Thursday 12 September 2013

Kids' Bean Bag With Pockets Tutorial

Bean bags aren't cheap to buy, but they are easy to make.  If you have old curtains or sheets that need a new life, a bean bag is a worthwhile project to make use of them.  It's a pretty straight forward, though somewhat dull construction process.  There are lots of long, straight seams, and metres of material to manage, but it's not much effort to add details that break the making monotony.
Made from a curtain
Now I don't usually do things on a whim.  I'm what one would call "pretty boring".  Spontaneous isn't my style.  So I'm still scratching my head about how I managed to have a bag of polystyrene beans mere hours after deciding that Zaika was in need of a bean bag.

Even a hoarder like me didn't have the filling taking up some valueless underbed space. We had to pay for the beans.  With money.  Crap.  My extensive experience as a reluctant, nocturnal bean bag assessor in my student days told me that the super-static, ever spilling styro-beans were by far superior to any other forms of filling, such as foam, soft toys and styro-packaging.
Styro beans
There was no way my frugal brain would let me buy fabric in addition to the beans.  That would make the project more expensive than buying the beanbag itself.  No worries, I have piles of material.  I needed fabric that was large enough and strong enough for the project.  I turned to my Ugghhh box.  It's the stash of pretty unappealing fabrics that I  keep just in case they will come in handy for prototyping, etc.  The Ugghhh box is full of ugly fabric ducklings.  I figured that the bean bag was a good opportunity to use up some of my crap fabric.

It didn't take long to find what I was looking for: old curtains.  The textile was the epitome of boring.  Myth Busters proved that you can, indeed, polish a turd, so I decided to test my turd polishing skills with this skull numbingly dull fabric. Still, at least you can add to dull.  You can't take away from garish.  It's like ignorance vs stupidity: one is fixable.
Outer curtain fabric in some non-descript grey hue and a brown stretch canvas liner fabric

Project supplies:
  • about 2.5m of strong, breathable liner fabric (like a bed sheet)
  • about 2.5m of strong, breathable, easy to wash outer fabric (like an old curtain)
  • 35-40l of filler beans
  • strong thread
  • 2 x 46cm locking zips (they can only be pulled open when the zip tab is lifted up).  Alternatively you can remove the tabs with pliers, permanently and use a paper clip to open the zip whenever you need to remove the cover for washing
  • Velcro or domes for the zip flap
  • paper, ruler and pencil for drawing the pattern
I found a free pattern here and chuckled at the 90's style instructional photography.  The tutorial is pretty passable, but I made a few adjustments that are worthy of note.

Firstly I added a couple of Grimly adorned side pockets.  Ok, they aren't terrifically useful, but they do take the attention away from the fabric.  In the case of this bean bag, less was never going to be more.  To make pockets, you need to attach them to the panels before joining the panels together.  For the pocket pattern, I cut/folded the panel pattern in half, which gave me perfectly matching seams.
Two panels with pockets sewn on before assembly of the panels.
A more important adjustment was creating a secure zip closure.  If you're making a bean bag for a little person, it's really not a good idea to let the styro beans spill everywhere.  It's essential to make sure that sneaky little hands can't get into the beans.  Locking zips (or tabless zips) help, but I opted for an additional security flap on the outer bag.  An integrated flap is the easiest option, as well as the most refined one.  However, I didn't get fed the idea until the zip was already sewn in, so I attached a separately sewn flap.

1. Cut a strip of fabric 10cm wide x 46 cm long.  Fold in half lenghtwise and press flat.  Sew over one of the zip seams with the raw edges facing the zip.

2.  Fold the flap over the zip and press

3. Top stitch over the fold.  The stitching should be overlapping or be close to the zip seam.

 4. Sew on Velcro or add domes to the flap.

This was the reason for making the bag
The bag was milk-stained within a week
The pocket is superficially useful after all
Additional construction and design notes:
  • Don't skip the top stitching on any of the seams.  The seams will be much weaker without it.
  • Press all the seams for the same reason.  This was boring even for me.
  • You will have to occasionally remove the cover for washing.   I would imagine that attempts at getting the bean-filled liner back inside the cover will make you swear profusely.  If I were to make a bean bag of this style again, I would either include a longer zip in one of the side seams or sew the zip around the bottom circle panel and make that panel zip off completely.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very impressive home made Kids Beanbags and I love it. Keep doing great to your readers.

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