The classic bean bag chair has always been round, kind of like sinking into a giant squishy beachball. But if you wanted to make your own, it really demanded a pattern (a very large pattern) in order to get a true spherical shape. Never ones to be daunted by geometry, we turned instead to the latest trend in slouchy sitting: the pyramid bean bag chair. This little lounger is made from simple rectangles – no pattern needed. We shopped to find a print and solid in tough outdoor fabric so the chair could be used outside on the patio as well as inside in a bedroom or family room. Our sample is sized for kids, but we also give you dimensions to up-size for adults.
The unique pyramid shape allows the chair to form a higher back rest, and we added a panel at the base to keep the chair’s occupant from sliding off onto the floor!
You’ll create an inner sleeve from rip stop nylon to stuff with your favorite filler. We used Poly-Fil Biggie Bean Bag Filler by Fairfield, which is the common expanded polystyrene beads. There are alternatives, such as shredded foam; the filler choice is really up to you.
The rip stop nylon lining sleeve creates an inner moisture barrier for use outdoors. Although, as with all outdoor cushions and other fabric-based outdoor accessories, our bean bag chair is not meant to be left out in the rain for days on end. It would likely get ruined... and would be lonely after so many days outside on its own.
The handle on the back of the chair lets you easily move it from point A to point B. You can also hang it up to keep it out of the way or to allow it to more easily dry out should it get damp.
Working with outdoor fabric for larger projects like this bean bag chair is great since it’s nearly always 54” or more in width, giving you lots of real estate with less yardage. Since we were designing for kids, we chose a vibrant tropical fish pattern in combination with a bright marine blue. This print and solid combination is a nice look, and a darker solid color on the bottom also helps hide dirt.
In the steps below, you'll notice we used a "mini" version of the chair in some images. This was in order to better show the entire piece(s) within the frame of the camera.
Our kid-size pyramid bean bag chair is a bit hard to precisely measure because of the dimensional shape, but in general it finishes at approximately 29” across the base panel, 32” from the floor to the top peak, and 53” from the peak down to the foot, measuring along the bask rest and the curve of the seat.
If you’d like to make a larger “adult” size chair, the width side to side is okay as is, but you’ll want the length be 6” - 8” longer. In this case, you’d want to cut your panels in the opposite direction as indicated below, which will mean a bit more waste. Cut 36” wide and purchase 1¾ yards each of the two exterior fabrics in order to allow a 60” to 63” cut. For the rip stop, you’d need up to 3¾ yards.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Zipper foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional but helpful for the topstitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1¼ yards of 54"+ wide outdoor fabric in a bold print for the chair front and foot base panel
- 1¼ yards of 54"+ wide outdoor fabric in a coordinating solid for the chair back and handle
- 2¼ yards of 54”+ ripstop nylon or similar for the lining
NOTE: See the notes above in the introduction regarding additional fabric needed for larger chairs.
- 1 yard of zipper by the yard or an approximate 32” standard plastic zipper in an matching or contrasting color
- Bean bag filler; we used THREE bags of Poly-Fil Biggie Bean Bag Filler by Fairfield - each 16 oz bag is rated to fill 2 cubic feet
- Heavy duty or outdoor thread to match fabric; we used Coats Heavy thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
NOTE: When cutting, the 54” axis is the width of fabric (WOF). This will eventually become the sides of the main panel and the 36” axis will be the base and back rest. This works best with a fabric that has a more random motif rather than a very strict direction. In our sample, our tropical fish are swimming up and down on the finished chair, which worked just as well as swimming side to side. Keep this in mind when choosing your fabric.
- From the fabric for the front and base panel (Tropical Fish in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 54” (width of fabric-WOF) x 36” rectangle for the chair front
ONE 30” wide x 6” high rectangle for the base panel
- From the fabric for the back and handle (Marine Blue in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 54” (width of fabric-WOF) x 36” rectangle for the chair back
ONE 8” x 4” strip for the handle
- From the fabric for the inner sleeve (White rip stop in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 54” x 36” rectangles for the main panels
ONE 30” x 6” rectangle for the base panel
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
NOTE: Remember, we used a "mini" version of the bean bag chair in some photos in order to better capture a full image within the frame of the camera.
Insert the zipper in the main panels
- We recommend finishing all the raw edges of your panels with serger or with a machine finishing stitch. We used a simple zig zag.
NOTE: See our four-part tutorial series on machine sewn seam finishes for more information.
- Orient your two main panels correctly 36” top and bottom, 54” along the sides.
- Place the two panels right sides together, aligning all four raw edges.
- Along one 54" side, pin from the bottom up 4”.
- At the 4” point, measure 30” up towards the top and place another pin. Leave this 30” open; it’s where the zipper will go.
- Continue pinning from the 30” point along the remaining 20” up to the top of the panel.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the 4” lower section and the 20” upper section. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the 30” opening.
- Find the zipper. Our pretty orange zipper is meant to be a colorful design element, so it is inserted to show the orange teeth.
- Insert the zipper into the 30” opening. First pining along one side…
- … aligning the zipper tape and the raw edge of the fabric.
- Pin the opposite side of the zipper in the same manner. Because we used Zipper by the Yard, we tacked across both ends to keep the zipper intact and to create the “stops.” This is not necessary if you purchase a fully-formed 32”+ zipper.
- Switch to a Zipper foot. Stitch the zipper in place.
- Remember to stop, with your needle in the down position, to move the zipper pull out of the way as necessary.
- If using Zipper by the Yard, trim away the excess zipper tape.
- Press the seam away from the zipper and topstitch along each side of the zipper teeth.
NOTE: If you are brand new to inserting zippers, we have a zipper tutorial you can review prior to starting.
- Clip into the seam allowance at the top and bottom of the zipper and press the remaining sections of the seam allowance towards the front panel (the Tropical Fish panel in our sample).
- Continue a matching line of topstitching up to the top of the panel (the top 20”) and down to the bottom of the panel (the bottom 4”) so you have a full line of topstitching extending the length of the panel within the front fabric.
NOTE: For any pressing, use a lower temperature on your iron and/or a pressing cloth. Outdoor fabric prefers a lower temp, and you should also keep excessive heat away from the plastic zipper teeth as they can melt.
- Pin along the opposite 54” side. The image below is one of our mini shots but we didn’t have a mini zipper so it is merely labeled. However, this gives you a good view of the two-part side with the zipper and the full opposite side seam.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the opposite 54” side from top to bottom.
- Stitch a matching line of topstitching along this seam from top to bottom. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to keep a precise distance from the seam.
- You’ve created a large tube, open on both ends.
Stitch the “back rest” seam
- Make sure the tube is wrong side out.
- Fold the tube in half so the two side seams are aligned (and the two panels are right sides together).
- Pin in place, checking alignment again of the seams. Remember, this is the top of the bag. The photos above and below are of our “mini” bean bag.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch this entire long seam, from folded edge, across the centered seams, to the opposite folded edge.
- Press the seam allowance together and to one side.
- Turn the bag right side out thorough the open base end.
- Flatten under the needle and stitch a matching line of topstitching (matching what you did along the side seams) along the length of the seam, securing the pressed-to-one-side seam allowance. Stitch as far into each corner as you can at the start and end of the seam.
NOTE: We took the time to stop and lock our seam at center seam point and change thread color, topstitching the bottom half in matching blue thread and the top half in matching white thread.
Create and place the optional handle
- Find the 4” x 8” handle strip. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 2” x 8”. Pin together, leaving a 2” opening along the 8” side.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across both ends and along the side, remembering to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 2” opening.
- Clip the corners.
- Turn right side out through the opening. Using a long, blunt tool, like a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner, gently poke out the corners so they are nice and square.
- Press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the handle fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch around all four sides of the handle, securing the layers and closing the opening used for turning.
- Center the handle over the “back rest” seam. The bottom end of the handle should sit just above the center seam (where the solid fabric meets the print fabric). Pin in place.
- Flatten the bag again as you did to achieve the topstitching.
- Stitch each end of the handle in place with an 1¼” X Box square.
Insert the base panel
- Open up the zipper.
- Turn the bag wrong side out.
- Flatten the open end so the two side seams are laying one on top of the other. Place a pin at each outer fold. This gives you your four centering points for the base panel insertion: the two pin points and the two seams.
- Open the end back into its original configuration so the seams are at the sides.
- Find the 30” x 6” base panel. Its raw edges should all be finished. Find the center point of each of the base panel’s four sides and place a pin at each point.
- Set the base panel into the open end of the bag. Align the sides first, matching up the center point of each 6” side of the base panel with each of the bag’s side seams. Pin the first side in place.
- Starting ½” in from the corner, stitch this first side in place. Stop your seam ½” in from the opposite corner.
- Repeat to stitch the opposite short side, and then stitch each long side. Remember to start and stop each seam ½” in from each corner. Clip into the bag at each corner to help the two pieces ease together.
NOTE: If you are new to inserting a rectangular base into a tube, check out our full step-by-step tutorial.
- Here’s the finished base panel set into our “mini” bean bag.
- Turn the finished exterior bag right side out through the open zipper. Press.
The inner sleeve
- The rip stop inner sleeve is made in the same fashion as the exterior, except in a slightly different order since there is no zipper.
- First place the two panels right sides together and pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both 54” side seams from top to bottom.
- Flatten the base end and find the center points of this opening.
- Insert the rip stop base panel in the exact same manner as above for the exterior.
- At the opposite end of the bag, bring together the side seams to stitch the “back rest seam,” but only pin one half, stopping at the center where the seams overlap.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch this half seam, stopping and locking at the the center point.
- You now have an opening in the “back rest” seam, which you’ll use to add the filler.
- Fill up the inner sleeve to your desired level. We used THREE of the large bags of filler for our sample kid-size bean bag chair, which was just perfect. You don’t want to the filler to be super full or there’s no where for the pellets to shift to allow the chair to form into its correct shape.
- Securely pin or even hand baste the opening closed.
- Insert the inner sleeve into the exterior bag through the open zipper. Zip the zipper closed and test the bag. Make sure you can sit on it comfortably and don’t sink all the way down to floor. Also make sure the pellets have enough room to shift down towards the foot rest and up towards the back rest in order to form a seat for your bum. Obviously, it’s best to test it with someone of about the same weight as the final user(s).
- If need be, remove the inner sleeve’s pins or basting stitches and add or remove pellets. Test again until you have the firmness you like. Once you’re sure, stitch the opening in the sleeve closed.
- Re-insert the sleeve back into the exterior through the zipper. Zip closed, and get ready to lounge.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild