Bean Bags

bean bags

With summer approaching, I find myself checking the weather to see if it will be warm enough to sneak a bit of work in outdoors. When you live in a climate like I do here in New England, summer is a special time indeed. My parents reported that they are installing a horseshoe pit, which got us thinking about our favorite summer game: cornhole. While the name sometimes gets a giggle, the game is quite addictive, and involves tossing beanbags (or cornbags) onto a platform with a hole (a cornhole in one!). It’s apparently popular enough to have its own association, and you can read more about it at www.playcornhole.org.

Since weaving the ring pillow in lesson four, I have been wielding my pick-up sticks with reckless abandon. I am truly amazed at what one can produce on the Flip loom with one or two of these simple accessories. [To avoid confusion between “weaving a pick”, “weft pick” and “pick-up stick”, from here forward the pick-up stick will be called “pattern stick”.]

To really understand how they can change the face of your fabric, I highly recommend putting a sample warp on your loom and just playing around. As a reminder, you insert the pattern stick when your rigid heddle loom is in the down shed position. Try inserting the pattern stick in different combinations of threads: 1 down, 1 up; 2 down, 2 up; 3 down, 3 up; 1 down, 3 up and so on. A weft pick made with the heddle in neutral with just the pattern stick turned on its edge will create weft floats, or elevated horizontal threads. This means that weft threads that typically would have been covered by your warp are displayed. You can create warp floats by moving your heddle into the up position and turning the pattern stick on edge. This elevates warp threads that typically would have been covered by your weft, creating a raised vertical line. You can create an infinite combination of patterns using both floats and color.

I wanted to experiment with both color and warp and weft patterns. I am also trying to work with my existing stash as much as possible. My resources are not bottomless, and I am saving my pennies for a couple of exciting fiber adventures I have planned for this summer. I decided to select a fairly neutral color for my warp, and ended up using a 3/2 perle cotton in deep beige #96. With a neutral warp, I could easily experiment with a variety of weft colors.

I wanted my weaving to be more of a sampler, but a sampler with a purpose. And then it came to me. I could make beanbags. They’d be perfect for playing cornhole, as well as being great for juggling, a skill I have yet to master. The measurements for this project will make 12 beanbags. I decided to work in sets of three bags, selecting three weft colors for each set of three bags, and using that set of colors differently in each bag within the set. Each set of three bags uses a single pattern stick, the pattern changed once per set of bags.

This project is designed to be woven on a rigid heddle loom, with at least a 10” weaving width. This is a great project if you have a Cricket. You’ll need about 250 yards of 3/2 perle cotton for your warp, which will be 73” long. Your sett is 12 ends per inch, and the weaving width is 10”. This is enough warp for twelve beanbags.

I’m a big fan of direct warping. It’s so quick, and there is less loom waste as you only have to tie-on one end. If you have questions about this process, feel free to email me. (There are extensive direct-warping instructions in the Cricket Loom instructions, which can be found at www.schachtspindle.com, mouse over Support, click on Manuals).

For your weft, you will need total of about 210 yards of 3/2 perle cotton, or a bit more should you decide to incorporate some 5/2 perle cotton like I did. You can either work with a measuring string cut to 4” or a ruler of some sort to determine where each bag begins and ends. If I wasn’t transitioning to a new weft color, creating an obvious division, I found it helpful to insert a short piece of brightly colored string to act as a marker so that once my fabric was washed and pressed, I’d know right where to cut.

all bean bags

You have four inches to weave per beanbag. Within that four inches, you can experiment as much as you’d like. The first set of beanbags I wove used #7 Oak, #79 Natural and #134 Cactus, all 3/2 perle cotton. I inserted my pattern stick 2 up, 2 down and played around with weft floats. To insert a weft float, weave one shot up, place your heddle in neutral, turn the pattern stick on its edge to create the pattern shed, and weave another shot. You can combine sets of up shed picks and pattern picks, but be sure to incorporate a down shed pick periodically or you’ll end up with a very long warp float on the underside of your fabric. I wasn’t really pleased with this first color combination, as it was a bit too light for something that I planned on tossing around outdoors. Also, within that set, the first bag I wove completely lacked the symmetry I was looking for.

The next set of beanbags I used #87 Verdant in 3/2 perle cotton and #73 Winetone in 5/2 perle cotton. My pick up stick was inserted 3 up, 3 down, and again I played around with only weft floats. This pattern stick creates nice little weft floats that look more like dots on your fabric than anything very floaty. The darker green and purple turned out much more to my liking and should deal well with a bit of outdoor abuse.

With the third set of bags I used #134 Cactus in 3/2 perle cotton and #147 Quarry in 5/2 perle cotton, with the pattern stick inserted 3 up, 2 down. This time I decided to play around with warp and weft floats. Your warp floats are created by placing your heddle in the up position and turning the pattern stick on edge at the same time to raise additional warp threads. A pick in this shed is alternated with a down shed pick. Again, the rule of periodically throwing just a down shed pick will keep those warp floats from getting too long. I wasn’t a huge fan of this color combination either, but it topped the first set.

Finally I felt like I was ready to create my fourth and final set, within which I hoped to incorporate all of the best parts of my earlier experiments. This set did end up being my personal favorite, and I am sharing instructions on how to create these three patterns.

Beanbag #1

3/2 perle cotton: #87 Verdant, 10 yards; #7 Oak, 2 yards

5/2 perle cotton: #147 Quarry, 2 yards

Pattern stick: 1 up, 1 down

Pattern A:

up – Verdant

pattern stick – Oak

Pattern B:

up – Verdant

pattern stick – Quarry

Starting with the down shed:

11 plain weave picks – Verdant

Pattern A – 3 times

6 plain weave picks – Verdant

Pattern B – 3 times

6 plain weave picks – Verdant

Pattern A – 3 times

10 plain weave picks – Verdant

Beanbag #2

3/2 perle cotton: #87 Verdant, 8 yards

5/2 perle cotton: #147 Quarry, 10 yards

Pattern stick: 1 up, 1 down

Starting with the down shed:

6 plain weave picks – Verdant

Weave the following sequence four times:

3 picks – Quarry

up & pattern stick – Quarry

down – Quarry

up & pattern stick – Quarry

3 picks – Quarry

5 picks – Verdant

Beanbag #3

3/2 perle cotton: #87 Verdant, 3 yards; #7 Oak, 2 yards

5/2 perle cotton: #147 Quarry, 13 yards

Pattern stick: 1 up, 1 down

 

Pattern A

up – Verdant

pattern stick – Quarry

 

Starting with the up shed:

12 picks – Quarry

3 picks – Oak

5 picks – Quarry

Pattern A – 5 times

2 picks – Quarry

Pattern A – 5 times

5 picks – Quarry

3 picks – Oak

12 picks- Quarry

 

Finishing

Once your fabric is woven, cut it from the loom and zig-zag stitch along the cut edges to secure. I washed my material on the delicate cycle in my washing machine and dried it in the dryer on low. I gave it a good steam pressing and went back to my sewing machine.

I only incorporated a 3/8” seam allowance in this project. If you’re more comfortable having a bit more fabric, simply add a few plain weave picks at the edges of each beanbag.

stitching

I zig-zag stitched the edges of each bag prior to cutting. I find that this makes for easier sewing as the fabric is more stable. One cut leaves two cut edges, so you’ll need lines of stitching in pairs.

folding the fabric

Once you have finished stitching, cut the bag fabric apart. The bags will be folded width-wise, selvedge to selvedge. Fold each bag in half, the wrong side of your fabric facing out, and stitch along the three open edges using a tight, straight stitch. Be sure to leave an opening at one edge as you’ll need a place to fill your bag.

bag with funnel

Turn your sewn bags right-side out and fill each with dried beans. I used the smallest white beans I could find, and found a funnel helpful in getting them in the beanbag. Stitch up the hole and you’re done. (One quick sewing tip: rather than leave a dangling bit of thread behind after sewing up that last hole, I simply stick the sewing needle into the bag and draw it out about a half inch away. I cut the thread, and the loose end slips away inside of the bag, never to be seen again.)

The finished sewn dimensions of some of my bags differed just a bit due to a combination of cutting, sewing and shrinkage. I ended up weighing each set of bags with beans to ensure that each bag was the same weight as the others in that set. If you’re playing a throwing game, these things count. My bags all weigh 98 grams each.

Now you’re ready to grab a nice cold beverage and head outside for a game of cornhole!

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Melissa Ludden Hankens

You can find Melissa designing weaving projects for the Schacht blog and E-news. Melissa is also online at www.mlhankens.com and on Instagram as mlhankens (https://www.instagram.com/mlhankens/ ).