May 16, 2013

DIY Newborn Posing Beanbag

I am starting to get into photography a lot more, and with that comes props and classes and lenses, all of which amount to spending money that's not in the budget right now.  For the photographer on a budget, I highly recommend using what you have as far as props, as well as getting crafty and making your own.  Some of my best ideas and projects have come from the fact that I can't spend a lot of money on something and have to come up with a creative way to make my own.  And this is where the DIY Newborn Posing Beanbag comes from.

Most photographers know that these things are pretty pricey.  Most of the bags go for $90 unfilled.  You have to purchase the filling separately, which usually costs around $50.  So you're looking at $140 minimum, plus shipping.  The total cost of this project was $62.

After looking over a few tutorials online, I came to the conclusion that this would be pretty simple to make.  I've included a lot of photos and details because while I was looking at other tutorials, I found that many just summarized how they made it, but didn't offer specifics or step-by-step photos.  I think that many details and photos are important, especially for a novice sewer.  So, without further ado....

The DIY Newborn Posing Beanbag
42'' diameter x 12'' high

4 yards of flannel-backed vinyl fabric (I was originally going to use tablecloth vinyl due to it's low price, however I decided to use a heavier vinyl instead.  The tablecloth vinyl was too thin and would tear very easily which is definitely something you do not want.)
Heavy duty thread (I used Coats Extra Strong brand, made for upholstery)
Sewing needle made for heavy duty fabrics (I used Singer brand, size 110/18)
Measuring tape
yarn or string
bean bag filling (Around 4 bags, but some prefer their beanbags filled more or less. I found it was less expensive at the Walmart store than online.  Sam's Club also has it at a good price.)

-Do not use pins to hold the vinyl pieces together.  Since vinyl doesn't have a weave, per say, using pins will leave holes in your fabric.

-Use flannel-backed vinyl.  Since vinyl has sort of a grip to it (it's not "slippery" like cotton or say, satin), the sewing machine presser foot and feed dogs will not move the fabric along easily.  Having the flannel side against the presser foot and feed dogs will allow the fabric to move through the machine easily.


First we need to cut out our pieces. We will cut 2 circles with a diameter of 43'' each (this is factoring in  1/2'' seam allowances).  We will also have one long rectangular piece that is 137" long and 13'' high (1/2'' seam allowance factored in), which will be made up of smaller rectangles sewn together.

To make the circles, I tied a piece of yarn to a pen to act as a giant compass.  Of course, if you have something that is 43'' in diameter lying around, feel free to use that.  I did not, so giant compass it is.

I tied each end of a 21.5'' long piece of yarn to a pen (21.5'' radius = 43'' diameter).

For this step it may help if you have one person assisting you.  Hold one end of the pen on the fabric:

Hold the other end towards the edge.

Make sure you do not angle your pen.  Inadvertently angling your pen either inward or outward will make your circle smaller or larger than you want, so to ensure an accurate circle, make sure that you hold your pens straight (like in the above photo), not slanted like this:

Make sure that you can draw a full circle without your pen coming off the edge of the fabric.

Cut out your circle.  Use that circle to trace another circle onto the fabric.  Cut out your second traced circle.

Next cut out as many rectangles that you need in order to make a final piece that is 137" long.  Use a ruler or a quilter's ruler, or something else with a long straight edge.  They should be 13'' high (accounting for 1/2'' seam allowance).  (Don't mind the different colored vinyl.  I got what was on sale. Some photogs recommend tan or white because dark colors can show through when using light blankets, but many put a bunch of blankets underneath anyhow.)

 Sew them right sides together to make your 137'' rectangle.

Turn a bit of your fabric over to create a hem on the short side of the rectangle.  Since vinyl doesn't pass through the machine easily, I turned flannel sides out so that it would sew easily.  Stitch in place.

Stitch your velcro to the right side of one end of a rectangle.  I held off stitching on the other piece of velcro until the beanbag was almost finished so that I could get the placing correct.

Sew your rectangular piece to your circle, right sides together.  Don't pin your fabric together, this will create tiny pinholes where your pins were.  Just start at one end and ease your fabric along as you sew.  There will be a bit of extra fabric at the end once you've sewn it all the way on, which will allow you to put the velcro exactly where you need it.  Sew the other piece of velcro on the other end of the rectangular piece to make your closure. When finished, it will look like this:

Sew your other circle to the other side of the rectangular piece, right sides together, using the same method you used for the other circle.

Then, flip your beanbag right-sides-out, through the opening. It will look like this:

That's it for sewing!  Now for filling.  I used the filling from a couple of beanbags I picked up at a garage sale to cut on cost.  This got my bag about half full.  I then picked up two bags of beanbag filling at Walmart for $12 each (they're cheaper in store than online I guess).  A lot of folks say that these are a pain to fill.  If you do it carefully it's not that bad.  The filling from the beanbags was more difficult than the bags from Walmart.  I cut a hole in the used beanbags then cut the bottom off an oatmeal box to and taped it to the used beanbag opening to make a makeshift funnel.  My husband held the used beanbag while I held the posing beanbag and we shook and shimmied the filling from one bag to the other.

For the bags from Walmart, I snipped off a corner of the bag and dumped it in.  I found that if I snipped off a bit of the other corner it allowed for airflow in the bag and the beans came out quicker.

Velcro that baby closed and you're done!


4 yards of flannel-backed vinyl fabric - $6/yd on sale at Hancock Fabrics = $24
Heavy duty thread - $2.50
Sewing needle made for heavy duty fabrics - $2
beanbag filling - $3.50 at garage sale + $24 Walmart bags = $27.50
GRAND TOTAL: $62 including tax

Not bad compared to $140 plus!

I am so happy with the way this turned out.  It's big enough to pose multiples, and firm enough to (hopefully) leave blankets smooth and wrinkle-free.  Of course, I have yet to actually pose a newborn on it, but I'm confident that I will be thrilled with the results.

Please let me know if any directions are unclear or if you have any suggestions.  I will try my best to clear up any confusion.  If you made a beanbag using my tutorial, please leave a link to a photo in the comments so we can see how it turned out :)

**One thing to remember is that this doesn't have to look perfect.  The sewing can be sloppy and it will still turn out.  It will be covered by a blanket, after all.  This project is very forgiving, so have fun!

***October 6, 2013 - EDITED TO ADD:  I used the bag for my first newborn session!  I'm glad I made it bigger because it was for a twins session.  It is a larger sized bag, and I'm able to throw it in the bed of our pickup, however if you travel for sessions and have minimal space in your vehicle, you may want to make the dimensions smaller.

****October 10, 2015 - EDITED TO ADD:

This tutorial can be tailored to any size bag you want.

Just remember:
~Diameter is the width of the bag
~Radius is half the diameter
~Circumference is the distance around the circle. To find the circumference of your circle, multiply 3.14 (pi) times the diameter.
~The rectangular piece is the circumference plus about 6" for hem and velcro closure

FOR EXAMPLE:  For a 30" travel bag:
~Diameter (width) is 30"
~Radius (string) is 15"
~Circumference is about 94". Add 6" for hem and closure = 100" rectangular piece.

I hope this was explained well.  My brain is mush right now :)

May 8, 2013

Tips to Reduce Stress

My husband and I are similar in so many ways, and soooo different in others.  One of the ways we are vastly different is in regards to stress, or allowing things to bother and eat away at us. He will lose sleep over things that are beyond his control.  He will hash and rehash a problem until it's dead in the ground, and then dig it up and rehash it some more until he's fraught with worry.  I take a different approach.  I typically let things roll off my back. I'm not quite sure how I got the free-bird mentality and he got the worry-wort personality, but perhaps that's why we compliment each other.  Now, patience on the other hand... ha!  Of that I have very little, although I'm getting better.  My husband will likely beg to differ, but I really don't think anyone is blessed with the endless supply of patience that he has, except maybe my brother. Again, perhaps that's why we compliment each other.  But, I digress.

As I stated, I typically will let things roll of my back.  I am actually very good at being proactive about the things I can change, and dismissing the things I can't.  It's of no use worrying over things you cannot change, or as the old adage goes, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference."  Worrying and stressing over things you cannot change will do nothing but give you anxiety and make you feel bad.  It will gray your hair, age your face, take years off your life, do negative things for your health, and keep you awake at night. If you can change something then do it.  If you can't, then LET. IT. GO.  Then move forward.  Worrying and stressing will only serve to keep you stagnant.  There will be no progression.  Taking action will at least move you in some direction.  If you can't take action to change it, then letting it go will allow you to move forward. I understand that this is so difficult for some people, as it's just not in their blueprint as it is for others.  I suppose for these people it takes a good amount of practice to master.

This article by Mark Hyman, MD is a great read on how to reduce stress.  It explains better than I can how to reduce stress.  I highly recommend it to everyone, and recommend that many revisit this article on occasion anytime they might need a reminder.

What are your thoughts on stress?  Are you a person who stresses over things over which you have no control?  If you let things roll off your back, is that your innate personalityTT or do you have to work hard at it?

Photo: A Musing Mamma