Washable Baby Bean Bags

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About a year ago I sewed Eva her own set of washable baby bean bags with ribbons and I promised to upload a tutorial. I did start the tutorial, but never got around to finishing it. Well, now a year later a kind reader asked about the diy, and I had nothing to show. That really bugged me, so this weekend, I therefore devoted some of my spare time to making a new set of baby bean bags. Not for Eva, but for a close friend of mine whom just had a gorgeous baby, though now the bean bags are finished, Eva has kind of already claimed them as her own.

I made these bean bags in a way that I felt made them suitable for Eva – and her razor sharp teeth – to play with when she was a baby. That’s why I made them washable by using plastic granules and less prone to tear by adding a inner bag. I used fabric with different textures and tried to use both dark and light colours to make them more interesting. I also added the different textured ribbons, both to make it easier for Eva to get a grip of the bag, but also to add a bit of colour and give her some different experiences with textures. They were a big success when she was a baby, and I did get a few “Wow, those are great” when we brought them along with us. I’ve since then packed them away a bit as part of a toy rotation, and admittedly forgotten a bit about them. But now I’ve dugged them out of the toy bin and handed them over to Eva again, and guess what, still a success, though the way she plays with them have changed a bit. Instead of biting into them, she’s more into throwing them across the room or into her toy bin.

Is it really necessary to make an inner bag for the bean bags?

It’s not really a must. If the fabric is not old, worn or fragile it should be enough with just one bag, especially if your children are just using them for throwing and know not to bite into them. But if you’d like to make them for your baby to explore with both her hands and her mouth I would not risk her using her little razor sharp teeth to accidently tear one open. I’ve seen – and felt – what those little teeth can cut through, and I’d rather be safe than sorry in this case. Plus you run a much lower risk of suddenly having a washing machine full of little plastic pieces if you add the extra bag.

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When Eva is older I’ll make her some more bean bags for different throwing and stacking games. And when I do that I plan on making them without the inner bag and with rice or split yellow peas instead of plastic granules.

You’ll need:

  • Outer fabric (I used two different scraps I had lying around)
  • Inner fabric
  • Different ribbons that don’t fringe too easily
  • Plastic granule (if you want to be able to wash the bean bags. Otherwise rice, beans or similar will do)

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  • Sewing machine (with thread of course)
  • Scissors
  • Funnel
  • Ruler

Tip: Remember to choose fabric and ribbons you feel comfortable that your baby sucks on. And always, always prewash the fabric. Not only because it might shrink a bit, but also because it gets the excess colour – and what else is in there – out.

How to:

1. Cut 2 pieces of 12 cm x 12 cm fabric for the inner and 2 pieces of 12 cm x 12 cm fabric for the outer bag. The bean bags I make are usually 10 cm x 10 cm (about 4 inches) and I like to leave 1 cm for the seam (about 0,4 inches, but to make it easier if you’re using inches and not cm, leave 0,5 inch).  The size is really up to you, so don’t worry to much about it. The most important part is getting the pieces of fabric to be as even as possible.

2. Cut out 4-8 pieces of ribbons. Or more or less if you prefer. Mine were 7 cm each (about 2,7 inches) which I find to be a suitable length as they will be bend in half and some of it will be hidden inside the bag.

3. Sew the inner bag. Since you’re not going to see this bag, it’s doesn’t matter if you sew them together with the rights sides facing each other or not. Go crazy! Just remember to leave a small opening in the middle of one of the sides. I usually go for about 4-5 cm (about 1,5-2 inch). You can use two pins to help you mark the opening – or just eyeball it like I often do.

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4. Turn the inner bag inside out and fill it with plastic granules. Use a pencil to poke the fabric into the gap, until you have turned the bag inside out, and to get the corners as pointy as you can. When you fill the bag, I recommend using a funnel for this or a rolled piece of paper unless you want little pieces of plastic going everywhere.

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5. Sew the opening by tucking the fabric neatly inside the bag and stitching on top of it. I like to sew rather close to the edge for it to get a even feel.

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If you didn’t want to make a baby bean bag with ribbons and an extra bag for added security, you would now have a finished bean bag.

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6. Places the two pieces of outer fabric on top of each other with the right sides facing each other.

7. Fold the pieces of ribbon in half and stuff them in between the the two piece of outer fabric, leaving a small bit of the ribbon edges sticking out. If you like, pin in place. I never do. For some reason the ribbons always end up crooked when I do, but if you’re better than pinning than I am, please do. If you like me don’t pin, it can be a good idea to decide were you want the ribbons to go and then stick them in as you go instead of trying to keep them all in place while you sew.

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8. Carefully sew the outer bag with the ribbons. Make sure the ribbons are perfectly straight as you sew the two pieces of fabric together and remember to leave an opening of about 5 cm (about 2 inches). It needs to be big enough to stuff the inner bag into.

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9. Turn the outer bag like you turned the inner bag. Like before, use a pencil to get those cornes as sharp as possible. I can be a good idea to cut off the corners, especially if you’re using bulky material like I did. Just be careful not to cut to close to the thread.

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10. Stuff the inner bag into the outer bag, getting the corners alligned. I’ve had someone ask me if the inner bag will not just move around inside the outer bag, but I have not had this problem. I use the pencil and my fingers to get the inner bag in place.

11. Now close the opening of the outer bag by folding the fabric inside the bag and stitching on top it. Like the inner bag, I like to sew rather close to the edge. I think it gets a better finish this way. Choose a colour of thread you think will match the fabric you’ve chosen for the outer bag.

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And that’s it. You’re have now finished making your baby bean bag! Now all you have to do is hand it over to your baby – or if you’ve used plastic granules or similar throw it in the washing machine to get out all the extra colouring and chemicals from the fabric and ribbons.

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