Introduction: Bean Bag Sofa / Bed

About: Dan Goldwater is a co-founder of Instructables. Currently he operates MonkeyLectric where he develops revolutionary bike lighting products.

i started out thinking about building a beanbag, but being the prototypically exuberant man's man that i am i thought: 'i am going to go huge! why make a beanbag just like everyone else? i'll make the biggest, baddest beanbag evah!!!'

Well in the end i did make the biggest baddest beanbag evah, but i think any practical assessment would say that it is too large to be convenient (eg: hard to get through doorways and tends to fill all available floor area in room). But I learned enough through this effort that I can advise you, dear reader, how to build a most useful and practical beanbag sofa should you want to do so.

summary: looking for that plush bean-bag chair comfort, but in a sofa size? bean-bags are easy and inexpensive to make (as furniture goes). the bean-bag sofa can be easily formed into a form-ftting bed as well.

This project is brought to you by MonkeyLectric and the Monkey Light bike light

Step 1: Materials & Tools

you'll need the following:

- bean bag beans (see next steps)
- spool of sturdy cloth (see next steps)
- about 3 feet of velcro
- a sewing machine
- a 4-6 inch diameter cardboard tube about 2-3 feet long
- optional: a shop-vac

Step 2: Choose Your Sofa Size

the size of your sofa determines how much cloth you need. where a standard beanbag-chair is a sphere (ball), the beanbag-sofa is a cylinder shape (tube with end caps). there are several possible sizes of sofa you can make, with convenient names:

sofa model        diameter       length
pea              3 feet           3 feet    (standard beanbag chair)
garden slug      3 feet           8 feet    (recommended)
banana slug      4 feet          10 feet    (bad! diameter is too big!)
centipede        3 feet          30 feet    (around-the-room sofa)
earthworm        1.5 feet         8 feet    (back rest only)
millipede        3 feet        1000 feet    (block party sofa)

it turns out there is also a jellyfish sofa, the jellyfish is what you get when you don't have enough beans in the bag to keep its shape and it just squooshes out all over the floor. the problem with the banana slug that i built - and the reason i don't recommend it - is that when it is filled enough to not be a jellyfish, it no longer will fit through a doorway. and it is just way too huge for a normal room, it tends to envelop everything else in the room. months later you'll discover your little dog toto buried in the folds of the jellyfish.

oh yes, so your spool of cloth must be as wide as the diameter of the sofa. for the recommended "garden slug" sofa you'll need a spool 3 feet wide and 32 feet long. use something sturdy! i made mine out of corduroy. there's a good selection of fabrics for $4-8 per yard at my local fabric store.

Step 3: What About the Beans!

you'll want to fill the beanbag at least 80% full of beans. a normal beanbag chair is not this full, but the sofa will not hold its shape unless it is nearly full. for the earthworm type used as a backrest, you may want to pack it 100%. calculate the volume of the sofa (a cylinder): pi * radius * radius * length. so the garden slug is 56 cubic feet (3.14 * 1.5 * 1.5 * 8). beanbag beans are sold by the cubic foot, so you'll need about 50 cubic feet of them.

where to get the beans! you will need a lot of beans, so the best thing is to find a local styrofoam (EPS) products manufacturer. try the website to find a list of EPS manufacturers around the country. getting the beans will be a fun excursion unto itself, as you can see below. the technical term for what you want is "expanded polystyrene beads" or "EPS beads" for short. usually they will have both new beans ("virgin beads"), and used beans ("regrind"). virgin costs about 10x as much as regrind, usually more than you'll want to spend on some lunatic project you read about on Instructables. my local foam mfr (Bay Foam in Hayward CA) sells 35 cubic foot bags of regrind for $10 each. they had a huge mountain of them behind their factory! the fancy places online that sell beanbags will tell you that virgin beads have a better feel in the beanbag, but my sofa seems perfectly nice with the regrind. remember: regrind = recycling!

how to find a styrofoam products maker! they do not seem to like to list themselves under "foam" in the phone book, that seems to be reserved for the lowly urethane-foam folks only! instead you'll want to look under "packaging & shipping materials" or whatever else they might be making out of styrofoam, such as architectural trim.

no airbag needed! on your drive back from the foam factory you'll be about as safe as you've ever been in your motor vehicle. now is the time to enter a demolition derby! it took some effort, but i was able to wedge about 120 cubic feet of beans into my minivan after i took most of the seats out.

Step 4: The Plans

we're making a basic cylinder out of cloth. of course i made the banana slug model (i would have gone bigger, but i had not heard of the centipede or millipede until after i finished!):

- cut two circles of fabric 3 feet in diameter - these will be the ends of the cylinder

- cut three rectangles 3 feet wide and as long as you want the sofa (8 or 10 feet long). these three will form the tube of the cylinder

- cut a 2 foot square, this will cover the fill-hole

Step 5: Make the Double-sealed Filling Hole

whether you are making a slug or a centipede, surely nothing can be more important than a HUGE GAPING MAW TO SWALLOW UP YOUR CHILLUN AND NEVER LET THEM OUT AGAIN!

the filling hole is how you will get the beans into the sofa. i made a double-seal to ensure that no beans can escape by accident! the double-seal also reinforces the velcro closures so that you'll be able to jump all over the sofa with no fear of it opening up. this banana slug is salt proof!

- cut a 1 foot slit in one of the 3x8 fabric rectangles, about 1 foot from one end of it. put velcro on each side of the slit so that you can close it up. this is the outer seal.

- sew the 2 foot fabric rectangle onto the 3x8 piece so the middle of it covers over the 1 foot slit. sew it only on 3 edges, on the 4th edge attach velcro. this is the inner seal. of course, do this on the "inside" side of the 3x8 fabric.

Step 6: Sew the Sofa!

- sew the three big 3x8 rectangles together along their long edges. ie: make a 8 foot long x 9 foot wide sheet, then fold the sheet in half and sew its 8' edges to make a tube (do it inside-out). when you are done you'll have a 8 foot long tube with open ends.

- go over all seams twice for strength.

- keep the tube inside-out

- sew on one of the end-cap circles (also inside-out). remember the circle circumference is a teeny bit larger (9.4 feet) than the tube circumference (9 feet). if you are a perfectionist that means you'd actually want your circle to be about 2.9 feet diameter, not 3 feet diameter.

- sew on the other end-cap circle, inside-out.

Step 7: Flip It! Fill It!

like an unhappy sea cucumber it is time to pull the entire sofa out through its mouth, to make it right-side-out.

once it is righted, the fun starts! how are you going to get all those beans into it? the most important thing to remember is: no matter how you do it, you'll be finding beans all over your house (and probably your neighborhood) for the rest of your life. so you might as well have fun trying:

shop-vac method 1:
- put mouth of sofa over the head of the shop-vac
- suck the beans out of the bag from whence they came!

shop-vac method 2 (the Bean Cannon):
- turn shop-vac into blower-mode
- put shop-vac head into bean supply (careful not to clog it)
- point nozzle at unsuspecting passersby. when bored, point nozzle into sofa mouth to fill it.

leaf blower method:
- just like shop-vac method 2, but with a leaf blower.

boring method:
- hold mouth of sofa with the rest hanging down a staircase
- attach 6-inch diameter cardboard tube to your bag of beans
- insert cardboard tube into sofa mouth
- pour in the beans

Step 8: How to Get Rid of the World's Largest Beanbag


World's largest beanbag - agglomerate it for free! (berkeley)
Reply to: see below
Date: 2008-02-08, 1:40PM PST

Do you want the world's largest beanbag? I thought so. Large enough to sleep two in dreamy comfort, just barely small enough to fit through your door. In fact, you kind of have to "pour" it through your door. Don't get discouraged, it *will* fit through. unless you have a small door. I made this beanbag myself - surely you did not think you could buy the world's largest beanbag in any store! because you cannot. it is made from lavish gray cordury and filled with 120 cubic feet of foam beans. it is in good condition (maybe a little pet hair). but - oh yes, did i mention that it has been cat peed? we have cleaned it so it does not smell, the problem is that our cat has just discovered (as you will) that the pluush bean-y texture of the bag is oh-so-pleasurable, much nicer than his litter box. we can't keep him away from it!! so we cleaned up the mess but now we gotta keep em separated. so you benefit. in case you are wondering what this famous beanbag looks like, this is it here:

that is the actual one in the photo, it is not an imitation.
ok here's what you need to do: bring a vehicle and 50 feet of rope, and 1-2 friends. the beanbag will just barely fit in an 8-foot pickup bed, otherwise it's going on your roof. you will strap it around in 3 places, putting the rope through your windows. you will drive no more than 30mph, because this thing has a larger volume than your vehicle and the wind will push the beans around. just sit back and enjoy your time as the laughingstock of the roadway. it will be like a minivan on top of your car, except the minivan on top is made of jello and it wants you to eat that yummy jello while you are driving, and it is coming at you through your windows so you can eat it while you are driving! ok maybe it is more like 'attack of the killer slime mold'. so hopefully you do not have to drive too far with it, because every couple miles you will have to wrangle the beast back on top. i mean how could you eat another bite at this point? i drove it to san mateo with it once so i know this is possible.

ok so the beanbag is waiting for you RIGHT NOW! it is on the sidewalk outside xxx Allston Way in Berkeley. right now it is on the sidewalk. there is NO NEED to ring the bell, or call, or email, so you can come get it and nobody will know it was you. first come first serve. its a sunny weekend so it will be in good condition when you get it. if it isn't there somebody took it, i'll try to delete the ad when i notice it is gone.

care: in the future if you want to clean it more extensively, here is what i recommend: you can drain out and dispose of the beans, then wash the cover in your laundry machine. you can get a full load of replacement beans (aka "regrind") for about $30 from Bay Foam in Hayward.

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