Friday, October 7, 2011

Kids' bean bag: Tutorial and giveaway


I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few weeks now. Somehow my brain seems to be wired in the pre kids mode (still!) and I can never get things done in the timeframe I assign myself. Sometimes this results in much frustration and late nights, until I remind myself this is just a hobby.
I got asked a little while ago to come up with a tutorial to make a bean bag for kids. Instead of going for the classic tear drop shape I decided to make up a bag that would look more like a seat.
It came out great, Tahi probably spent a week sitting and/or jumping on it. To my relief it’s still in one piece,  you don’t know how evil these little plastic marbles used to fill the bean bag are! It took me three or four goes to get all the beans INSIDE the bag, and I chased little white marbles around my very untidy workshop for a good hour (I am still finding stray white balls here and there). I felt quite drained afterwards. Lucky I had a good seat to have a rest on!
Crash test. Will the beans stay inside?
I have to say this has been the reason I never before ventured into making one of these bags. I don’t believe in using non recyclable material such as plastic and try to minimize the amount of plastic waste we generate around the house. This means reusable fabric shopping bags, homemade food, buying second hand whenever possible. I have been doing this to the extent that if I am shopping and have no fabric bag I will just pile the shopping in the car and put it in a bag when I get home.
I tried to think of other things I could fill the bean bag with, but I was trying to get the prototype done so for once I gave in. If anyone has any good ideas on an eco friendly material that could be used to fill the bag, please leave a comment. Here’s a little list of what I thought of:
-       Beans, rice, coffee beans,…a couple of problems though: too heavy and attract rodents, insects…
-       Fabric scraps. I’ve tried it before, doesn’t work, heavy and stays in shape. Would work for ottoman style pillows though, if very tightly packed
-       Dead leaves (was the wrong time of the year for me!)
-       Styrofoam packaging peanuts. It’s still some kind of plastic, but at least it’s second hand. Would need to find a good supply of it
-       Wool. Lots and packed tight. Problem is it would cost a fortune if buying it, otherwise need to find a good supply
I made a first prototype (the one you can see in the photos with the kids), and then I decided to write a tutorial so I ended up making a second one. Since I have no use for a second bean bag I am offering it to one lucky reader (this does not include the insert, you will have to make that one yourself!). Instructions for entering are at the bottom of this post.

Now, for the tutorial:

You will need:
-       Good quality fabric, upholstery type. I used some thick cotton and woolen blanket scraps.
-       Some corded trim, or bias tape. This will help reinforce the seams
-       A zip, about  55cm long.
-       Some lighter fabric (I used a bedsheet) for the inside bag that will contain the filling.

1- Cut out pieces as per diagram. The bottom panel is not on the picture and should be 70cm long (instead of 75cm).

2- Pin corded trim/ bias tape on the right side of the bottom and top panels, and one of the side panels then sew, about 1cm from the edges.
Make sure the corded trim overlaps at the end (see picture)
overlap trim ends
3- Pin each end of the side panels right sides together, the corded trim should be sandwiched between the two. Sew 1cm to 1 1/2 cm from edge. To make it easy, follow the sewn line you just made keeping slightly on the inside of it. Sew the hem onto one side (see picture)
Sew hem onto one side
4- Fold the bottom panel in half and pin each end to each end of the side panels (the straight side). Starting from a pinned end, pin around one side then the other. This will help getting the sewing even and make the bean bag look straight! Again, the corded trim should be sandwiched in between. Sew as in step 3.
5- Now we can sew the zip on. First fold the zip in half and align the folded edge with the middle back of the side panels. This means your zip will be centered. Pin it to the bean bag, with the zip opening centered on where the bottom and the side panels are sewn together. Make sure you have a zipper foot for your sewing machine, you want to be sewing quite close to the zip opening. Sew the zip on. Make sure both ends of the zip are sewn on strongly, I go over both parts quite a few times.
6- Using an unpicker, unpick where the zip has been sewn on and clean up the loose bits of thread. Now you can open the zip, make sure it is working properly (nothing worse than a zip that gets stuck or is really hard to open and/or close!).
7- Pin the top panel to the other side of the side panels, right sides together and corded trim sandwiched in between. Pin and sew as in step 4.
8- Pull the cover through the open zip to turn it outside in.
9- Repeat the same steps to make the insert if you wish to have one. Make sure you leave a 10cm opening to put the filling in (with the insert inside the bean bag) then sew together once it’s full.

Voila, I hope the instructions are clear enough!

If you would like to enter the giveaway, here are the ways you can enter (each worth one entry):
-       Become a follower
-       Leave a comment
-       Blog about the giveaway

Make sure you leave a comment to let me know how you’ve entered, one comment per entry. Entries close on the 22th of October.


  1. clever!
    oo yum giveaway. already a follower :)

  2. Looks like blogspot is being a bit selective and not allowing followers to leave comments. This entry is for Angela McEntee at Mushroom Lane. If any other of you are having issues leaving comments let me know.

  3. I like it, I like it. Hopefully this comment goes through.