If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bean Bag Cubes: a story and a tutorial

I've had this craft pinned for a l-o-n-g time.  I thought they were cute.  I thought they would be cool to have.  I thought they looked fairly easy to make.  I thought...some day...

Well, this was the Christmas of the bean bags!

I took my handy-dandy coupon off to Hobby Lobby and purchased fabrics that made me think of each of our grands.  I checked with this post and decided that I needed to purchase at least 3/4 of a yard of two complementary fabrics.  This was the second hardest part of the whole entire process!  I would land on a fabric that I thought was suitable for one of the little mite's personality and then struggled to find another complementary fabric.  Finally, I settled on a couple for each child and spent only about $120 total on my fabric.

I did this in stages so as not to get burned out and frustrated.  It also helped me to do a little bit at a time in the afternoons when I got home from work so that I didn't make mistakes from fatigue.  Thankfully, I have a sewing room in the basement and could leave everything laying out and ready for the next day.

I started by cutting two squares that were at least half the width of the fabric.  So, they were around 23" square.  I also cut three strips that were 12" by 23" and then one strip that was 13" by 23".  The squares would form the top and bottom of the cube and the strips would form the sides.  I sent one of the squares home with my daughter, Bridgette, with instructions for monogramming each one.

In the meantime, I began sewing them together.  With right sides together, I sewed the three 12"x23" strips to three sides of the square.  For some of the fabrics, I had to be careful that the pattern was facing the same direction - like the truck fabric, for example.

Next, I cut the 13"x23" strip in half so that I had two 6 1/2" x 23" strips.  With right sides together, I made a mark 4 1/2" from each end and stitched the two pieces back together using a 1/2" seam.

 Then, between the marks, I stitched the pieces together using the longest stitch possible on my sewing machine for a basting stitch.  This gave me a strip 12"x23" to form the other side for my cubes.

Next, I pressed this seam open.  Using a needle and thread, I whip-stitched the end of the zipper together at the top.  Then, I unzipped it a couple or three inches and laid it face down on the wrong side of strip just on top of my basted seam area, pinning it in place between my marks.

I pinned the zipper in place at a couple more spots along its length.  Then, I went to the sewing machine.  Starting at the top right of the zipper, I began to stitch it to my fabric strip, centering the teeth of the zipper along the seam line.

I tried to keep the edge of my zipper foot even with the edge of the zipper to keep my stitching straight.  Having the zipper unzipped a bit allowed me to wiggle the zipper pull and helped to keep my stitching straight and close to the teeth of the zipper.

When I got just past the teeth of the zipper at the opposite end, I paused my sewing machine, making certain that my needle was down through the zipper and the fabric.

Then, I lifted my presser-foot and pivoted my fabric and zipper 90 degrees and lowered my presser-foot again.  Then, I stitched and did a back-up stitch across the end.

Then, again leaving the needle down, I pivoted once again and stitched up the other side of the zipper.

When I got to the top end of the zipper again, I pivoted one more time and stitched and did another back-up stitch to secure the top end as well.

Using a seam ripper, I picked out a few stitches to expose the zipper.  Then, I took the loose thread piece and pulled it out to reveal the entire zipper.

This was the first time I ever recall installing a zipper in all my years of sewing!  I think they turned out wonderfully!

After installing the zipper, I stitched this strip to the final side of the square.  I did this assembly-line style and they all wound up looking like the photo below.

This is one of the ones where I had to make certain that the pattern was all facing the same direction.  In this case, I wanted all of the vehicles to have the tires toward the bottom piece as shown in the photo above.

At that point, I also decided I wanted to attach a handle to make it simpler for the grands to carry from place to place.  So, I cut a strip of fabric about 4" x 10".  I turned it with right sides together and stitched a 1/4" to 1/2" seam along the long side of the strip to form a tube.  Then, I turned the tube right side out and pressed the seam to the back side.  I turned under a half-inch on both ends of the tube.  I top-stitched all around the edge of this strip keeping my stitching about 1/8" from the edge.  Then, I centered the strip onto the side next to the zipper and stitched a rectangle on either end of the handle to hold it securely in place.  You can see the handle on the side nearest the bottom in the photo above.  I made it out of the contrast fabric for this cube because that fabric seemed a bit sturdier.  For the others, I made the handle out of the same fabric as the sides so that it would blend in and not be noticable.

Next, I stitched the sides together one-by-one.  I lined up each side with right sides together.  and stitched from the raw, loose edge down to where the sides joined the bottom.  Using the photo above, that would be stitching from left to right.

I folded the corner of the bottom side down as shown to make it come to a point.  Then, I just stitched right up to the edge on both sides using a quarter-inch seam allowance.  This made the three pieces of fabric join together to form a nice corner as shown in the photo below.

I did this with each of the sides to form a large bucket-type piece.  The photo below shows one of the cubes at this stage.  It is turned right-side-out and the sides are collapsed toward the center.

When my daughter had finished monogramming the tops, she sent them via special delivery by her hubby, Corey.  So, my next step was to turn each 'bucket' wrong side out and unzip the zipper about half-way.

I pinned the monogrammed top onto the open sides, right sides together, matching up the corners and stitched the top to the sides.

Then, I pulled the entire thing through the opened part of the zipper to turn it right side out.

I used a little dowel to sharpen up and push out the corners.

I figured that the cubes would be about 4 cubic feet.  Knowing that I wanted just a little bit of play in them to allow them to be more squshy for the grands to lounge on, I ordered bags of polystyrene beads that held 3.5 cubic feet.

Then, came the hardest part of all.  I tried doing this by myself.  I do not recommend that!  It was disastrous!  My back porch looked like it had been snowing before I figured out a decent method.  Yes, there was cursing involved.  Yes, there were tears.  Then, I figured out a method and got a couple of them filled.  However, my method was not fool-proof.  So, I set it aside and waited for some help.  Here is how my sweet hubby and I finally got them filled without further swearing or tears:

The beads come in a large cardboard box.  Leave the bags in that box.  Slice about a six-inch opening in the bag and place a rolled up piece of cardboard tightly into that slid to make a make-shift funnel.

Carefully fit the zipper around the cardboard make-shift funnel.  One person should hold the opening up tight around the cardboard funnel while the other carefully lifts the box/bag of beads up to begin pouring into the cube.

Be careful with this because the plastic bag might split further and little polystyrene beads might go flying all over the place.  Not that I would know this from experience or anything!

When the bag/box is about half-emptied into the cube, stop and take the bag of the remaining beads out of its box.  Snip the entire end off of the bag to provide a clean opening.  Stuff the open end of the bag down into the zipper opening of the cube.  While one person holds the zipper opening of the cube, the other can tun the bag up and shake the remaining beads down into the cube.  Work carefully as a team.  Know that static electricity is going to be working against you and be patient.  I wound up easing beads down toward the cube and wadding up the bottom of the bag to push them all down into the cube much like one would with a piping bag of icing when icing a cupcake.  Then, gently ease the open end of the bag out of the cube and quickly zip the opening before a breeze catches the beads and blows them all over the back porch and yard.  Not that I would know this from experience or anything!

They turned out to be really cute and the only hard part at all is stuffing them with the beads.  However, having a partner to help with this process made it go 1000% faster and easier!  I thought I would make them where the cover could be removed for washing but my advice is that once those beads get in the cushion, never, ever, never open it!  In the future, I think I would stitch up a muslin cover to house the beads and make the cute fabric cover to go over the top of it.

This one features a cute lattice print of green, white and grey contrasted with a vehicle print.


This one is a blue bandana print with white arrows on grey fabric as a contrast.


This one has a western theme with cowboys contrasting with a southwestern blanket print.


This one is a bold floral print with hot pink polka-dots to contrast.


This one is a lavender, lime, and turquoise floral with a lavender and white floral contrast


Each is unique and cheerful and looks like the children for whom they were created to enjoy!

They stacked nicely and made me sort of wish I had some here for the children to enjoy when they visit!

They seemed to be a hit as each sat on one another's and wallowed all around the den!