Bean Bag Tutorial

June 16, 2011

First, I just want to say thank you to all of you who reached out, left me comments and sent personal emails about my Grandpa. Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers, words of encouragement, and especially those of you who shared about losses of your own. It’s been overwhelming to see how the life of one man close my heart touched the hearts of so many of you, too. I appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness more than you know!

Now, on to the fun stuff.

2 years ago I participated in a gift exchange with some friends. Our babies were turning 1 and we secretly drew names and surprised the other person with gifts (something we still do today!). I drew a little boy and was stumped about what to get him. His Mom had linked to some bean bags on etsy that she liked, but they were plain and boring to me. “I can make awesome bean bags!” I thought. So with a little creativity and a lot of patience, I made my first set:

My friends went nuts. The next thing I knew, I had orders for nearly 100 bean bags! (I briefly blogged about this last year when I started my blog.)


(my first orders!)

I decided that since my friends liked them so much, I should put them in my etsy store, because maybe others would like them too. And sure enough, instant hit.

Then etsy pulled my listings because Taggies brand has an EXTREMELY vague patent on looped ribbon. I was really angry and put the bean bags on the back burner. But my friends continued to ask for them for shower gifts, birthday gifts, and as toys for their younger or older kids.

I don’t think I could even begin to count the number of bean bags I’ve made. Sadly, out of the hundreds I’ve done, none have been for my own girls! I really need to remedy that…

These little bags have all kinds of great features. My favorite part is that they’re completely customizable. They provide tactile fun from the ribbons, and help kids learn to recognize and spell their names. And, they’re fun! Who doesn’t love a good bean bag?

The loops are big enough they can get their fingers in them, helping develop fine motor skills, but they’re not big enough to get their fingers twisted or stuck.

                          

So I figured since I can’t sell them in my store anymore, I’m sure others would like to know how to make them, too! So here’s the deal. If you PROMISE not to sell them, I’ll tell you how to do it.

Deal? I don’t want Taggies coming after me again!

For each bean bag you need:
2 pieces of fabric 5″ by 5″
a scrap piece of fabric for the applique
36″ of ribbon
filler (I’ll cover filler when I get to it in the tutorial)

Start by cutting your fabric into 5″ squares, two at a time (the back and the front of each bag). I was making the name “Abbey” so I cut five sets of squares.

You’ll need to mark on each bag where your ribbon goes. Start by making a dot in the middle (2.5″).

Then make a dot 1″ on each side from that one. You don’t have to worry about using fabric-safe marking devices because these will be cut off. I usually use a permanent marker so I can see the mark on any print fabric. Repeat on all 4 sides of each bag.

Then trace the name backwards on Heat n Bond Lite, iron to the wrong side of your coordinating fabric, and cut out.

Iron the letters to the middle of each bag. The letters I use are 3″ tall and 3″ wide.

Applique the letters to the front side of each bag. If you need help, see my applique tutorial.

Now attach the ribbons. You need 36″ of ribbon for each bag, cut into 3″ sections. I like to use 6 different styles of ribbon, but you can use 1, or 3 or 12, it’s totally up to you! I cut all of my ribbons for all the bags at once. 30″ of each style (2 ribbons of each print, 3″ of each, times 5 bags).

I personally like to lay the ribbon out before I start sewing. I try to keep any of the same color from being next to each other, and I also like to separate prints (though I had to have polka dots next to each other this time). I try to use ribbon of varying sizes, and I keep the widest ribbon in the middle. I always use them left to right and in the same order on each bag. But all this is just my personal preference!

To sew the ribbon on, choose the piece you want to start with, fold it in half with wrong sides together, and line the edge up with the edge of the bean bag. I always start on the right side of the bean bags.

Place the ribbon on the OUTSIDE of the top dot.

Then stitch over the ribbon several times using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Pick up your second ribbon, fold in half, and CENTER it on the middle dot. Stitch on.

Get your third ribbon, and place it on the OUTSIDE of the bottom dot.

Sew to the bottom of that side, leaving 1/4″ inch at the bottom, put the needle in the down position, and turn your fabric 45 degrees so you’re ready to sew down the next side.

Repeat the ribbon-sewing process on the three remaining sides.

Take the back piece, and put right sides together.

Now we’re going to sew around the perimeter. We need to leave an opening to turn it through, so I start sewing at the TOP of the BOTTOM ribbon.

**Just like with the ribbon, I start on the right side of the bag. There’s no science to it, I just like to do them all exactly the same.

Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, I sew around all 4 sides,

until I get back to the same side I started on. I sew to the BOTTOM of the TOP ribbon. This will leave a hole exactly 2″ big to turn through.

But I like to make sure these are stitched well. So in the same seam, I turn my bag 45 degrees in the opposite direction,

sew over 2 stitches to 1/4″ seam allowance, and sew back around to my starting point.

This gives the bags a double seam to ensure good quality, and it puts 3 seams on the ribbons, making sure they don’t come out.

Since the project has corners, they need to be clipped to prevent bunching when turned the right way. I prefer to just cut the whole thing with pinking shears. Make sure you don’t cut any of your seams! I DO NOT cut the fabric at the opening.

Turn the bag through your opening (it helps to stick 1 finger in the hole, grab one of the loops from the opposite side and pull it through) and push the corners out using a pencil or chopstick. At this point I usually hit them with a hot iron to get rid of any wrinkles that might have cropped up during the sew and turning.

For filler, you can use whatever you want, really. They make pellets for dolls and things now, so if you prefer to go that route you can. I was selling these for a few dollars each, so I needed to keep my costs low. And, after all, they are bean bags! I used to use pinto beans, but The Hubs talked me into split peas later on down the road, and I prefer the smaller peas! Since these are made with real beans, you have to be careful in getting them wet. If you’re afraid of stains or messes, you might want to go with poly pellets instead of beans to prevent any sprouts from growing!

If you have a funnel, this will be easy for you. If you don’t, get a scrap of paper and make it a tube, then place in the hole.

                          

Then fill with 1/2 cup of beans (or pellets).

You don’t want the bag more than about 2/3rds full, so 1/2 cup should be all you need.

Then sew the hole closed. I use fabric that matches the bag to prevent it from being too noticeable. If I don’t have matching, I’ll use coordinating. I sew from the top of the top ribbon to the bottom of the bottom ribbon to make sure there’s no little gaps.

And that’s it! They’re quick and easy and oh-so adorable!

Now go an make a million. But remember, please don’t sell them!

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62 Responses to “Bean Bag Tutorial”

  1. Robyn said:

    Cant believe the Taggies patent. I have made taggies blankets for my kids and some of my friends, we call them cuddlies and they love them. I also made little bean bags for all the kids in my class when I was teaching. I never thought of putting both ideas together like this. Might just be a christmas present for my newborn niece this year.

  2. Marie Gross said:

    So awesome, Melissa! I feel proud to have known you back in high school when you were making us little purses. Now look at you! Sharing and giving to the whole world now. I adore you!

  3. Michelle said:

    I linked in to your site through somewhere else and just wanted to tell you how much I’ve loved reading here! I’ve been gearing up do do some more sewing and your site is inspirational! I’ve bookmarked you and look forward to coming back to see what else you post! Thank you :)
    (and congratulations on your pregnancy!)

  4. Jen said:

    Love these! I have made bean bags for presents but the tags are way cuter! I also had stuff on etsy that were pulled for having the tags- so frustrating! I will have to make some of these for my sons. I also make things for everyone except my sons. We are like the same person!! haha!

  5. HollowSquirrel said:

    oooh thanks! These are PERFECT baby gifts — I appreciate you giving us the pattern (and yes, I promise not to sell)…but I know how it is when your friends want what ya make! :) can’t wait to try! THANKS again!!

  6. Suzan said:

    Hi Melissa,
    Love your bean bags.
    I also had things removed by Etsy (via Taggie) . I was very confused because many shops had Taggie things and I e -mailed the Taggie owner and after many conversations and unclear answers, she finally told me more than one loop is what caused my items to be removed. I cut all my loops and heat sealed the edges. Now I have my items back in my shop. I also put in my description,
    “and no loops for babies fingers to get caught in!”

  7. Jessie said:

    Hi! I recently found you thanks to a friend from church! I LOVE these! I just went out on my lunch break from work to buy some stuff to make them for my 8 mth old daughter :) But I was wondering, do you think filling them with rice would work too? I’m just wondering if rice would stand up to all the baby slobber I’m sure will cover them :) Thanks!

  8. Melissa said:

    Hi Jessie!

    While yes, I think rice would work, I’m not sure how “uncooked” it will stay if you think she’ll put them in her mouth. You might want to try the doll pellets in place of the rice. I’ve seen them at stores like Walmart, so even if you don’t have a big box craft store readily available, you should be able to find them someplace like that.

    Good luck!!

  9. Barbara said:

    I really LOVE the font you have for the Abbey bean bags. I have been looking at all kinds of fonts but can’t seem to find anything similar. Can you tell me what font that is? It also looks similar to the font you used for the name “meredith” on a shirt you made. Is that the same font? If not, can you tell me the name of that one as well. Thanks so much. I just love your posts. I can’t wait to try some of the things you have tutorials for. Thanks so much.

  10. Melissa said:

    Hi Barbara!
    The font is called “Cheri” and I got it from dafont.com. http://www.dafont.com/cheri.font I get 95% of my downloaded fonts from that site so I know it’s perfectly safe to use. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

  11. melissa said:

    i love this! i am going to make an entire alphabet for my daughters. thank you so much!

  12. Julianna said:

    I made these as a fun gift and wow are they great!!!!!! Thanks for the tutorial.

  13. Lesley said:

    Thank you for this great tutorial. I made some for my 10 month old and she loves them. With only three letters in her name, they’re the perfect toy to pop in my bag when we go out somewhere.

  14. Making things: bean bags | Restless Sabbath said:

    […] handmade lace from some old family pillowcases. The little ribbon tags were a cute addition I saw here. [Interestingly, I just read on to discover that this girl was not allowed to sell bean bags with […]

  15. Margie said:

    I made these as a gift for my 1 year old nephew. This was a great idea! I needed something very affordable that I could make and this was perfect. Thank you soo much for the tutorial and the idea!

  16. Beautiful bean bags | Craftstorming said:

    […] genious behind it and all her lovely ideas and projects. It was here i found her tutorial for Bean bags and decided to give them a […]

  17. Jenn said:

    I made these for a baby shower the other weekend and they were a total hit, everyone was talking about them the time.

    Thanks for such a great idea!!!

  18. Molly said:

    I am just starting to sew, and I’m so happy I found your blog. These are ADORABLE! I just had a baby girl, so I want to try to make a set of these for her. They are precious. Thanks for the great tips!

  19. Ashleigh R. said:

    Have you ever considered using small loops of material instead of ribbon? You should be able to sell them on Etsy without crossing Taggie’s patent. And I just love all these ideas you have! I think my nephew will love playing with these, maybe even my niece! I have a project now, haha.

  20. Ale said:

    Wow! I can’t wait to make some for my little girl! I’m only wondering if the plastic pellets are a good idea? With all that BPA and stuff… how about using PUL fabric? that way whatever you put inside won’t get soggy with baby’s need to put everything in her mouth?

  21. Personalized “Taggie” Bean Bags | . . a barefoot bride . . said:

    […] can find the tutorial here. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", […]

  22. 9+ Homemade Stocking Stuffer Ideas | Little House in Michigan said:

    […] This Bean Bag tutorial couldn’t be easier. My boys love bean bags, aside from the traditional bean bag toss game they have been food, pack supplies, this is one of my favorite open ended toys.  And if you have an itty bitty http://sewlikemymom.com/ has a great tutorial on these unbelievably cute Taggy Bean Bags […]

  23. Lynette said:

    Those are absolutely adorable! I am pinning this idea for later!

  24. Corinne said:

    So I know this is a little late, but just thinking you could clip the looped ends; babies love tags looped or not, and singe or fraycheck the ends, and then try selling them. I honestly don’t know how anybody could patent looped ribbon, but anyway, I love your idea!

  25. Ashley said:

    I can’t wait to try this!! Your tutorial is so clear – thank you :)

  26. Making things: bean bags | Delight-Filled Leaves Art Studio said:

    […] handmade lace from some old family pillowcases. The little ribbon tags were a cute addition I saw here. [Interestingly, I just read on to discover that this girl was not allowed to sell bean bags with […]

  27. Barbara said:

    Wonderful tutorial! Just wondering how ETSY flagged your listing for these as there are HUNDREDS of listing for TAGGIE items.. hummm… anyways.. just wanted to give a little tidbit.. if you bake the beans of peas at a low temp for about half and hour.. they will not be able to Sprout or grown anything weired .. also if you toss in some LAVENDAR to the bean bags it makes for a wonderful smelling treat! YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL BLOG that I thuroughly enjoy!

  28. Laurie Gosh said:

    I am in love with your tutorials, they are so clear and easy to understand. Your sewing is beautiful. I am going to make these beanbags for my grandchildren. They will have a lot of fun with these, I’m sure. Thank you.

  29. Kristi Barr said:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for your fantastic tutorials. I’m just starting out with sewing and your tutorial for washcloth bibs was the very first thing I sewed (and my nephew – and grateful sister – were the recipients at Christmas). I JUST finished a set of these beanbags for his 1st birthday in May and they turned out great. Your instructions are so clear, great pictures that really help illustrate what’s going on, and your writing style is so friendly that I felt like I had a friend looking over my shoulder as I created these. Thanks so much!

  30. Elita said:

    Hiya! Thanks for such a great tute on a really cute idea! I have a number of friends having babies and these will make super nice, different, gifts. I also want to say that I find it reprehensible that the US patent office approved such an application. A patent on LOOPS? Give me a break. REAL, original ideas, like ZIPPERS, I can see. But loops of ribbon? As many have said, loops on blankets have been around for years. This is an attempt to blur a very fine line between fashion and function and call it original. Design doesn’t have a patent. We all have brains. The only thing I think Taggies should be able to do is use the name. Taggies hasn’t recreated the wheel. Only introduced it to an overworked legal system. They’ll not be getting my business. I’ll make my own gifts thank you.

  31. Karen said:

    Hi. I have only just heard about the TAggie patent thing thanks for sharing. I am in Australia and make the tag blankets and sell on Facebook and Etsy I haven’t been caught out yet but looks like I will have to clip my loops and heat seal the ends. Anyway to get to my point I have seen Taggy blankets for sale in my local Target store with the loops so I have just emailed the manufacturer Playgro to ask if they know about the patent and if so how have they managed to get around it and continue to produce and sell looped ribbon blankets. It’s worth asking a bigger company as they may just have the know how and advice. :)

  32. Molly said:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am new to sewing so this seems like a great beginning project. Your instructions and photos are excellent!

  33. Annie said:

    Hi,
    First of all, I love your site. Your pictures and information are the best I had seen. I had already started making bean bags for a friend’s baby girl and I stumbled on your site while looking for something to fill with them. I was wondering what are the odds of the beans sprouting? Im sure they will only be getting wet through drool. Or should I just use the pellets. Thanks.

  34. Emily said:

    Any suggestions for where to find letters to print and trace?

  35. Melissa said:

    Hi Emily! Farther up in the comments is a link to the site I used to download the font. It’s called Cheri and comes from dafont.com. You can also click on the applique tutorial link in the tutorial for the bean bags and it’ll give you more info on how to do them.

  36. Emily said:

    Thank you for the font site!

  37. Anna said:

    Hi

    I think your bean bags are fabulous and would love to make them but being very new to sewing, please could you tell me what fabric you used to make them out of. I saw some pretty cotton but I am not sure if that will be strong enough? Thanks again for such wonderful tutorials.

  38. Melissa said:

    Hi Anna! Yes, they are made from cotton. Haven’t had any complaints about it not being strong enough yet. If you’re concerned, you could use some lightweight interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric to give it more strength. But I honestly think it would be more work than is necessary.

  39. Bean Bags | Simeon the Whale said:

    […] personal that supports her development.  After some google searches, I decided to use this awesome tutorial to make tactile baby bean bags. Thank you to the blog Sew Like My […]

  40. carolsue said:

    Thank you for your tutorial! Made these for my grandson and posted pictures and your URL to my blog. Thanks again!

  41. DIY Tutorials - How to Make a Weighted Vest | Quality Poly Pellets said:

    […] Sew Like My Mom has a great idea on how to make the weights to put in the pockets; you can custom make each of the bean bags to fit the pockets. If you choose the right fabrics, you will also be making pockets full of tactile toys. […]

  42. Stephanie said:

    Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! We needed bean bags for our church and these instructions are so detailed and clear. A bunch of the moms are working together to make them for the kids. I hope to make a set for my infant son as well and love your design.

    Thank you again!

  43. Carly said:

    Thank you for the clear instructions! This is going to be my very fisrt sewing project :)

  44. Rebekah said:

    These are super cute and can’t wait to make some. Last night I saw your tutorials on these bean bags plus the baby blocks and attempted to integrate them. I used your bean bag and ribbon template but stuffed the bean bag with pollyfil and the ‘rattle” of one of my son’s old rattles. Turned out very cute. Can’t wait to give it as a gift.
    I plan to make the baby blocks next – might add rattle to those too!
    Thank you so much!

  45. SalH said:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE these! I was just trying to work out what to fill the bean bags I am about to make with, and googling for ideas. Yours came up.

    I think the taggies thing is ridiculous, they don’t own ribbon do they??!!! I think Etsy are just being over cautious but I just love what you made. May be changing my mind about what i am about to make too!!! Think I may put some ribbon on them.

    BTW you helped me make up my mind with the washable comment. I have used dried blue peas before, but yes there’s no way they can get wet. I think I am going to go for a 100% washable version this time, seeing as it will give the bean bags a longer lease of life for young kids!

    Thanks again, hadn’t thought of applique initials too. They are the main present in the party bags I am making for my daughter’s birthday on the weekend. :)

  46. Gym Coach said:

    Hi,
    Just wondering what you mean by using the same colour fabric or co-ordinating fabric to sew the hole closed? Do you make a patch of material to cover the hole? Thanks

  47. Melissa said:

    Wow, nice catch! I’m so sorry, that should read THREAD, not fabric! I use matching or coordinating thread to sew the hole closed. So sorry about the confusion!

  48. Tre said:

    Hello Melissa these look awesome! I have a question though. You said that you did not want us to sell them and I was wondering if you would make an exception. My husband, myself and 3 toddlers are missionaries in Cape Town, SA. We are supported by our church and some individuals from the States. Since we are on a volunteer visa it is illegal for us to have a job here. As missionaries though my husband is a pastor, street preaches, is apart of a church plant, etc. I do the ministry’s admin, home school and do odd crafts that I try to sale to bring in a little extra. God does provide each month , but I was wondering if you would mind if I tried to make these on the side and sale them here in Cape Town only. If not that’s just fine, I will just make them for my kids – because they are just awesome. Thank you!

  49. Melissa said:

    Please, sell away! I just don’t want anyone to put them in an online store and have Taggies come after them for copyright infringement. If they hunt you down on the streets of Cape Town, they have bigger issues! :) I hope you’re able to sell enough to do something fun, I know 3 toddlers will keep you on your toes! Good luck!

  50. Barb Eyre said:

    Thank you for this wonderful site!!! I am making Halloween ones for great nieces and nephews. Loved that you let the children in South Africa have them per homemade sewing-good for you!

  51. Emily said:

    Thank you so much for posting this awesome tut;)!! Great Job even my left handed add mind picked right up on how to make them. I’m last min. making for my sons school festival for tomorrow. I better get busy;)! I have 20lbs of beans and yds of fabric. Thanks to your tut it will be a snap;)!! Thank you again;)!!!

  52. Norine said:

    Just wanted to let you know. I came across your tutorial while searching for weighted vests for my autistic son. Your pattern came in very handy. I chose my fabrics in different textures, and even used iron-on vinyl on one of them for another texture. I also chose the ribbons for the different textures, for more tactile “therapy”. I even put the letters of his name on them as you suggested. I then had to measure out the “beans” for the beanbags because they had to equal a specific weight to be added to the vest. Once pockets were added to his vest, the beanbags fit in perfectly. They are the perfect addition to his “therapy”, as they serve a dual purpose. Thank you so much for posting this. I AM going to speak with an attorney however. I have been asked by other parents of special needs children, about making some for them. They want to pay me for them, and I believe as long as I don’t “sell” them, it is ok. However, I believe I can ask for reimbursement for time and supplies. :) Just thought I’d mention that to you.

  53. Ellaine Miller said:

    Just curious as to why these cannot be made for sale by others. Do you have a patent for these items? I am new to all of this and was just wondering.

  54. Melissa said:

    No Ellaine, I don’t have a patent. Taggies does. I talk about it in deeper detail throughout the beginning of the post.

  55. WeAllSew « http://weallsew.com said:

    […] Make some cute baby bean bag taggies with Sew Like My Mom. […]

  56. Mitzi said:

    I have come up something better than a funnel for quick, spill-free filling. Take an (empty!) 16 oz plastic Dr. Pepper bottle, cut off the top just above the label with a pair of sturdy scissors or snips. Place the neck of the now cut-off bottle into the opening in the seam of the bean bag, fill it with pellets or peas and jiggle the contents out into the bean bag. Voila!

  57. Lisa said:

    Oooo I have always loved these and were given a couple made by a friend for my boys when they were small. Thhanks for the great tutorial, I will def be making some for my friends now as they are all having babies! :)

  58. pat cooper said:

    Great tutorial, so sorry you had a run in with taggies – I knew they could protect their name but putting ribbon on a toy, come on guys! Going after the little guy. Thanks forposting – I plan to make some as baby gifts but I am going to try that crinkle filler stuff and see how it works. no weight but could be fun.

  59. Amy F said:

    I just made 14 of these in two days! (Two sets, both kids have 7 letter names.) Thank you for such an easy to follow tutorial! I can’t wait to make these over and over again. I’m giving these sets away on Saturday and can’t wait to see my sister’s reaction!

  60. Yes I did: 18 hours to a baby shower | sheri•ann•cheng said:

    […] I make what I want if I’m not selling it?  I will thumb my nose at that, here’s a pattern for a great tag toy for babies from Sew Like My Mom, and here’s a picture of one that I made for my […]

  61. hopefulmom said:

    How do you make these washable?

  62. Melissa said:

    By using poly beads for filler instead of real beans.

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