Introduction: Creating Interchangeable Mazes in an Unfinished Basement or Garage
Three years ago, I persuaded my long-suffering husband to move across town so that we would be nearer our three young grandsons. One of the most exciting features of the new house was an unfinished basement. I had a plan to make this basement an awesome environment for kids, and the most ambitious part of the plan was an interchangeable maze.
The first year, I just tacked up old sheets from the joists, somewhat randomly. The maze was a huge success. I made it in early September and it stayed up for two and a half months. From that point onward, any time I saw cheap sheets at garage sales or at Goodwill, I added them to my maze-making boxes.
After three years, I decided to improve upon the original tack-things-up-wherever-you-can method of maze-building. I decided share my system as my first Instructable!
Step 1: Find and Clear a Space in the Basement or Garage.
A maze for a small child does not need to be very large.
My first maze was created in a large walk-through closet. My three-year-old grandson loved it.
A maze for larger people needs to be as BIG as you can possibly make it.
Find a space. Clear it.
Step 2: Measure the Distance Between Joists and Draw a Planning Grid.
Measure the distance between joists. This is the key to the system!
My joists are 16.25 inches apart.
Draw out a plan, based on that measurement.
For my maze, I planned to put hooks 16.25 inches apart. Since 16.25 is too narrow for the main maze walkways, I planned to put hooks on every other joist.
Draw a planning grid. It will be used for placing hooks at the beginning of the project. The planning grid will also be handy for designing different mazes each time you want to set one up.
I drew up a planning grid on my computer and saved it. A PDF planning grid is included later in this Instructable.
Step 3: Purchase Hooks.
I used 12 ceiling hooks, which I purchased at Menards. For my 64" x 128" maze, I needed 42 hooks.
Step 4: Gather the Remaining Tools and Equipment.
Cardboard, the length of the space between the joists in your room
Fabric (old curtains, sheets, or shower curtains)
Paracord or ribbon
Sewing Machine or needle and thread for hand sewing
Step 5: Measure and Mark the Joists.
The hook placement can be "semi-precise." Cut out a piece of cardboard and use it to mark the joists.
Step 6: Drill.
Use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the hook. Drill a hole for each hook.
Step 7: Insert the Hooks.
Step 8: Create the Fabric Panels.
Gather as much fabric as you can.
Garage sales and Goodwill were my primary sources.
Using paracord or ribbon, sew loops across the top of each piece of fabric. Place the loops at intervals that are one quarter of an inch LARGER than the intervals between hooks. A little bit of ease is desirable.
Label each piece of fabric so that you can plan your maze.
On my panels, the number indicates how many 16.5" lengths make up the panel. Adding ".5" means that the panel is just a little bit wider. I do not trim off widths on my panels.
Step 9: If Necessary, Trim the Bottom of a Panel.
If a panel is too long, hang the panel from the hooks and trim it to about an inch from the floor. If it is a little bit too short, the panel can still be used. See hint #1.
Step 10: Using the Planning Grid, Sketch Your First Maze.
Make a list of the panels that you have available. Using that list, sketch out a maze that will work for you.
In my example, I did include one very narrow corridor. But most of the maze is "two joists wide."
Step 11: Start With the Largest Panels.
Here is the planning grid for the first two panels for my maze. My largest panel is a long gray bedspread. It is at the very top of the planning grid. I always start with this panel.
Step 12: Continue Adding Panels.
Here is the photo view of the first two panels.
Step 13: Keep Following the Planning Grid...
Here is the planning grid, including the third panel...
Step 14: By George, You Are a Maze-maker!
And now, a-maze-ing-ly, here's the third panel.
Following this method, continue adding panels.
(NOTE: I am an Instructable newbie. Steps 11-12 and 13-14 would look better combined, but I didn't know how to include two photos in the same step!)
Step 15: When the Maze Is Finished, Decorate It!
When the maze is finished, add decorations.
Be safe! Do not add breakables, sharp or pointed objects, or dangling objects that could hurt a person's eyes.
For a Halloween maze, paper bats, fabric ghosts, string or gauze spider webs and paper pumpkins can be added. Use safety pins to attach the decorations to the panels.
If you have the talent, a large spider web made from string is an excellent addition. I plan to add instructions for the web as my second Instructable.
My grandsons love mazes so much that we make them for all seasons. For Christmas, I use light blue panels and polyester batting for snow. We add battery-powered lights, paper chains, and ornaments.
The maze can also be constructed as a labyrinth. Use the planning grid to make a simple rectangular spiral.
Step 16: HINT #1
If a piece of fabric is too short, sew a channel across the top and thread a piece of lightweight PVC pipe through. Thread parachord through the pipe. Loop each end. Hang from the hooks.
Step 17: Hint #2
If the panel is fairly narrow, but wider than the width of your joists, center the loops so that the panel hangs nicely.
Step 18: Hint #3
Narrow panels may be sewn together. Sometimes, it is nice to leave an opening that is fairly small. These openings are good for props to "peek" through.
Step 19: Hint #4
Use those hooks for other purposes.
During the winter months, when it is too cold for riding outside, my younger grandsons like to ride in the basement. Using PVC pipe, parachord, and the largest lightweight piece of fabric I could find, we make a lovely tunnel.