Bean Bags: A Scrap-Busting Tutorial

My kids are hands on, tactile kids. They love to kick balls, throw stuff and investigate the consequences of each and every action.

I decided to make them some beanbags, in the hopes that perhaps I could make a felt target for the floor and they could amuse themselves for a few minutes with it. I didn't expect the extent of their imagination. The beanbags have been in use for about a week and in that time they've been building blocks, hats, Pip had made them into a bed for her cars and then one was a blanket on top of the cars. In short, we love open ended toys. Gross motor skills, sensory experiences and so on and so forth. Or: they feel really cool in your hands. You can heat one up to fix an ouchie, throw one in the freezer for an ouchie, pile them on top of each other and knock them down. They also look pretty snazzy.

Gather materials

Fabric either 7 inches x 14 inches OR 2 x 7 inches
Wheat to fill the beanbags
Coffee to fill your tired brain
Scissors/Rotary cutter (I rotary cut mine)
Pins/ Safety Pins

Notes: I got my wheat from a local animal supply shop. I got my coffee from my kitchen pantry. I have also heard of people making calico beanbags for their inner beanbags. I didn't do this. The wheat I have used isn't particularly pointy and I used a small stitch to make the seams as durable as possible. If you were making these for very young children or to sell, I would be more inclined to overlock/serge seams as well as perhaps making an inner bag. I think this is a great way to use up odd shapes of material you have kicking around. You could also make a giant patchwork piece of fabric and cut it into the rectangles. Have fun!


1. Cut fabric for your beanbags. I used one piece of fabric per beanbag and cut it 7 inches wide by 14 inches tall. This is going to give me a square beanbag.

I meant to cut just a few... 
2. Wrong sides together, sew around the edges using a small stitch length (2.2mm) and a 1/2 inch seam allowance leaving a gap at the top. Trim your corners as demonstrated to make a crisp corner.

It took me 10 minutes to put the red lines on the picture.
I got Pippa a drink, broke up a toddler fight, got everyone
an apricot ball, explained that when you clean up the toys
we can watch ABC and thought about coffee.
3. Turn your beanbag inside out and press the top gap seam allowance to the inside.

I deliberately took these pics the day after I'd painted my nails.
Take heart that they no longer look like this.

Prepare your beanbag filling area. Take note of the important items.

5. Scoop some wheat into your jug from the bag and holding the beanbag open over the bowl, carefully pour the wheat into the beanbag. Pin the opening closed with one or two pins. This step can be done with toddlers underfoot but is exponentially faster without. That is why there are no pictures of this step.

A visual of how much I filled my bean bags.

6. Sip your coffee and ensure that you drink it before it's cold. Priorities, please.

7. Stitch your opening closed, going back and forth at the ends a few times.

8. Oh my goodness children, stop yelling at the cat. Pip, here's your dummy.


I initially meant to sew just a few up and when I began sewing the fabric I'd cut I noted that it was taking an extraordinarily long time. When I counted the cut fabric I'd cut 34 beanbags out. We have a plentiful supply now and I have given some away as a gift. Which brings me to:


I can hear the refrain of 'Humpty Dumpty' coming from my bedroom. Will I be putting a pre-emptive beanbag in the freezer?

Mrs Smyth Made This

I stopped writing about craft, and well, everything for a time. My life just didn't seem interesting enough to devote the time to sitting down and collating posts. I was tired and blogging was on the wane for me.

This has started to shift again. I suppose everything has it's seasons and now it's time to write a little bit more. This shift began when I realised that in the past 5 days I have made...

Deer and Doe Plantain with long sleeves

Deer and Doe Plantain with 3/4 sleeves

Bolster cushion for my bed

And I have continued quilting my Marmalade quilt but have run out of thread until I can make another trip to buy some more. I have also begun a charm square mini quilt with M, who asked oh so politely if I could teach her to use my sewing machine. So far she's sewed together three rows of squares, I pressed and joined the rows for her. She's very good at sitting on my lap and patiently guiding her fabric through the machine, keeping her hands well clear of the needle. She knows how to raise and lower the needle and put the foot down. I control the foot pedal and she guides. I'd never leave her alone with my machine, but I'm so proud that she wants to learn to sew.

The Juniper pants by Colette are next. I've had the pattern and the fabric for almost twelve months, but I kept waiting for the next 5kg, or to feel brave enough to try. The time has come where I feel confident, and my only pair of jeans have developed a second hole. It is time. 

What have you been making? Tell me everything.

Crafty Wednesday : Organisation

Artfully blurred fabric shelf.
I admit, I don't often think carefully about organising a room or craft area until I'm in the thick of it. Then I realise I can't find anything and it actually looks quite messy, and something must be done about it. Immediately. Then I often have a cup of tea and forget about it. Until I need to find something, then it's an immediate nightmare.

Enter my Craft Room. It's actually the dining room, but we don't dine in there often (ever). When I began sewing more often Mr S suggested it would be a great room for sewing in. We set up some bookshelves for fabric and Mr S created a nook for my sewing machine and overlocker to live in.

Admittedly, I'd already started pulling everything out to tidy...
but it wasn't far from this in the beginning. Eek!
As I began to sew more the fabric expanded. And expanded. And I realised I had a fabric problem. 'Hi, my name is Amy, and I cannot leave any bolt of fabric unfondled.'

I started looking around for lovely ways to store ones fabric. I found a few tutorials, but nothing was going to work for my little space.

I had seen Emily from Joyful Abode's fabric shelf, and asked her how she wound her fabric. She pointed me towards these comic book boards on Amazon, but the price and shipping to Australia was not worthwhile. I talked to my friends at Spicer's Paper, but to get the amount of board I needed shipped and trimmed was going to cost more than I was willing to pay.

I mentioned my project to my friend Wolfgang, who does his own framing for his jaw-droppingly beautiful photography. He ducked out to his studio and came back with an armful of foam core board offcuts. Exactly what I needed! Thankfully Wolfie's 'offcuts' are neatly trimmed, all same size long lengths of foam core board.

I started trimming the board to 12-12.5in lengths (30-31cm) and taking my larger pieces of fabric and winding them around. Angels sang. It looks so tidy and professional and is oh so easy to do. Given the placement of my bookshelf I'll need to make a curtain for the bookshelf to protect the fabric from the sun.

Winding... winding.
(Sadly, I really enjoyed this part!)
After I'd used all the board I realised that I still had a disgusting amount of fabric that needed winding, and a lot of really disorganised crates of fabric offcuts and smaller pieces.

I started being ruthless and throwing smaller odd shaped pieces out, which is hard for a 'One day I'll use that' packrat like myself. I also made a basket of Fat Quarters and Not Quite Fat Quarters. I emptied my Sewing Book basket, only to find seven notebooks and three sewing books. That was easy to organise! I also had a stash of crochet and knitting books that I'm finding new homes for.

I had to find new homes in our one storage cupboard in the house for my letterpress kit and Epic Six die cutting machine. I felt like I was on fire, for usually by the time objects need rehoming I begin to hyperventilate and need a good lie down. Once this was completed I fist pumped the air, removed Millie from the linen cupboard and thought about eating some biscuits.

It is by no means completed - there's another basket of fabric to be wound and pinned, which will lead to reorganising the shelves again in order to fit the wound fabric boards on.

Top shelf:
Towelling for bibs and wound fabric.
Second shelf: tub of fabric to be wound, basket of fat quarters and not quite fat quarters, and basket of wadding and interfacing.
Third shelf: machine pedals, basket of projects on the go and completed projects.
Bottom shelf: a bag of stuffing, my nail kit, my Music Memories box and my Family Memories Box. You can see they've been Millie'd.
Left: Ironing board.
Right: Thick wadding for dolly quilts, my mending pile (oh my) and my overlocker box.

I'm somewhat ashamed to say I really enjoyed cleaning up my area. It makes me want to spend more time in there, crafting and sewing. Or just writing lists.

How do you organise your craft area? Sewing, paper crafts, crochet or knitting - tell me about it!

A Tidy Place (aka CRAFT! aka I clean up the rubbish tip that is my dressing table)

I am not a tidy housewife. Mr S is a very tidy housewife and is very good at putting things away.
Example #1
On his bedside table there is a bedside lamp and an alarm clock. That's it.
On my bedside table there is (now) a bedside lamp, my iphone alarm clock dock thingo, three books and a pair of headphones. This is exceptionally tidy for me. It used to be a bedside lamp, iphone thingo, five books, a glass of water, headphones, lipgloss, my wallet... you get the picture. Little Lady of the house is mobile and quite good and taking things off my bedside table.

Example #2
Mr S has no clothes left out. As in, they're all put away. Always.
I have several outfits close to hand. There's a beautiful chair I made when I was 33 weeks pregnant with Millie that is usually covered in clean washing or clothes I'm just going to wear the next day anyway.

Example #3
On his day at home with Millie Mr S manages to clean the whole house. I don't know how.
On most of my days at home with Millie we wind up sitting on the floor surrounded by forty thousand plastic toys capable of rendering a grown adult (me) to a whimpering child by walking over them.

But I digress.
I think I'm starting to nest or something already. It's really weird and I don't like how it makes me feel.
(I really must just take a Bex and a good lie down.)

We'd just moved our new bed in to our bedroom so change was in the air. I saw my rubbish tip dressing table last week and I couldn't stand the sight of it any longer. When Millie went to sleep I set to cleaning out the top two drawers (scarves! Swimwear! Gymwear! Gloves! Hiking heat packs!) to put the gigantic box of perfume bottles and various jewellery boxes in. So they could be close to hand, but not THAT close to hand.
Naturally, Millie woke up 20 minutes after she went to sleep. No matter. We can clean together, child! Hooray! What's that? The world is ending unless I pick you up? Oh...
Never mind! I can clean with you on my hip! Actually, no I can't. We will return.

Millie proceeds to not be asleep for the rest of the day, so in fits and starts I turn the radio up loudly (Let's dance Millie!) and force myself to throw things out or find a new home for them. I am tensing up just typing about that - I hate it more than game meats.

In a rare moment of 'I think Millie might be asleep! Quick! To the craft room!' I found two old photo frames in Mr S' man cave, and covered the backing boards with my new PVA glue and furnishing fabric that I made the chair, canvases and matching doona cover out of. There are no photos of this because I was crafting at the speed of light. Turns out Millie was not asleep, merely lying there contemplating how long before I would free her from the prison-like confines of her (Huon Pine) cot and (tastefully decorated) room.

I wrapped ribbon across one board, securing with PVA glue. I did not have any thumbtacks in the house, and my staple gun would have sent death-like metal spikes through to the front. I honestly didn't think the PVA glue would hold. The other board I took outside and hammered two nails close to the top of them. By this stage Millie had been awake for about 6 hours and unhappy for about 5.5 of them, so it was good stress relief for me to escape by myself and hammer something...

Then, I had these.

Left - brooches, Right - necklaces.

Brooches - this was the one with ribbon affixed.
Super handy to display most of my brooches, and easy to get
on and off.

Necklaces. The nails should have been closer to the top, but I'm happy with this.
(It's not actually crooked, it's my professional photography.)

My nana-esque dressing table tray.
L-R Back row - Hairties, perfumes.
L-R Front row - hair pins, my daily watch and earrings, Myrtle the mouse.

My word! Look at how tidy and uncluttered that is!
 Once I had the frames on the wall I realised I wanted a nice way to display my favourite perfumes (of which I found I had duplicates, so I need to use them all up) and have a space for hairties and bobby pins. I also wanted a nice place to put my watch and daily earrings.

A friend gave me the tray years ago, and I had the glass bowls leftover from holding candles at my wedding, so it was a nice way to have my favourite things on display, but feel like they're organised.

I know. I don't know what came over me either, except that I bloody love it. And we'll be fixing the cracked mirror shortly too.

How do you organise your dressing area? Nana-esque or something else quite funky?

NB: There are whole days where Millie and I sit on the floor and there's no frustrations whatsoever. This was an anomaly of a day, where instead of her lovely 2hrsx2 daily there was 20 minutes sleep over 12 hours. Had I had a crystal ball there's no way I would have attempted this. But I'm so glad I did. I love going in to my bedroom now.

Refuelling. Or, it's the process, not the product.

I confess. I've been a grumpy grumpleston. For WEEKS now. Mr S keeps alternating between gently asking me what's wrong and making unsubtle hints that perhaps I could fix whatever's making me grumpy. Then there was this morning, where he said 'Can you please try to be happy? You have a very nice life you know. You know?' Between the gastro that will not die and Terrible-Twos-But-I'm-Only-One M... I need more sleep. I don't make time for more sleep. I need some craft time. I don't make craft time. This is all a product of my own doing.

But he's right - things around here are actually Very Nice. So I found some things to smile about (the gorgeousness that is M in a shopping trolley with her handbag on, swinging her feet and grinning) and bought some soul food (two varieties of hot cross buns and an unholy amount of Easter eggs), came home, lit the fire, put M to bed and forgot about the housework.

Well, that's not strictly true. I did the bare minimum of washing up and toys away whilst M was awake. Then it was ME time.

I've been reading a lot of posts about creativity and having 'me' time as a parent, and I thought I had it licked. I tried really hard to love housework and find some occasional time for crafty pursuits. I have a laser focus at times, and housework became my laser focus. Except I'm really quite bad at housework, so it kind of became my laser focus. I abhor cleaning the bathroom so much I leave it until the sink becomes a personality all on it's own and threatens to eat the hand towels... But I found myself pondering the best way to clean the light switches, with a nail brush or a sponge? (the jury is still out, I haven't tried a nail brush yet.)

But I forced myself to cut out a bag pattern and start creating again. I left it in full view on the craft table  but over this week it got covered in bills, and M's daycare bag and some craft books. This morning I put the already paid bills in the fire and M's bag on the floor.

I switched Radio National on because I'm old like that and started sewing. And kept sewing. M kept sleeping. I threw some more wood on the fire and kept sewing.

And this appeared.
Teal Butterfly Clutch Bag, based upon Cuada design.
Whilst I love the butterfly fabric, this one's not for me. It's not really my style. Is it for you? Do you want it to be? It'll eventually wind up in my imaginary Etsy shop for sale. *

I felt a sense of completion and an amazing sense of calm. Relaxed and able. The rain is pouring, wind howling, but the house is warm and I can hear the radio in the background. A simple time. A quiet time.

Sewing isn't necessarily always about the product, but it's the process. It's the same as songwriting in a way, (which I've been doing a spot of recently too...), but songwriting is more a cathartic experience, to craft and tell a story. Something about sewing is more rote and mindless.

It makes me feel restored. I've had a brilliant couple of hours that has made me feel like I've stolen some time back and I feel a little more like me.

Tell me, how do you refuel? Is it the process or the product? Why is the sky blue?

*This Teal Butterfly Clutch Bag is $30 + $6.60 PH. Handmade with love. A brilliant gift.

A Creative Heart

Cooking up a storm...

All of my life I've always created in some way or form. But then, don't most kids? Creativity becomes life when kids are young - hide and seek, dress ups, creating a library from the encyclopaedia set complete with check in cards and pockets... or was that just me?

Ages 3-11
As I grew up there was always creativity front and centre in my life. Speech therapy for a lisp turned into speech and drama lessons turned into acting in school plays, which turned into singing in school plays. The neighbours had a word to my parents when I would ride my BMX bike up and down View St singing the Weetbix song in the wee hours of the morning when I was six, because I loved to sing. Paper crafts, a sewing kit for a birthday when I was young, jingle bells that mysteriously disappeared not long after that Christmas, turning up five years later thanks Mum, stilt walking, drama day camps, choirs and so on and so forth.

Ages 12-16
It wasn't until high school that I discovered I wanted to play a musical instrument. So I rented a flute from my high school and began taking lessons with the approved school teacher. Who I promptly fell out with (He was very snooty, very french and quite mean) and found a lovely teacher called Sarah, who was 19 and the coolest girl ever. She also got me well and truly drunk for the first time when I was 14 and we went to a heavy metal concert after my flute lesson. I can't believe the things you let me do Mum.

Flute took a back seat when I was blessed with a mouth full of braces at age 16, but I kept singing and playing guitar.

Ages 16-22
After I finished my secondary education I applied to and was accepted into a Contemporary Music tertiary qualification run through the Arts and Music Campus at my local TAFE, which was where I met Mr S and his collection of 80's dress shirts. Still crocheting and quilting and paper crafting and baking in the background. We install a recording studio into our house, which terrified (and continues to terrify) me, but it keeps music as a constant in our lives.

I take an interest in all things graphic design, get some software and fiddle and play, eventually fluking myself into a job in Tasmania... southward bound!

Ages 22-27
When I moved to Tasmania in 2005 the first person I met was an 8 months pregnant Mel, who introduced me to the local Australian Songwriters Association group. When Mr S joined me we spent the next four years attending and playing. Somewhere in there I was asked to play a gig at a local pub. I hadn't played on stage for years, let alone played original songs, let alone be paid for it!

I spent the next 6 years making a living from music and graphic design. With lots of help from Mr S I recorded and released two EPs over the last three years. In this time I hit some career highs that have made me feel satisfied with where music has taken me. Cygnet Folk Festival, Australian Blues Music Festival, Falls Festival, Taste Festival, other festivals around Tasmania, radio interviews all over Australia, so much support and airplay from Edge Radio, loads of support from ABC 936 Local, newspaper interviews etc. It's these successes that make me feel content with what I've done and perhaps have quenched my public musical thirst for a little while.

In this time my father falls terminally ill, and I need distracting, so I start baking. And baking. And baking. I also study cake decorating for a year, and fill the kitchen cupboards with yet more creative gear. I can pipe a cake like a mofo.

Ages 27-28
When I fell pregnant my focus shifted and I wasn't driven to music like I usually am. I needed home crafts. I started sewing. I letterpressed all our wedding invitations (sucker for punishment I am), I kept crocheting, I made cards, I made matching chairs and wall canvases and doona covers (nesting Mama times), I cooked gargantuan amounts of food for my freezer (see nesting Mama times, above.)

The one constant in my life is creating. It's an itch, I've got to scratch it. My desk is currently covered in two balls of bamboo yarn (Summer crochet hat for M), two bags of red yarn (leftover project that didn't work), a photo album (to make a flip book for M), a roll of ribbon (ribbon flowers), my Mrs Smyth notebook and a whole lot of crap. And a coffee mug.

Before we dreamed of Millie I read this fantastic book by Rachel Powers called 'A Divided Heart' and whilst I loved it, I didn't really understand it as deeply as I do now. It's a series of interviews with mothers or mothers-to-be and their relationship with their art. It's such a beautifully written book, I think you'd like it...

So now, sometimes, I MUST. I MUST create SOMETHING. Be it baking and decorating a cake or sewing something or crocheting for an hour or strumming my guitar, all the time, there needs to be something.

No matter where my day to day life takes me, next to my family and friends, my creativity is right there, threaded through my life and it anchors me.

What's your anchor?