I was super-psyched when I received an email from a Girl Scout Troop leader, inquiring about the beanbags with removable covers
that I had made for my nephew for his birthday. She was interested in making them as a project for her Troop to donate to shelters, and asked if I would be willing to send some instructions. So I took some photos and wrote up some instructions, and decided to post the tutorial!
You can download a PDF of this tutorial from my website.
Step 1: Materials & supplies
You can get the supplies for these beanbags at your local craft store, except probably the “organic” fillers (beans/rice/lentils) but you can buy those in bulk an a grocery store. You can also buy the plastic pellets in bulk online if you plan to make a lot of these. Quilter’s cotton fabric quarters and fat quarters work great for these, or if you can find some cotton prints in the remnant bin at the fabric store. This is also a great way to use up those small scraps!
* unbleached muslin, or any other inexpensive or scrap fabric
* pattern or solid color fabric for the removable cover
* contrasting/matching/accenting fabric for backside of cover (optional)
* wide satin/general crafting ribbon (optional)
* iron-on or sew-on hook-&-loop [Velcro] (optional)
* filler material: lentils, navy beans, rice, or plastic pellets
* 1/4 cup dry measuring cup
* funnel large enough for filler to flow through
* sewing machine, plus needle for hand sewing
* ruler, marking utensil and scissors [or] measuring/cutting mat and rotary cutter
Cut 2 pieces of muslin into 5″ x 5″ squares. If the fabric you’re using is fairly thin, you may want to double-up, cutting 4 pieces. Sew the muslin pieces together using 1/4" seam allowances, and leaving a 1"-2" opening along one edge. I usually go around twice to reinforce the stitching.
Turn muslin sack right-side out, gently pushing out corners with a knitting needle, chopstick, pen or something else pointy. Put funnel into muslin sack opening, measure out and pour in filler. Only use about 3/4 cup filler, or you won’t be able to fit the sack into the cover!
Sew opening closed, either by machine or hand, which ever you’re more comfortable with.
Cut a top/main cover piece into a 5″ x 5″ square, and cut two (2) 5″ x 6″ pieces for the back of the cover (to form the envelope closure). Fold the 2 back pieces in half and iron for a sharp-hold crease.
For a hook&loop closure, follow steps 4-5; if you’re not using hook&loop, skip to step 6.
Step 4: Hook & Loop
I've used black and white thread in the photos so it would be easier to see the example, but it doesn't really matter what color you use (kids don't mind!)
Cut a 3" piece of hook&loop (with both fuzzy and stiff sides) - I used 3/4" white. Position the 2 back closure pieces on the 5x5 top/front piece so they make a 5x5 square.
Position the stiff hook&loop piece in the center of where the closure overlaps and pin into place on one of the closure pieces, and do the same for the fuzzy piece/other side.
Affix the hook&loop to the fabric; follow package instructions for iron-on, or sew into place. I prefer the sew-on type; if using iron-on, reinforcing the ends with hand-stitching would be a good idea for a heavy use item like this. If hook&loop sides don't line up exactly, that's fine, as long as they catch to keep the back closed.
If sewing, you can zigzag a straight stitch back and forth over the hook&loop, reinforcing the ends; or use a zigzag stitch all around the outer edge.
Be sure to start and end on the side of the fabric AWAY from the crease (the open end) so you can easily hide the knot when finished (see photos).
With the 5x5 top/front piece print-side facing up, place the 2 back closure pieces into position, lining them up with the edges so you have a 5x5 square. (if you've used hook&loop, stick the pieces together for this part) - PIN INTO PLACE
NOTE: If you would like ribbon tabs on your beanbags: cut a 2.5" length of wide ribbon, fold in half, iron crease, and sandwich between fabric layers with crease inward (see diagram).
Sew completely around the edge using a 1/4" seam allowance; I usually go around twice for reinforcement. Be sure to backstitch at the four points of the closure where there will be stress on the cover during removal.
Turn the cover right-side out and push out corners with fingers or gently push out with a knitting needle, chopstick, pen or something else pointy.
Insert the filled muslin sack into the cover. It's kind of tricky... Stuff it as far as you can into one side, lining up the corners as best as possible. Then flip the other side over and line up the other corners and you have a completed beanbag!
Step 8: Care & Washing
Washing the Removable Cover:
Remove cover, close Velcro together (if applicable) and machine wash cover with a load of laundry of like colors (cold); tumble dry low. DO NOT WASH BEAN SACK (see below for care)
Drying a Wet Bean Bag:
The best way to dry a bean bag that has gotten slightly wet or moist is to remove the cover and set the bean bag in direct sunlight (warm, dry air) for 30-60 minutes. You could also microwave the bean bag (without cover) for 20-30 seconds on high. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN REMOVING BEAN BAG FROM MICROWAVE as it will be HOT; it’s best to let it rest for a minute before touching. If sack contains plastic pellets, DO NOT MICROWAVE!
What to do if bean bag has been soaked through:
If the sack contains plastic pellets, a thorough drying will work fine (see Drying a Wet Bean Bag). If the sack contains organic filler (lentils, navy beans, rice) it is best to completely replace the contents to avoid rotting and/or mold/mildew. Remove the cover, carefully cut the sack’s stitching approx. 1″ in the center of one side. Dump out and dispose of the contents. Throw the empty muslin sack in the dryer with a dry towel and tumble dry thoroughly. Refer to step #4 for refilling guide and measurements. Hand stitch the hole closed and put cover back on, and it’s ready to use!
Step 9: First Aid Use
Organic filler only; DO NOT MICROWAVE PLASTIC PELLETS!
Microwave the bean bag (without cover) for 20-30 seconds on high; replace cover and use as hot compress. BE VERY CAREFUL! Always test the temperature of the bean bag before placing it against the skin. Microwave times may vary, so test to see what works best for you. Hot compresses are great for relieving ear infection pains.
Freeze the beanbag (without cover) for at least 1 hour, or keep in the freezer until needed; replace cover and use as cold pack for bumps and bruises.
Be sure to monitor the “freshness” of your beanbag if using this method, as freezing and thawing can cause moisture buildup. (see step 7 for What to do if bean bag has been soaked through for content replacement instructions).