Rustle and Squeak


  • 2m of red fabric for apples and backing
  • 40cm of dark green for grass
  • 90cm of fabric for the sky
  • Fat quarter of brown for the tree trunk
  • 50cm of bright green fabric for the tree and leaves
  • 40cm Navy fabric for binding
  • 20 different pieces of fabric for the hidden treasures
  • 105 x 145cm of wadding
  • 25 x 51cm of Craft Vilene
  • Florist’s cellophane (washed and dried)
  • Fabric paint, sponge, silver gutta
  • 10 round flat squeakers
  • Temporary aerosol glue (505 or Spraymount)
  • Spray starch

Finished Size

40 x 54ins (102 x 136cm)

Skill Level


With its rustling leaves and numbered squeaking apples that each side hide a picture, this play mat’s a quilted activity centre. If you’re felling really adventurous, you can add more doors and flaps to the tree trunk and flowers too.

Making the background

As you can assume that this mat will be washed a lot, check all the fabrics before use for colourfastness and discard any that will leak colour

Using 1⁄4in seams throughout, make the background as follows


  • 14 x 35in from dark green
  • 36 x 35in from sky blue
Tree - Photography by Tony Neal
  1. Join the dark green and blue for sky press the seam open. Using the photo as a guide cut out a template for the tree top and tree trunk.
  2. Use the spray starch to stiffen the green fabric for the tree top and then cut it out. Do the same for the tree trunk.
  3. Apply spray glue to the back of each and position them both onto the backing, allowing the green to overlap slightly. Position the trunk about 6in from the bottom of the grass area. Place a few pins around the outlines for extra security. Machine appliqué using blanket stitch and matching thread.
  4. Appliqué the rabbit and spiky grass in the same way. Use a fabric pen to draw features on the rabbit. Press with a hot iron to set the colour following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Make the apples

  1. Draw a 3in circle to make a template and use to draw 10 times onto the red apple fabric.
  2. Lay in the following order, a piece of unmarked red fabric, craft Vilene, 10 squeakers, wadding and the marked red fabric. Move the squeakers about until one is under each of the ten circles. Pin around the edge to prevent the squeakers from escaping!
  3. Using a straight stitch and red thread, machine around each circle. Set the machine to zig-zag, width one, length 1⁄4 and sew around each one on the stitched line. Cut out very close to the stitching line.
  4. Reset the machine to zig-zag width three, length for satin stitch. Machine around each apple once more. Sew in the threads rather than cut them off.
Apples - Photography by Tony Neal
  1. The leaves are made in a similar way to the apples, drawing a large leaf template. To make them crackly, replace the craft Vilene and squeakers with a layer of florist’s cellophane. Add the leaf veining pattern by straight stitching up the centre of each leaf using the stitching lines shown and a dark green thread. Make 10 leaves.
  2. Select 20 interesting fabrics to use under the apples and leaves. Use a variety of fabrics featuring animals, fruits, vehicles, etc. Swap with a fellow quilter for a wider choice! Selection is made easier if you make a ‘window’ of paper with the apple or leaf shape cut-out: as you move it over the fabric you will be able to select the best position.
  3. Draw 10 2 1⁄2in circles onto the back of the Bondaweb. Leave a tiny gap between each one and cut them out roughly. Iron a piece of Bondaweb onto the back of each of ten of your chosen fabrics, positioning it centrally over the motif. Cut out carefully on the line. Do not peel off the backing at this stage.
  4. Repeat with the leaf shapes ensuring each one 1⁄2in smaller than the top leaves.
  5. Place the leaf and apple shapes onto the tree-top and move them around until you are satisfied. Peel the backings and iron in place. Using monofilament thread appliqué each one in place using a close zig zag stitch.
  6. Pin the apples over the circular motifs and then machine stitch them about 1 1⁄2ins across the top. Repeat with the leaves.
  7. Trim the top to make the edges square if required.
Assembly - Photography by Tony Neal

Border and Quilting

  1. Measure and cut 3ins strips of navy fabric for the border. Sew both sides first, press towards the border and then repeat with the top and bottom. Press as before.
  2. Cut the backing fabric to 44 x 60in. Tape the fabric to the floor WS up and then place the wadding on top. Smooth it out and tape it down too. Lay the top fabric in place, smoothing it down and taping to hold it in place. Pin the quilt at 4in intervals with quilter’s safety pins.
  3. Quilt the top using matching threads (red in the bobbin) and freemachine quilting. Lower the feed dogs, and using the darning foot, make cloud shapes in the sky, spiky shapes in the grass area, leafy shapes in the tree and knotted bark designs on the trunk. Take care not to quilt over your peekaboo shapes.
  4. Sew all around the navy border 1⁄8in from the edge and then, leaving the backing fabric as it is for the moment, cut the wadding only to leave 1⁄4in all around.
  5. Cut the backing to within 1in all the way around. Turn under 1⁄4in, fold it over to the front of the quilt and then pin in place. Sew on the RS very close to the edge with red thread or slip-stitch in place.
  6. Number the apples 1-10, (you can draw the numbers on first using a blue, watererasable felt pen) using the silver gutta. Practise using this first and have a piece of paper towel to hand to keep the nozzle clean. Leave undisturbed to dry for 24 hours.

Washing Instructions

The play mat can be washed but it is a good idea to fold it RS out and place it in a large fabric bag to protect the apples and leaves during washing. Wash at 40°C, spin and then squeeze water out of each squeaker until the sound returns! Hang, or cool tumble, to dry. Do not iron as this will flatten the wadding.

If you are making this for a gift, make sure you add a label with the washing instructions and the advice that young children should not be left unattended while playing with the quilt.

To make it simpler if you are a beginner, use a pre-printed panel in the centre and add the peekaboo covers on top of shapes or patterns already printed.


Round flat squeakers and silver gutta are available from Fred Aldous. Tel 0161 236 2477

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 11 Number 6 - July 2003