DIY bean bag chair: Meet the Rollie Pollie

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Remember how I mentioned I’ve been on a DIY kick lately, brought on by my illness-induced antsy-ness and disinterest in food?  Well, one night recently it drove me to the internet, where I got stuck for hours on a single website.  (I fell way down that rabbit hole!)  I bookmarked tons of projects, but the one that compelled me to actually make something right away, was a pattern for a bean bag chair.  (Do you ever find that while the internet is a great resource, you often have time to either do a project or read about one, but not both?  I hate that.  I wish we could buy an iTunes gift card for our own time.)

It's a great spot to read
It’s a great spot to read

Anyway, the pattern was designed by a sewing blogger.  You can find it here.  She calls it a Rollie Pollie, and it’s marvelous.  It does cost $8, which gave me pause.  I have grown accustomed to getting things for free on the internet, but I eventually realized that I wouldn’t bat an eye at a corporation charging for a pattern, and I was actually much happier to support an entrepreneur instead.  So I ponied up the money and am so glad I did.

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The pattern requires advanced-beginner to intermediate sewing skills, and about 12 hours of time (if you’re rusty like me). The pattern is delivered via email and prints onto 8 ½ by 11 paper, which you then tape together (see my tips below) and use to cut out your fabric.  The pattern instructions are detailed, and the comments on the blog entry are informative, too.

One reader’s comment got me to think outside the box about how to stuff the Rollie Pollie.  I wasn’t too keen on spending nearly $50 for polyester fill, for reasons of thrift and environmental concern.  Also, to be honest, I was impatient.  I didn’t want to wait the week it would take to have the stuffing delivered.  So, while standing in the garage trying to remember what I went out there for, I noticed our sleeping bags, which have never found a proper home.  Aha!  Then and there I decided to stuff the Rollie Pollie with soft odds and ends we had lying around: extra cushions, guest pillows, a couple stuffed animals, and those very same sleeping bags.  Now our Rollie Pollie provides my son with a comfy place to read and go bonkers, all while providing storage for items that otherwise float around our home without finding one of their own.

Non-traditional stuffing
Non-traditional stuffing
The Rollie Pollie swallowed it all!
The Rollie Pollie swallowed it all!

However you decide to fill the Rollie Pollie, the pattern calls for an insert and a slip cover (so basically you sew two covers).  This design is super practical as you can remove and wash the cover as needed.  Good thinking, if it’s meant for kids.

The cover material I chose is fabric I bought in Nigeria years ago that is intended for traditional women’s dresses.  It’s a mid to heavyweight cotton.  I love how the bold pattern, alternating the panels, really stands out on the Rollie Pollie.  Ikea has a lot of great options, too.

In case you decide to make your own Rollie Pollie, and I highly encourage you to do so, I’ve added a few tips and comments on the process here.

1. Taping the pattern

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Join the internal corners first, then the places where the pattern pieces meet.  That is, don’t bother taping the outer edges of the pages together – you’re just going to cut them off.  Focus on connecting the spots where you’ll cut the pattern out (i.e., across the point where the arrows meet), so the papers remain attached after cutting them.

2. Consider adding an opening to the insert

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If you use extra pillows, etc… like I did, you’re probably going to want to be able to remove them from the Rollie Pollie when you need to use them.  For that reason, I altered the pattern to include an opening in the insert, too.  I gave it a Velcro closure (honestly, because I didn’t have a zipper on hand).  The open-able insert also makes stuffing the Rollie Pollie a lot easier, since you’re adding only one item at a time instead of wrestling to get the entire thing inside the slip cover. You’ll see what I mean if you buy the pattern.

No doubt the traditional fill would make a softer and lighter Rollie Pollie (mine weights quite a bit). I may eventually upgrade the filling to the Cluster Stuff the designer recommends.  If you decide to use it as she suggests, note it is a bit hard to find and costs about $4.50 a bag (it’s available at Walmart.com), and you’ll need 9-10 bags for a large Rollie Pollie.  I also located an 11-lb box (plenty for a large Rollie Pollie, with a pound or two to spare) on Overstock.com for $46.79.  A pretty good deal, too, considering.

3. Fabric selection

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The pattern instructions give good guidance on the type of fabric to use.  I will just add a comment about the fabric pattern.  The blog entry shows pictures of four different Rollie Pollies, so you can get a feel for whether you prefer a solid or a pattern, a small print or a bold one.

In addition, I think it’s worth it to lay the fabric you’re considering over something vaguely shaped like a bean bag so you can visualize how it will look on the final product.  Initially, I spread seven options flat on the couch and was least excited about the one I eventually chose.  Once I draped the options over a large round pillow, I could see immediately that my preferred fabrics were much too subtle for a bean bag chair.  Thus, my least favorite option (initially) became my first choice for the Rollie Pollie.  Funny, that.

4. Zipper

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I used a 24″ sport zipper with large plastic teeth.  It’s not as fine looking at the lovely ones shown in the pattern, but it’s a fun color and I figure will hold up better to the abuse it will surely take over time.  And even thought it’s chunky it is still pretty invisible once completed.

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I do think it’s worth shoring up the ends of the zippers for extra security.  I just winged it with a couple of boxes going back and forth with a zigzag stitch (leaving a gap where the zipper crosses).

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What do you think?  Does this project move you to break out your sewing machine and create your own Rollie Pollie?  I think I might make another one out of vinyl for the garage play area, if I can find more “extra” pillows lying around.  We don’t really need so many on our bed, do we?  Or better yet, perhaps I could “hide” my son’s giant collection of stuffed animals.  Look out guys!  You might be destined for life inside a Rollie Pollie!

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Looking for an no-sew fabric project?  Check out the DIY bulletin board

This post was shared on From the Farm Blog Hop at Sunny Simple Life.

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