Farah Wolfe is the author of Sew and Play: Handmade Games for Kids, a book full of active games you can sew for toddlers, preschoolers and elementary-aged kids. Games include storage accessories with detailed instructions; they’re perfect for travel and a fun way to support social skill and cognitive growth. Farah’s free Great Gumball Challenge project includes game patterns and playing instructions in a handy PDF. Are you eager for new ways to keep the kids active inside during chilly winter days? Take a closer look at Sew and Play: Handmade Games for Kids! (There are lots of photos from the book at Martingale!)

When I started writing Sew and Play: Handmade Games for Kids I would spend evenings daydreaming about all of the different games and themes that would appeal to my little people. For some reason, gumball machines have always had a nostalgic and enticing quality. Maybe it was because you could see all of that candy but couldn’t touch it, which is very exciting as a kid. The gumball machine seemed like the perfect fit when developing this fun, easy to sew and gender-neutral game. Bonus!: All of the pieces roll up and fit into the candy bag, making it great for traveling. Just follow the sewing instructions, then print off the game sheet and you are ready to play. Happy sewing and playing!

These instructions are for a two player game and will make two gumball machines with two sets of gumballs (each set is one gumball in each color). If you would like to have additional players, make an additional gumball machine and set of gumballs for each player added. Only one gray felt coin is required for the game, regardless of the number of players.


  • 3/8 yard of red fabric for gumball machine base and lid, with additional for the candy bag
  • 1/4 yard of 20 gauge clear vinyl for gumball machine globe
  • 3” x 8” scrap of gray fabric for gumball machine metal plate
  • 6 pieces of 4” x 5” felt in 6 various colors for gumballs
  • 1 piece of 2 1/2” x 5” gray felt for coin
  • 20” of ribbon for candy bag casing
  • 9” of 1/4” wide elastic for candy bag
  • 2 small pieces of scotch tape (with the matte finish) to keep vinyl from sticking to your sewing machine

A darning foot is recommended for free motion stitching the swirl on the gumballs… If you have not tried this, definitely do! It will expand your sewing horizons.

– Make templates for the gumball machine parts using the patterns.
– From the folded red fabric cut a rectangle 8” x 11” for the candy bag (2 total).
– From the remaining folded red fabric cut 2 gumball machine bases and 2 lids (4 total for each).
– From the folded clear vinyl cut 2 machine ball globes (4 total).*
– From the gray fabric cut 2 gumball machine plates (2 total).
– From all felt cut into strips of 2” x 2 1/2” (2 strips in each color).

* IMPORTANT TIP for sewing with vinyl: Before embarking on this project, remove your sewing machine presser foot and place a piece of scotch tape on the bottom surface. Trim away any excess. This will keep the foot from sticking to the vinyl as you sew. Tear away paper (tissue paper) can also work if you prefer; place it on top of the vinyl when you sew, then tearing it away after stitching is complete.

Making the Gumball Machine
1. Fold all sides of the gray rectangle (metal plate) under about 1/4” and press. Place this gray rectangle 3/4” down from the top of the right side of the gumball base and sew along all four sides to attach it. Repeat with other gray rectangle. You will have two gumball machine pieces with this plate.

2. Place two red gumball machine bases, with right sides together and raw edges aligned. Be sure to have one of these include a piece with a gray rectangle (this metal plate will be the front of the gumball machine). Using a 1/4” seam allowance, stitch all sides, leaving a 2” opening at bottom edge. Turn right side out and press. To close up, fold opening under and sew about 1/8” in from edge then continue around entire perimeter. Do the same with the other bases and the gumball machine lids. Press to finish.

3. Place the finished gumball machine lid on the top (rounded) portion of a vinyl glass globe, lining up the edges of the lid so they are flush with the globe. Mark vinyl along bottom edge of the lid, then cut 1/4” outside of that line. This will be the top piece of vinyl for your gumball machine globe, and will stay open to allow gumballs to go inside.

4. Assemble the gumball machine in layers and pin minimally if you need to:
– Gumball machine base on the bottom (with gray rectangle for metal plate right side up).
– Gumball machine globe with the straight edge overlapping 1/2” along top of base (this includes two layers of vinyl, trimmed piece placed on top for opening).
– Lid on top of glass globe, placed right above opening of top piece of vinyl.

5. Adjust your stitch length to be slightly longer than standard. (Note: When sewing vinyl each hole acts as a perforation, so more space in between stitches keeps it stronger). Starting at the base, stitch about 1/4” along the perimeter of these layers, to attach the globe to the base and lid. Be sure to follow the fabric along the bottom edge of the lid and keep the top layer of trimmed vinyl open.

Making the Gumballs:
1. Place matching felt strips together and mark two gumballs using the pattern as a guide. Sew 1/4” in from edge of gumball and continue to spiral inward to attach the two pieces of felt together. (This is where the darning foot works great!) Do the same with all of the other colors of felt.

2. For the gray coin, you will mark just one gumball and can do a spiral, or get creative and stitch “25” cents on the top.

Making the Candy Bag:
1. Layer the two fabric panels with right sides together. Pin and sew along two sides and the bottom using a 1/2” seam allowance.

2. Fold the top edge 1/4” to the wrong side. Fold another 1/4” to make the hem. Pin and topstitch 1/8” from the inner folded edge.

3. Turn this bag right side out. Measure 1 1/2” down from this hemmed edge and a mark a line that is parallel with the top of the bag.

4. To make the casing for the elastic, start from a center point on either side of the bag and lay your ribbon with its top edge along the marked line. Fold the raw end of the ribbon under. Following the line, pin the ribbon around the circumference of the bag, meeting up with the beginning of the ribbon. Complete by folding the remaining raw end of the ribbon under, lining up with the beginning of the ribbon. Trim the ribbon to the length needed. If you’re working with stretchy fabric, however, wait until you’ve sewn most of the ribbon in place before trimming.

5. Stitch the top edge of the ribbon to the bag and then stitch the bottom edge, leaving the folded ends open for inserting the elastic.

6. Using a safety pin attached to the end, feed the elastic through the opening in the casing. Hold the loose end tightly as you feed the other end all the way around the bag.

7. Overlap the ends of the elastic by 1 1/2” and sew them together securely. Stitch over this area multiple times for increased durability.

8. Let the elastic contract and hide inside the ribbon casing.

Copy the game sheet and get ready to play!