Fabric panels can be a great way to make an easy sewing project. I bought a panel called Alphabet Flash Cards Panel by Lisa DeJohn for Red Rooster. (Click through to the link and you’ll see they have a bunch of nice coordinating fabrics and some projects ideas.) The name of the fabric lets you know it would make great flash cards, but I decided to go with bean bags. The squares made it so easy! Just cut them out with a quarter inch allowance, cut a piece of backing fabric, sew, fill and hand stitch closed. Simple!
The backs of the consonant bean bags are a simple cream flannel, but I used a flannel print on the vowels to make them stand out. A curious younger child might ask what makes those letters special, and hopefully an older child will enjoy figuring it out on their own.
The complete set of 26 bean bags took nearly all of a five pound bag of pinto beans as filling, so sturdy storage was needed. I could have used a plastic storage box, but tote bags just seem more kid friendly to me. I had a couple plain canvas tote bags left over from making stenciled gift bags and personalized Twitter tote bags for friends, but they seemed a little too tall and skinny, and I want the bag to be able to sit on a storage shelf.
Thankfully, this is an easy fix. I measured the bean bags, then turned a bag inside out and marked a line along the bottom to make the bag a little deeper.
This makes the bottom of the bag wider and the sides shorter. I sewed right along the line, triple stitching to make an especially strong seam, then cut off the excess fabric. Now two stacks of bean bags easily fit in the bag, and the bag stands on its own.
The fabric panel included a title square, which I thought would make a nice label for the tote bag. (Think how sweet this panel would be made into a little book!) I cut out the square, then cut out a matching piece of fusible interfacing.
I sewed them together with the right side of the fabric facing the “sticky” side of the interfacing. When I turned them right side out, I had a square that I could iron on to the front of the bag.
I sewed a piece of green felt down first to give a little border to the ladybug piece. It’s a little fiddly to sew on, so go slowly and make sure you aren’t catching parts of the bag that you don’t mean to sew. I ironed on the label and then stitched around it, too.
And that’s how you turn a fabric panel, a tote bag and a bag of beans into a lovely little toy complete with storage. If you want to make your own, I bought the fabric panel from Stitch Stash Diva on Etsy.
I enjoyed this project so much, I’ll be looking for more fabric panels soon!