Tuesday, 9 September 2014

DIY Gaming Mat Tutorial - Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures

Geeks make the best husbands! My husband Philippe is a huge fan of the game Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures. My own taste in games runs more towards Marrying Mr. Darcy, but I can tell you that Star Wars is a tactical ship-to-ship combat game played with scale models on your kitchen table. Over the past few months Philippe has amassed a pretty admirable collection of X-Wing figurines and has started playing at events around Montreal.

A problem with Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures is that it's played on a 3 foot by 3 foot square surface, and being off by even a small bit can affect the outcome. When Philippe first started playing, he would carefully mark off the playing space, but this got to be pretty tedious after a while. 

I asked Philippe if the game's publisher makes gaming mats that might make this easier. He told me that there are some small indie companies that produce mats, but they're sort of expensive. Some players have found ways to make their own gaming mats using bits of tarp, foil, and paint.

It immediately occurred to me that I could sew a mat. What perfect timing! Philippe's birthday was only a few weeks away! So for his present I designed and made a DIY mat that requires only basic sewing skills.

These mats do take some time, but the process is straightforward. You could easily adapt this pattern to suit any game that requires a custom mat. This mat is square, but there's no reason why you couldn't make it circular or hexagonal if you wanted to.

Since I had a deadline, I ordered the space-themed fabric for the background from Fabric.com. (Unfortunately, the specific fabric I used is no longer available -- it was awesome!) But if I'd had more time, I would have looked around quilting shops and other fabric stores in Montreal to see if I could have found anything local. 

Okay, on to the instructions!

DIY Gaming Mat Instructions

  • 1 1/4 yards of fabric with outer space background, or whatever you prefer. (Make sure that the fabric is at least 40 inches wide, or you won't be able to cut it to the correct dimensions.)
  • 1 1/4 yards of felt in a colour that complements your fabric
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Multiple sheets of notebook or printer paper
  • Scotch tape
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Measuring tape for sewing
  • Measuring tape for construction
  • Pins and pincushion
  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric-friendly glue
  • Sponge brush


1. Pre-treat your fabric. Before you start, run it through the washer and dryer according to the manufacturer's instructions. I know it's tempting to skip this step, but you don't want your fabric shrinking on you later if you want to clean the mat.

2. While your fabric is washing, create your pattern pieces by Scotch taping notebook or printer paper together into two squares of the correct size. You want one square that is 38 by 38 inches, and another square that is 36 by 36 inches. Measure them both again when you're done to make sure the squares are accurate.

The completed pattern piece

3. Once the cotton is washed and dried, iron it until smooth and wrinkle-free. 

4. Spread the cotton over a large work space (I used the floor), lay the 38 by 38 inch pattern piece over it, and pin it to the fabric like so.

5. Cut out your 38 by 38 inch piece of cotton.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5, this time using your 36 by 36 inch pattern piece to cut out a square piece of felt.

7. Set the felt piece aside. Take your cotton piece and lay it on the work space so the wrong side is facing up. Carefully measure, turn down, and pin a one inch seam allowance around the perimeter of the fabric.

Measuring the one inch seam allowance

8. Iron down the seam allowances around all four edges. After doing this, your cotton piece should measure 36 by 36 inches.

Ironing down the seam allowances

Measure the mat once more just to make sure it really is 36 by 36 inches!

9. Lay the cotton piece wrong side up on the floor. Lay your felt piece on top of it and line up the edges. (It's normal for felt to stretch a bit when handled. Don't panic about this. Just trim it down if you need to!)

10. Pin one edge of the felt piece to one edge of the cotton piece like so. Make sure that the seam allowance on the cotton piece is tucked under the felt piece - you don't want it showing.

11. Peel the unpinned part of the felt piece away from the cotton piece, like this.

12. You can now start gluing the cotton and felt pieces together! I used Aleene's Tacky Glue and found it worked fine, but you can use a special fabric glue if you want. With a sponge brush, dab glue crossways across the cotton and slowly roll the felt down on top of it, adhering the two together.

(OPTIONAL: If you have quilting skills, which I don't, skip the gluing step entirely and just quilt the two pieces together. Probably a lot easier, especially if you have a quilting machine.)

The gluing process is the most time-consuming part of the project.

13. Allow glue to dry overnight before proceeding to the next step. 

15. Time for sewing! The glue is pretty good at holding the cotton and felt together, but I sewed the edges just in case. Using thread that matches your cotton, sew a straight line around all four edges of your mat. I did a half inch seam.

Ta da! The mat is all finished and ready for an intergalactic battle!

Philippe was ridiculously happy when he opened his present. According to him, making this mat for him has earned me the "Best Wife Ever Award." Hey, I'll take it! 

Philippe doesn't have to measure out his playing field anymore. He also loves the flexibility of his mat - he just rolls it up, puts it in a plastic tube, and now he can take it to tournaments easily!

My happy husband!

So there it is! If you use this tutorial, drop me a comment and let me know how it goes for you!


  1. Best wife ever seems appropriate here, that is an awesome gift, he's a lucky man. I wish you both many many happy years. I saw this over on the FFG boards, I'm 'oneway' over there..

    1. Thank you Gunnar! I have to say that I definitely consider him to be "Best Husband Ever." Making the mat was only a small way to show it. :)

  2. Hooray for amazing wives who not only allow their husbands to indulge in their Star Wars hobbies, but who actually encourage, support, and even participate in it with them! :D Wives like you are the best! Keep up the good work!

  3. There's a Pride & Prejudice card game?!? We are playing this next time I come to Montreal/next time you come to Germany!

    1. I know, right? I think you and Keith are our ideal playing partners for that game! :)