) in the exact same size as car mat.

Instead of doing an adorable painting on the outside of the backpack, I again chose to use my felt. I just used 2 different-sized cups to trace circles and then cut out Little Brother’s initial and sewed all three, first on top of each other and then on the corduroy.

After this, I also sewed on the straps for the backpack. I can’t sew buttonholes (or buttons, for that matter), so I asked my sweet mother in law to do this part for me after it was all finished. There are more details for this step over (and the remaining steps) at A Happy Wanderer. I forgot to take pictures. :(

Next, you can either surge the edges of both the green fabric and corduroy (separately) or iron a cuff and sew (I have no idea if that is the correct terminology). I chose the latter because I don’t know how to surge. It’s a miracle I can semi-operate a sewing machine, really.

I then sewed on the zippers. One side zips up and the other side zips down. Finally, I sewed the flap for the drawstrings!

Again, go to A Happy Wanderer for more details on the above steps.

I can’t wait for Little Brother to open his car mat backpack tomorrow…he’s going to love it! And it’s going to be the perfect thing to take to church (and elsewhere)!


  1. Is there any way you could make us one of the backpacks for my son for Christmas?! If so how much would you charge? I make so many things from your site but we have a newborn and I just cannot seem to find a second to sew these days…whenever I have a second to do something, I want to be interacting with my boys! :o) Please let me know and thanks SO much for all you do…we have really been blessed by all of the awesome activities you post!!!

    1. Anna, I wish I could! But my plate is pretty full right now (not as full as yours, I’m sure). Plus, our backpack is VERY imperfect. My sewing machine kept messing up towards the end of it, so all the stitches on the outside are kind of wonky. That’s okay for us (as I am not a perfectionist), but there’s no way that I would be okay with that for someone else!

      I hope there’s someone else who might be able to help. I’m sorry!

  2. I LOVE this! You did a fantastic job. I checked the out the Happy Wanderer’s version but I’ve got to say I like yours better. ;) Thanks for sharing!

  3. You say this is perfect for church, and I agree, but have a question.
    We go to a very small church, and my kids (ages 4, 2.5, 7 months) are the only kids in the congregation, so we don’t use the nursery. I just have a bag of activities. My 2.5 year old LOVES cars, but can’t play with them without making noises!
    How does Little Brother do? Is this something he would play with during the service with you?

    I don’t mind my kids making a little noise, they are kids, and I know they are learning how to behave in church by being in there every Sunday, but I don’t want to drive everybody else crazy! Any tips?

  4. I love this! It would have been so good when my boys were younger. They are 12 and 14 now. I shared it on Facebook as I’m sure I have a number of friends that have young boys in their life.

  5. Yeah… there are no instructions at all on the Happy Wanderer website…so thanks for putting up a few! I’m going to try this for my daughter’s little princesses…make a mobile castle, you might say. :)

  6. Thanks so much for posting this project! I’m not sure if you’ll see this, though I’ve really got my fingers crossed you do… Can you shed any light on the construction? I checked the Happy Wanderer and her link to Made, but I’m still confused about the construction of the back pack! Made’s tutorial is awesome, but I just don’t get how to do it with the zippers. Did you put the play mat and outside of the back pack together first? Sew the tube for the drawstring first? When did you put in the zippers? I’m not very awesome with construction as I’m still just a beginner sewer. Thanks for all you do!

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