A puzzle mat can make finishing a jigsaw or any other puzzle a lot easier and allow you to complete it in more than one sitting. Trying to find the right puzzle mat can be difficult as there are a few qualities that it needs to have.
What can I use for a puzzle mat?
You can use any material that has non-slip properties which you can lay flat. If you want to have a portable puzzle mat then this material also needs to have the ability to be rolled up tightly. Felt ticks both of these boxes.
Why is felt the best material for a puzzle mat?
Felt is the oldest type of cloth ever made and is constructed by the compression and matting of fibers until they eventually make a dense and durable fabric. It’s used industrially to dampen vibrations, in instruments to control sound and vibrations, and is also the material used on pool and snooker tables.
The reason it’s perfect for puzzles is it’s very flat but still gives a high level of friction. That means you can place a puzzle piece down flat on a slanted board but don’t have to worry about it sliding down.
Other fabrics aren’t flat enough and other materials would be unusable or not provide the friction required.
If you aim to make a permanent puzzle station then there are other materials you could use and also if you are going to complete your puzzle in one sitting, or are happy to leave it out until it’s finished, then other materials will also be fine but we’ll come to that later.
What makes felt the best material for a puzzle mat is that you can even have it as the backing for a large puzzle table or you can fold it up for storage. As you can fold it up tightly, you can roll up your part-completed puzzle and when you unroll it, it’ll be just as you left it.
Rolling up your felt puzzle mat
It goes without saying that if you wanted to roll up your puzzle then you should be doing this with care and patience as otherwise, the pieces will move around. This care needs to be taken in both the rolling up and also the unfurling of the puzzle mat.
In addition to the felt, you’ll also want to have a solid cardboard tube. You’ll want this to have a wide diameter as otherwise, you’ll be rolling up the puzzle too thinly. If you don’t use a cardboard tube then pieces are more liable to fall off and also to bend.
Alternatives to felt
Fleece – If you wanted a material with the same qualities as felt then the closest match would be fleece. It’s similar in how it’s going to work but it often isn’t quite as flat as felt can be. If you’re unable to source and felt, then fleece would be a good alternative.
Yoga mat – If you’re not worried about folding up and/or storing your incomplete puzzle then a yoga mat would be a good choice as long as the surface isn’t overly textured. The mats that come in different sections can be great as you’d be able to put them on any surface you want and find the ideal size.
Rubber mat – A flat rubber mat is a great alternative to felt. The problem here is that it can be hard to find very thin rubber and also it’s a more expensive solution. With its high level of friction and flexibility, you will be able to place it on any surface.
Towel/Blanket – This isn’t an ideal option but a decent idea if you’re stuck for anything else. If you’re using a towel or blanket then it has to be one with a flat surface and also one which is fairly heavy. It’s unlikely you’d be able to roll a puzzle up with a towel due to the lack of material density.
Carpet – Simply placing your puzzle down on your carpet can be an easy solution but you wouldn’t have any portability. You do get a lot of friction so your puzzles won’t move around. Many people have off-cuts of carpet in their sheds and garages which would be great.
Can you use a yoga mat for a puzzle?
Absolutely but you have to consider the size of the mat and whether or not it comes in pieces. If it’s simply a large one-piece mat then you may have to settle with doing your puzzle on the floor. If it’s an old and unused mat then you could cut it into shape and have your new puzzle mat.
Do I need a puzzle mat?
The answer to this will depend on what you have available. Do you have a room with a large table that no-one ever uses? If so then getting a puzzle mat may not be required. It also may not be needed if you’re only going to be completing small-ish puzzles.
Even if you have a large table or something similar, it’s likely that you’re not going to the perfect surface. In those situations, it can be a great idea to place some felt over the surface.
Can I transport my puzzle?
To transport your puzzle, you need to have either a surface that you can roll up or a solid surface that you can pick up. As we looked at before, felt and a tube of cardboard is the best way to roll up a puzzle which you can then store wherever you want.
A solid puzzle table is great at being able to hide away your puzzle until it’s time to use it. If you don’t have a puzzle table then using something such as a thick rubber mat or a large piece of wood can suffice.
Should I get a puzzle table?
A puzzle table is a dedicated table for completing puzzles and can either be freestanding or just be a topper. These are more expensive than just using felt but can be the best solution if you’re short on space and love completing jigsaws.