I like to keep juggling balls on me wherever I go, just in case I have a chance to use them. But balls take up too much space, and bean bags feel too light. So I decided to make my own bags that I could size and weight as I wanted.
Here are the steps to make your own customized juggling bags.
The monetary cost of these bags depends entirely on what materials you use, and how many of them you can salvage or have to pay for. My monetary cost out of pocket was probably about a buck, since the thread and the BBs were the only things I actually paid for.
The time cost on this project for me was about an hour a bag.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Fabric: I used two types of material to make the two-toned balls. I used heavy duty cotton canvas for the lighter panels, and leather harvested from an old purse for the darker panels. You could do this project with up to eight different colors, but I would recommend one or two.
- Filling:To achieve the density I wanted, I opted for Copperhead BBs. These make the bags nice and heavy, while allowing them a lot of 'squish'. The down side is that they tend to 'clink'' while I'm juggling them. Other options include rice (not recommended), styrofoam pellets, sand, ground walnut shell (which is Klutz puts in their juggling bags) etc. Make sure that whatever you use won't leak through the weave of the fabric or the seams (this may mean making smaller stitches which takes longer).
- Thread: This should be pretty self explanatory. Choose something that matches fairly well with the material, as it may show through a little bit at the seams. I just went with basic black.
- Paper: The easiest way to make a template is just to print one out on a printer. that said, you could make one with a compass if you have the patience. Either way, you'll probably want to make the template out of paper or perhaps cardboard.
- Scissors: Needed for cutting out the template, cutting the fabric, and cutting the thread, as well as any additional trimming you want to do.
- A sewing needle: This should be pretty self explanatory.
- A Measuring device: I used the lid from my kids' play kitchen toys, as it seemed about right. The obvious thing to use would be a measuring cup, however if you are looking for a specific weight, a scale might make more sense.
- A Pen: For tracing the template onto the cloth.
- Pliers: If you are using heavy cloth or leather, you'll probably want something to help pull the needle through the fabric. Otherwise your fingers get pretty sore pretty quickly.
- Safety pins: These can be useful for holding the panels in place as you are stitching.
- A Thimble: I completed this project without one. If I had had one, I would have used it. Especially for pushing the needle through the leather. As it was, I got to develop some new callouses for the project.
- A Computer and Printer: This is, as mentioned above, the easiest way to transfer your template from the ethereal to the concrete.
- Scotch Tape (Cello Tape I believe it's called across the pond): This is useful for making a paper funnel for pouring the filling into the balls.
- Sewing machine: I hand sewed this entire project because I was using the leather and our sewing machine wouldn't have been up to the challenge. If you want do most of the job by machine, you will save a ton of time, but you will still need to do some hand sewing to close up the balls. (Unless you have a really cool sewing machine!)
- A Whiteout Pen: If you are doing this project with dark fabric, a whiteout pen makes the lines much easier to see and follow. I recommend tracing the template using this.
Step 2: Create the Template
Basically you need an equilateral triangle. If you don't want pokey corners, you need to round the corners on the triangles.
I created my template in Google Sketchup and I have uploaded it here in svg format , so if that works you can just download that and scale it to the size you want. Or you can create your own template using normal triangles, circles, whatever odd shape you want. As long as each panel will connect to three other panels with relative ease.
Print the template out and cut out at least one of the shapes. I cut out eight of them just so I wouldn't have to worry about destroying one two, or seven of them.
Step 3: Trace and Cut Out the Panels
Trace the template onto the fabric.
Then cut the panels out leaving 'enough room' to sew them together. I left about a quarter inch around the lines. Depending on your material and how much it frays, you can leave more or less than this. I could probably have left an eighth inch around the leather ones, but decided to go for more uniformity.
Note that the leather panels are traced in whiteout, which makes the lines much easier to see.
Step 4: Sew a Cylinder
Start by sewing two panels together along a single edge. [Figure 1]
After that, sew a third panel to the edge of one of the first two panels. Then, sew a fourth panel to the edge of the third panel, and so on and so forth, making sure to keep the panels connected in a zigzag pattern, until you have six panels sewn together in a line [Figure 2].
Finally, sew the outside edge of panel 6 to the outside edge of panel 1, so that you have a rough cylinder, with a three-sided hole on top, and a three-sided hole on bottom [Figure 3].
- If you cut off enough thread, you can stitch this whole cylinder with one piece, which means you can just tie the two loose ends together when the meet around the cylinder [Figure 4].
- When sewing by hand, I always cut off about twice as much thread as I think I'll need. It's easier to throw away an extra two feet of thread than to tie off and start again in the middle.
- By 'twice as much thread', I mean approximately four times the length of the seam, since you will be feeding the thread through the needle, and then doubling it up so both ends are at the tail and the needle is half way along the thread. If that doesn't make sense, try it and it should.
- If you are worried about the panels moving around while you are sewing them, you can stick safety pins anywhere along the length of the seam to help hold them in place [Figure 5].
Step 5: Close One End
Once you've got your cylinder sewn, take a fifth panel and sew it on to one of the ends of the cylinder. Again, if you use a long enough piece of thread (and it doesn't break part way through) you can just sew all the way around the triangle and tie the ends off together.
Step 6: Mostly Close the Other End
Now, take your last panel and sew it most of the way on to the other end of the cylinder. Remember that you are sewing this inside out, and you're going to have to pop it out before closing it up.
How much of an opening you leave depends partly on your dexterity, and partly on your fabric. Since I was using heavy fabric/leather, I had to leave about half to three fourths of an edge unsewn to be able to pop it through.
Again, using a single piece of thread here will help in the end. Make sure you leave a good two to three inches of tail where you start stitching, so that you can tie off easily once the bag is closed.
Step 7: Turn It Right-side Out
This is the most difficult part of the project, at least if you are using heavy material.
It may help to have a pencil or something else to poke the material out with, or else use the pliers to reach in and grab a corner to pull with.
It may also help to trim off as much of the extra fabric as is practical. Make sure to leave enough that it won't fray and fall apart. But the less excess you have, the less fabric you have to cram through your pull-hole at any one time.
Also, in this step hand-stitching may save you some work. If you hand stitched the seams, you can loosen the stitches to allow a little bit of extra room.
After you have turned the bag inside out, pull the loose ends of the threads from the last panel from the inside to the outside. You'll get to use these to tie off at the end.
Step 8: Add Filler
Now that your bag is right-side out, add the filling material.
Assuming you are making more than one bag (you could just make one to use as a hacky sack), you'll probably want to measure your filler out so that you have uniformity of weight. This is where your measuring device comes in handy [No picture].
I found that using a piece of scrap paper and some tape to make a funnel was immensely helpful. Insert the funnel into the bag [Figure 1] and pour.
Step 9: Stitch Up the Bag
Now comes the slightly complicated part. You want to set some stitches to close up the bag, and you want to be able to tighten them up so that when you are done the seam is still nice and neat and hidden.
If you hand stitched the bags up to this point, then probably you got some stretched stitches when you turned the bag right-side out. This is good, as it gives you an indication of how to finish up the stitches.
With your thread sticking out of the bag from the inside, you want to take your needle and feed it through one panel from the inside out [Figure 1]. Then, come across the seam and go through the second panel, outside to inside [Figure 2]. You have now completed a single stitch.
Now, repeat the process reversed. Needle through the second panel, inside to outside [Figure 3]. Then needle through the first panel, outside to inside [Figure 4].
Leave your stitches loose as long as you can, because they're easy to tighten later, and you want to have room to sew.
Step 10: Close Up the Bag
Make sure you've still got the tail end of your threads sticking out to tie off to. Then, start tightening up your stitches. If you hand sewed them as instructed in the previous step, they will alternate sides for which thread to pull on to tighten the previous stitch.
As you tighten the stitches, tuck the extra material inside the bag so the seam is nice and tight and neat.
Once all of the stitches are tightened, tuck the last bit of extra fabric in and pull the needle end and the tail end of the thread tight. Then, tie the two ends together. I just used a couple of square knots and cinched them nice and tight.
Finally, thread the extra thread through your needle and poke it into the seam and back out the middle of one of your panels. Pull the thread extra tight (so the panel puckers) and then snip it off. Then, un-pucker the panel, and the threads will be buried inside the bag where they won't be visible.
You now have one juggling bag. Repeat as many times as desired.