This tutorial has been on my mind for quite some time now… since Christmas of last year actually. At that time I had made Noah a set of numbered bean bags following the freezer paper method that I saw on Lil Blue Boo. She’s got a great tutorial for it there, so I’m not going to repeat it. I printed out my alphabet on the freezer paper at the same time as I printed the numbers. I never finished cutting them out though, because it was very, very tedious and not something that I had the time or patience for… even before Abby was born. So my stack of fabric just sat there for months.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when a local store had a sale on the Cricut Expression. I have been drooling after it for almost a year and although I had told myself it would be my reward for completing school, I had to buy it now because this price was too good to pass up!
Now I had never seen an infomercial for this device… all that I knew was that I had many projects in mind that I could use it for. When my mom and sister told me that it cut fabric, angels sang and the light bulb glowed brightly over my head! Alright… maybe not literally, but you get what I mean. I read up about cutting fabric, got the necessities and set to work.
(Side note… if you are going to cut fabric with the Cricut, you want to make sure that you starch the living daylights out of your fabric before ironing on the fusible backing (aka Heat n Bond). Also if you want to stitch over the appliquéd piece, use the Heat n Bond light and not the heavy duty stuff… it is a pain in the rear trying to get a needle through it! I not only used my Expression to cut out the alphabet, but also used it to cut out the appliqué for Noah’s birthday shirt… so let’s just say I’m talking from experience!)
**I first cut out a set of lowercase and a set of uppercase letters using my Cricut.
**Next, I added the letters to my stack of 6″x6″ fabric squares.
**After I did that, I laid out1 “bag” on my ironing board and centered a letter on each piece of fabric…
**I then ironed the letters onto the fabric (see the instructions on the fusible backing to see what settings you need for this)
(And to answer your question, yes… I had a towel underneath my fabric. My ironing board cover had seen better days and was so thin that whenever I would iron something, I would get the pattern of the metal bars ironed into my fabric… the towel just gave me a little padding and I have since bought a new cover!)
**After the stack was ironed and fused, I got out my pins and pinned each set of letters – right sides together… and then sewed them up, making sure that I left a 2″-3″ opening on one side of the fabric. I clipped the corners, turned the bags right side out and ironed them again before filling them. I used a 1 cup mixture of pinto and navy beans to fill the bags, because I liked the way the different sizes felt… (unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of this… oops)
** After you have filled the bags, pin the opening shut. Then either hand sew or machine sew it closed.
(I hand sewed the numbered bean bags and took out the machine for the lettered ones.)
** I tried to sew as close to the edge as possible and double stitched it, just to give it a little added strength.
** That’s it… now you can enjoy them, just remember… if you use real beans to fill them, they can’t get wet!
Just a note… I made my bean bags a little larger than others I have seen online… 6×6 with a 1/2″ seam allowance, so I added one cup of the bean mixture to each bag (this ended up filling the bag about half way). I didn’t realize just how many beans I would end up using and made 2 trips to the store to stock up so that I could finish them in time for Noah’s birthday! Also, we’ve been playing with the bags daily for almost 3 weeks and I’ve noticed some of the letters starting to peel off the fabric. I will use liquid stitch to adhere them again, but if I were to do it over again I would probably use the Heat n Bond light to fuse the letters onto the fabric and then stitch over them for added strength.
Overall, I love how they turned out and more importantly, Noah loves them. He has fun throwing them around and I love using them as practice tools for both his colors and letters.
I hope this tutorial was helpful! If you decide to make a set, please let me know… I’d love to see them!
EDIT 3/2012: We have been using these bean bags for the past few years and though we don’t use them daily, they have been holding up very well. I’ve had no other issues with the letters since then either.