The JeanBag project can work as a class activity or summer camp project with proper supervision. Your students can practice skills in tracing, cutting and basic sewing, or you can do some of the steps for them to save time. When they're done you're ready for a juggling workshop!
These directions offer some special notes and short cuts (marked by the *) for making JeanBags as a group project. I've tested the project with my young niece and nephew and they each had a set of three finished within an afternoon. Be sure to make a few on your own before begining to teach others.
Here are some lesson ideas to go along with your project!
Here's what you need to get started:
Old pairs of jeans that are ready to be thrown out -torn or paint splattered is fine! *ask your students if their family can donate a pair. If you don't have old jeans, any sturdy fabric will do.
The JeanBag stencil pattern. (Download and print the pattern from the PDF file below)
You'll also need:
-Felt tip markers
-Cardboard (non-corrugated -an empty cereal box is perfect)
-Needles, pins, and sturdy thread (sewing machine optional)
-Beanbag filling -approx 1 cup per set of 3. Birdseed or dry beans are fine. I use crushed walnut shells (sold as bedding for pet reptiles or for sand blasting) because they won't sprout if your beanbags get wet.
-1/3 cup measure
-Small funnel -you can make one with cardboard or paper if needed. Make sure your filler can fit through!
1. Start by making your stencils. Download and print the JeanBag stencil pattern, then follow the directions. When you are done you should have two carboard stencils: the fabric stencil and sewing stencil as shown on the right. *To save time, you can prepare several for your class in advance.
2. (optional) If you would like to have a bag for your beanbags, cut the jeans just below the knee and put this section aside for later.
3. Next, cut the jeans along the seams to flatten out the fabric face down (with the inside of the jeans facing up) Using a felt tip pen, trace the rectangular fabric stencil as many times as you can onto the fabric. The number you get depends on the size of the pants. Avoid any holes or weak spots in the fabric.
4. For each traced rectangle, carefully line up the sewing stencil against the bottom left corner as it looked on the stencil pattern. If your pattern is crooked you may sew too close to the edge of the fabric. *Be clear to your students that the stencil must be against the bottom left corner. A crooked trace will be difficult to correct.
5. Cut out each rectangle of fabric. Each piece should have a sewing line as shown in the photo on the right. *If you are concerned that your students may cut along the wrong lines you may have them trace the sewing stencils after the rectangles have been cut. You can also have the rectangles cut before hand to save time.
You can personalize the balls at this point- Turn the fabric over to draw a small symbol or initials in the center that they can recognize when finished.
6. Fold the fabric in half as shown. Line up the edges and pin the corners in place. *Sewing by hand can take time, but if you're good with a sewing machine consider doing this step for them and let them complete the rest another day. If not, this provides a great opportunity to learn basic sewing skills -be prepared to offer guidance to beginners.
7. Sew the folded fabric together starting from the upper right corner of the traced sewing pattern, following the line until you reach the folded edge.
Be sure to use stitches small enough to keep your beanbag filler from falling through when you're done. Remove the pins at the corners.
8. Now it's time for the beanbag to start taking it's 3D shape.
Pinch the sides of the fabric near the top and pull out as shown.
9. The two right angles of the sewing pattern should be at each new fold (indicated by the two arrows in the photo).
Pin the fabric at the top where the new edges meet to hold them together.
10. Now sew down along the two angled lines. Remove the pin. The top will remain open for now.
11. Using the open gap left in the fabric, turn the beanbag inside out. It may help to use a pencil to push the fabric through
12. Push the fabric out all the way to the seams to make the inside space as big as possible
13. Tuck the fabric around the opening inside the hole and crease the edges.
14. Measure 1/3 cup of filler and pour into each beanbag using a funnel. Some pushing and squeezing may be needed to fit it all in. It is not important for them to be filled all the way -it is more important that they all have approximately the same amount of filler.
15. Once filled, there should be space between the filler and the top. Juggling beanbags that are a little loose and squishy will be easier to catch.
16. Finally sew up the gap to seal the filler inside.
Your JeanBag is complete!
17. Now we'll make a bag from the pant leg that was set aside before.
Turn the fabric inside out and fold the cut edge over by about 1/2 inch.
Sew along the folded edge to close it off.
18. Turn it right side out again and you have a bag!
If you want to get fancy, you can even recycle one of the pants pockets and sew it to the front. Now you'll have a place for business cards or other info.
There you have it!
From an old pair of jeans to sets of practice juggling balls.
They aren't pretty but they're sturdy and you won't mind if they get dropped in the mud. And if they don't get dirty -you aren't practicing enough!