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 :)


  1. Thank you for sharing this! I am going to make one of these soon!

    1. Oh good Cheryl! Let me know how it turns out :)

  2. thank you for posting this! I followed another tutorial, and there was no mention of the closure... I figured it out at the end, but i like the way you explained it

  3. Great Jennifer! I'm glad it helped :)

  4. I was wondering what kind of stitch you used?

  5. Hi Ashley! I used a straight stitch. I may have used a zigzag on the Velcro closures, but straight would work as well. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions! :)

  6. Awesome tutorial! I want to make my own now, but with a 10month old, I don't have a ton of extra time! About how long did it take you? Thanks:)

  7. Oh gosh Hali, I can't remember how long it took me to make! I did it with two 2-year olds running around, so you know, a little here, a little could probably get it done in a weekend maybe? If you are familiar with sewing it shouldn't take too long! Let me know how it goes! :)

  8. Can you use fabric for the bean bag instead of vinyl?

  9. Hi KimBerly,
    You can use fabric instead of vinyl, however the reason I suggest vinyl, and why so many newborn posing beanbags are made from vinyl, is that it is easier to clean babies' messes off of them. If it's fabric, then I guess you can spot clean it, but with vinyl it just wipes off. Make sense? Hope that helps!

  10. Oh wow! This is amazing! I've been looking into buying one of these but can't justify the price just yet. I don't know why I never thought to sew it myself. You are my hero! And I just saw that you have 2 two year must have twins! I have twin nearly 3 year olds. :)

  11. Please share with us how it turns out Becky! I do have twins, and they actually just turned 3 a couple weeks ago. Let me tell you, I'm finding the threes much more difficult than the twos!!

  12. I just started one! Thank you so much for these great step by step directions. Will let you know how it turns out!! I am a bit rusty on the sewing machine...

  13. Unknown - thank you for your comment - please do let me know how it goes!

    1. Sorry, i didn't mean to me unknown... My name is Julia ;) Will let you know. Only cut the circles so far. But will continue today! You are mentioning not to use needles, how do you keep the pieces together when sewing?

    2. Hi Julia :) I didn't use anything to keep the pieces together, I just sort of matched up the fabric as I sewed. As I mentioned, this project is pretty forgiving, so if things don't match up perfectly, it really shouldn't be a big deal. Good luck!

  14. I am done! Took about 4 hours. I am really happy with the way this turned out!! It isn't perfect ( my top circle & rectangle didn't match up on the end so i had to fold it in the circle) but like you mentioned, the project is forgiving... It is perfect enough for me & can't wait to try it out this sunday. Your tutorial is amazing Michelle! Thank you!! I will email you a pic ;) Julia

    1. Good to hear, Julia!! Thank you so much for the feedback, I'm very glad that my tutorial helped! I can't wait to see pics :)

  15. Just wanted to say that this tutorial is brilliant!! I've made two of these now (one for a friend) and I use it daily for my newborn sessions. Cost just £24!!

  16. Thank you, little miss! So glad that this was easy to follow for you and very helpful to you!

  17. Michelle, I want to make this and I cant figure out what kind of vinyl to buy. I looked online at Joanns and Flannel vinyl says table pad. I am confused. Can you specify how to get the right vinyl for this project? Thank you so much!

  18. lincyjarowski -- Right, so you wouldn't vinyl for like a tablecloth, that would be too thin and would tear easily.

    Think heavy-duty or upholstery vinyl, or I *think* it's called expanded back vinyl, as seen here:

    Are you able to go to a fabric store and have a look? Or, I think you can order a swatch from some places online.

  19. Hi, I made one of these a week or so ago and used it for a newborn session. To save on beans, I used a couple of stuffed cushion inners inside too, I just surrounded them with beans and it seems to work fine :)

    1. Hi Elaine! I just saw your comment now :/ Good idea with the stuffing! :)

  20. I made this and I really suck at sewing!! I'm soooo happy!!!! Mine ended up costing $24 in total haha THANK YOUUUUUUU

    1. Hi Tina! Sorry I'm late replying, I'm just seeing comments now! I'm so glad my tutorial worked for you! Thanks for letting me know.

  21. Thanks for posting. Was going to buy one and got sticker shock. This looks like I can do it!! Going to go purchase everything and give it a go. Got a newborn shoot coming up fast!

  22. Thanks for posting. Was going to buy one and got sticker shock. This looks like I can do it!! Going to go purchase everything and give it a go. Got a newborn shoot coming up fast!

    1. Hi Brenda! Sorry for the late reply!! Yes, the ones for purchase can be quite costly. Hope this works for you!

  23. If I wanted it to be a table-top size, I'd probably add a non-slick backing. Any ideas on dimensions or backing for that?

    1. Hi Melinda! I think most travel size bags are 30" across (diameter), so your string to make the circle (radius) would have to be 15". Your large rectangle would have to be at least as long as the circumference of your circle, plus some extra for the hem and closure at the end. Circumference equals 3.14 times diameter, so in this case: 3.14 x 30" diameter = 94" + 6" extra = 100" final rectangle. Make sense? Hope that's what your looking for.

      As for the non-slick backing, I'm not sure which material would work best. Google "non-skid backing" and a host of things come up. This product looks like it could work, or Hobby Lobby or Joann's might have it in-store or online, and you could use a coupon for it:

    2. Joanns has something that would probably work! It's like what you put under rugs to keep them from moving around. I would assume that would work great for the non-skid.

  24. Wow! I love this tutorial! But I am definitely glad I only need to make one! Lol. Definitely measure your long piece prior to sewing it all together. Mine was a bit short and had to sew another piece to it to make room for the Velcro. I used the stuffing from one medium beanbag and one small beanbag and it seems about half full. I'll probably go buy 3 more bags just in case, and I'd like to make some posing pillows with the leftover fabric too! So, it's almost full and will be put to use this weekend, I can't wait! Total cost for me: $30 for the fabric, haven't bought the filling yet, but it's $14 a bag at Walmart, so probably another $36. Total of $66! Not bad at all! Overall savings, $70! One happy girl right here!


  25. This is a GREAT tutorial!!! I can't WAIT to give it a go ;)

  26. Just finished making this! The 137" rectangle was not big enough and I was about 3" short. Next time I will just go overboard and do like 150" because I had quite a few feet left over. You can always cut it off later, but it really hard to add on!
    Other than that, this project went great and only took a couple hours!

  27. Thanks for this awesome tutorial made myself a smaller sized one and it came out great. After finding a large beanbag on a swap group on Facebook it ended up costing me less than $40!

  28. Just tagged you in my blog post - Great tips thank you :-)

  29. How much fabric would be needed to make a 30" travel bean bag?