Thursday, 9 December 2010

Counting Bean Bags Tutorial

Edit - I'm joining in the Fav Crafts Blog Hop - it's a showcase of your handmade items on the 15th of each month.  I started making a new post, but I can't upload photos at all, so I'm going to link to this post and tell anyone from Fav Crafts that you can see all my projects with a quick browse, but, in the meantime, here's a tutorial for you!

I decided to make some counting bean bags for my god-daughter for Christmas as she is learning to count.  I've been collecting some fat quarters with animals on which I thought would be perfect for the job.  I have seen counting bean bags on various blogs, but I didn't follow any of the patterns, I just made it up as I went along.

I'm going to give quite detailed instructions.  I know a lot of you lovely ladies out there are incredibly talented and will already know how to do all this, but there might also be some talented ladies out there who don't know they can do this until they try, so the instructions are for them. 

You will need:
Main fabric - I used linen - 70 x 80cm
Scraps of animal fabric
Scraps of plain fabrics
Embroidery floss (I used white)
Bondaweb (fusible stuff for applique - Wonder Under?)
Machine thread (I used white for everything, lazy as I am!)
Filling (I used dried peas)

1. I didn't think to take pictures of steps 1-5, but I think it's easy enough to understand.  I cut out my squares (I used a lovely white linen) - cut 20 squares, mine were 15cm x 15cm.

2. Draw your numbers onto paper, or print them from your computer if you prefer, then trace them BACKWARDS onto the Bondaweb.  Cut around them roughly.

3. Fuse the Bondaweb numbers onto the scraps of plain fabric and cut out on the lines.

4. Fuse the numbers to 10 of your white squares.

5. I sewed around the numbers by hand using a simple running stitch in white, you could sew them on the machine or do more elaborate embroidery if you wish.  I've just used raw-edge applique as I think they'll look nice when they fray.
6. Take 10 of your white linen squares - the ones without number on.  I marked an aperture 7cm x 7cm in the middle of the square.  I then cut a cross from corner to corner, folded the edges back and trimmed them.  I also pressed them at this point so they lay flat.  Put to one side.

7. Next you have to think about your animal fabrics.  I had 6 different fabrics, some of them had larger animals, others were smaller but in lines (like the one below), others were small but randomly placed on the fabric.  You could of course use the same fabric throughout, providing you can fit 10 in the gap and that the 1 isn't too small on its own. 

In order to show the right number of animals, and to fit each into the same size aperture for neatness, I decided to piece around the edge of each.  I matched the plain fabric to the number I'd appliquéd on, then cut out strips to cover the excess animals so that it would fit in the gap.  Below you can see number 10 and the pieces I'd cut to cover the other animals.

8.  For some reason I've now switched to the 7 animal square in my pictures below!  I think  it was because I did it production line, cutting all my animals, then my piecing strips etc.  So, I pinned my first strip in place, then sewed it in place on the machine.  When I fold this back, you will see the first row of animals.

9.  I then lined up my next piecing strip to cover the animals to the left of the seven I'd selected.  It was to go on an angle.  I pinned and then sewed this strip in place, making sure my first strip was pushed back as it will appear when finished.

10. I then pinned and sewed the left side and the bottom, making sure before sewing that it would all look neat when placed behind the aperture.  This is what my block looked like after I'd sewed all four piecing strips:

Of course, you may not need four strips, you may need more or less.  I've done some with just a strip down each side and some in triangle shapes, you are just trying to cover the excess animals and make it look like you meant to do it!

11.  Now press all your seams flat.  You can see the others I was working on in the background as I did them all at once.

12.  Place your aperture squares over your block, move it around until you're happy with the positioning.
13. Pin the block in place (you can see I've swapped to One now!)

14. And stitch in place.  I used a zig zag stitch in white, but you can use a straight stitch or a fancy stitch and you could do it in a contrasting colour if you prefer.  You could also embroider it in place.

15.  Here is a rear view of one of the blocks after it has been stitched:

16.  Trim off the excess fabric, particularly any which protrudes over the edges of the linen square.

17.  Now pair your squares up, your animal print block and the relevant number.  Make sure you've got the correct number and that the number and animals are the same way up (unless of course the animals are randomly on the fabric. 

18.  Pin and sew round the edges, leaving a gap for turning.  I used the 5/8 markings on my machine for the seams, despite everything else having been done in metric!  Clip the corners.
19. Turn the right way out, I pushed out the corners with a paintbrush.

20.  Press.

Here are the backs...

21.  Now all that remains is to fill them half full with the beans and slip stitch the gaps.  I'm not the best photographer at the best of times, but I took the photos for the tutorial on Sunday during the day, but only finished stuffing and sewing last night, so I had to take the pictures with no day light (working full time means I just can't take any decent pictures during the week!), so excuse my finished photos below.

I've decided to make a little drawstring bag to put them in.  I enjoy patchwork so much that I'm making it a patchwork bag using the animal fabrics I used above.  I'll hopefully show you that on Saturday when I update for the FNSI and Cathy's Christmas Countdown.


Sandra :) said...

Those are adorable - your god-daughter will love this gift! I can't believe you found animal fabrics in the right size scale for the beanbags - this was a project that was meant to be, lol!

Laurie said...

What an awesome, cute idea! I also have a niece who is learning her numbers, and this would be an ideal gift! Thank-you!

My 1st Bambina ! said...

Very nice tutorial ! Thanks for sharing !
They look fun for all ages :-).

AllieMakes! said...

How LOVELY! My daughter would LOVE this! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie! I can't wait to see what you have for next week!

Ms Muffin said...

LOVE the beanbags!
Have you thought of submitting them to One Pretty Thing? I am sure Rachel would love to feature them! They are adorable!

Nicolette @ Momnivore's Dilemma said...

OMG. I am making handpainted one for all the kiddos in my life. Too bad I am a novice in sewing and they will be crooked.

But, it's the love that counts, right?

Thanks for linking this up to Creative Juice Thursdays...

I am following you now. (hopefully, your tutes will teach me how to better sew!)

Hope to see you back this week @ CJT.


Kim said...

These are so darling. I love how you put the colors and fabric pieces together. I'm so sorry I didn't stop by sooner, I overlooked your link. Hugs,Kim

Caitlin said...


Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful project in the FaveCrafts December blog hop. I can't wait to start making these - they look so easy!

As a special way of saying thank you, we're going to feature your project, as well as other participant's projects, in a special newsletter which mails out to more than 850,000 subscribers.

I hope you'll join us for the next hop on January 15. Thanks again!

Nancy Hillyer said...

Idea: Couldn't you incorporate a counting book fabric panel such as you would use to make for a book for an infant/toddler. Instead use each number to make these same squares for this project.