Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tutorial: Numbered Bean Bags

I'm popping my tutorial cherry today. :)

I was inspired by this post at Lil Blue Boo (Ashley's site is one of my faves to visit...she's incredibly talented). She made a set of bean bags that spell out her daughter's name. So cute!

So being inspired, I decided to make alphabet bean bags for my 2 year old. 5 minutes into the project, I decided the alphabet was going to be too much work. I wanted something that would only take me a couple of hours. A nap time project! At this point, I went from 26 beans bags to 10. The nap time guesstimate didn't work out, though. All together, including taking tutorial pics, it took me about 5 hours. It could have taken about 3, but you'll see where I used some optional steps.

For me, one of the best things about this project is that I only had to buy beans. All of my material was scrap.

You will need the following materials:

  • enough fabric for 20 squares
  • enough fabric for your numbers (you won't need much of this)
  • Wonder Under
  • typical sewing accoutrements (pins, scissors, thread, etc)

I cut my squares 6" x 6", but you can go as big or small as you like, depending on what you have available. So here's how I did mine. Hope the directions are easy to follow!

I started by printing off the numbers 0-9. I used a text box in Microsoft Word so that I could easily size the letters based on the size of my squares. I used Calibri font in bold and made my letters 3" high by 2" wide.

Next, I traced my letters onto some Wonder Under using a ball point pen (per their instructions). There are a couple of ways you can use Wonder Under. I didn't want to have to cut my numbers more than once, so I used the trace method. I traced my numbers onto the BUMPY side of the Wonder Under.

One you get all of the numbers traced, iron them, bumpy side of the Wonder Under facing down. Yes, you are now looking at the mirror image of your numbers.

Now you'll cut out your numbers. This is time consuming. If you are going to satin stitch these onto your bean bags, being precise isn't necessary, but if you're not planning to do that, then get it as close as you can. I tried very hard to cut just inside my pen line because I didn't know if the ink would have bled through to the white fabric (FYI, it did!). Here are the numbers all cut out!

Next, I cut my bags out of some polka dot fabric. I made my squares 6" x 6", but like I said above, you can make them any size (or better yet, any shape!) you want. For the numbers we are doing (0-9), you'll need to cut out two pieces for each bean bag. You'll wind up with 20 squares (it only looks like 10 in my photo, but the other matching color square is underneath). My fabrics didn't have a precise pattern to them, so I actually cut 4 layers of fabric at one time (this will go quickly if you have a sharp blade on your rotary cutter).

Before we get to sewing, there is one quick step remaining. We now need to iron the cut out numbers onto the fabric squares. At first, I had a hard time pulling the paper back of the numbers, but if you gently fold it (don't crease the fabric) in your fingers, it will pull apart and come off easily.

The Wonder Under directions say you're supposed to iron these on with a pressing cloth. Oops! :)

This particular step is totally optional. I chose to sew around the edges of the numbers because I know how hard my kids are on toys. They are not gentle giants. :) If you're going to sew around the edges, I have no tips for you. Just...good luck. It took me over an hour to sew around 10 numbers. If I had it to do over again, I MIGHT do it by hand with long running stitches or I might just use stencils and fabric paint and paint numbers on.

Once your numbers are on the fabric (whether you sew around them or not), it's time to start putting them together. Place right sides together, add a couple of pins, and sew around all four sides, leaving a 2-3" opening on one side. Trim your corners.

Next, turn your fabric right side out and poke out your corners so they are nice and square. I'm an advocate of ironing, so iron your right-side-out bags so the edges look pretty and crisp. :)

Now it's time to fill your bags with some sort of filler. I used 3/4 cup of pinto beans (you may want a little more or a little less), but you can use any type of bean, rice or the little balls that bean bags are normally filled with. The hole in the side of your bag is difficult to put beans through (unless you want to spend HOURS doing it one by one). I attempted to use my kitchen funnel, but the opening wasn't large enough for even one bean to go through. So I improvised...I tore off a small bit of a piece of paper and quickly taped together a funnel shape. Stick the funnel inside the hole and pour small handfulls of your beans in. My 10-year old helped with this part. He was very intent on not spilling the beans. :) You can barely see the funnel in this pic.

After you have filled all of your bags, top stitch all the way around, making sure the catch the edges of your opening on each bag. As you are sewing, you'll have to putz with the beans a bit to keep them out of the way. Believe me when I tell you that if your needle hits a bean, it's toast.

Ta da! All done! Commence playing. :)

On this blog, I do plan to show my imperfections, so here's today's insight: this could have taken WAY less time than I put into it. :) There were a couple of places where I could have saved a lot of time.

  • The first one I have already mentioned. It is not necessary to sew around all of the numbers. You could iron them on and leave as-is or you can use a stencil and use fabric paint (as Ashley did in my inspiration post...that would also save the time of cutting out the Wonder Under-ed numbers).
  • The second place to save a little time is to not sew them together inside out. It would be perfectly reasonable to sew the wrong sides together (using a 5/8" seam and leaving a small opening), use the opening to fill the bag with beans, closing the opening, then pinking the edges of the squares. I may actually do an alphabet using this method.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to have at it in the Comments section! :)

1 comment:

  1. Great tutorial! The bean bags are so cute - I may have to give them a try.