How To: Make a Bean Bag Tripod!

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Posted 09 May 2010 in Featured, Soulville, Technology

As you guys know, I’m an avid photographer and I love to travel. I’ve got a week long trip coming up and I’m flying to all my destinations so I went online to see if I could find a small travel tripod. The tripod I already have is about 24 inches long folded up and about five inches wide. Definitely not fitting in a daypack and I’m not a fan of tying stuff on for city exploring. I want to grab and go. After much searching and finding few options that would hold my camera weight, I started looking at photography boards about solutions. Considering that I’ll be in NYC to see Ellie, I saw that a couple places we’re going do not allow traditional tripods without a lot of hassle. But the most awesome comment suggested to use a bean bag tripod. I’d never heard of one, so of course I set out to see what I could find. I found an awesome product called THE pod, but every store I could find was sold out or would be far to expensive to get here before my trip. So I started searching for other bean bag tripods and found directions to make my own! I’ve edited them to post here and added a few helpful websites in case you’ve never sewn before or made anything like this.

What You’ll Need
Camera dimensions
A ruler
Good pair of scissors
Fabric of your choosing
A sewing machine OR needle and thread (with pincushion and a thimble if you’ve got them)*
Dry beans (the smaller the better)
Patience & time

*I used needle and thread. If you use a machine, you’ll need to alter these instructions.

1. Figure out what size bag you need. What are the dimensions of your camera? I took the dimensions of my camera and added about an inch to each side to be careful. I have a fixed lens so I used the shortest lens length possible for my measurements. If you have a DSLR with a very long lens, adding a few more inches wouldn’t hurt.

2. Pick a material. I had some scrap material leftover from a walmart run a few years ago. Great looking fabric and exactly what I needed. While you can go pick a material you like out at the store, also check out what you have around the house like old tshirts or jeans. You want something durable but lightweight.

3. Cut your material to size. Instead of using a single layer in my bag, I doubled the cloth over then cut it so I could have two layers on each side of the pouch. This is the same as laying your material one layer flat then cutting a piece 4x the dimensions you need. If it’s denim you’re cutting, this probably isn’t necessary, but I would recommend for bags made out of tshirts as well. You can make marks on the cloth with a pen or chalk, whatever works. Make the marks on the INSIDE of the fabric. That is, use the side that isn’t going to end up on the outside when you’re all said and done. Cut carefully. There is always the opportunity to trim down after you stitch the bag, but it could end up too small if you’re off at this point.

For my smaller bag, I used this strip of fabric

Notice the difference between the look of the fabric in these two photos? This is the “inside” or dull side of the fabric, while the other is the one we want to see on the outside.

4. If you haven’t already folded your material over, do this now.

5. If you want, put needles or pins in each side of your material to hold it in place while you sew. It’s not absolutely necessary.

6. Start to sew near one of the corners but not at the absolute edge of the material (maybe 1/4 to 1/2 an inch in) with a backstitch. If you’ve never done one before it’s fairly simple. This video demonstrates the general technique, but to start and stop the row of stitches, do a few loops using the same 2 holes (if you watched the video take the needle into hole 1  then hole 2, back into hole 1 then back into hole 2 and hole 1 again before continuing). It allows your stitches to stay put. You can sew continuously around the entire bag if you want at once or do each side one at a time. On the fourth side, do not close! You need enough space to a) be able to flip your bag inside out and b) pour beans in.

If you used a sewing machine, this is a very easy step and should take about 5 minutes. If you sew by hand (like I did), the total process might take 30 minutes. You can see below that I sewed two lines. I did this as a precaution in case my outermost stitching came loose, I wouldn’t break the bag! It just adds some strength to the bag.

Look at the backstitches. These were used all the way around.

Leave a pocket to flip your bag through and to fill it.

7. Once you have the main stitching done, feed your bag through the hole to flip it inside out. This is the same process you’d use if you were sewing a pillow.

8. Now make sure all your seams are strong. Pull the sides a little bit to see if you missed sewing any material or if a stitch breaks easily. If it’s great, fill the bag with enough beans to give it a squishy bean bag feeling. Not too many beans should go in the bag because you don’t want it to be so stiff it doesn’t mold to your camera and the surface it will sit on. But add enough so it is sturdy. I used the top of a coke bottle to keep from spilling the beans everywhere. I used lentils because of their size.

9. Sew up the last part of your bag. I know it’d be awesome to have none of your stitching show, but for this part your stitches will show. Start sewing just before the hole and continue to sew past the other end of the hole. You may find a few other stitches more worthwhile here, but I continued with the backstitch. Since I actually made two bags, I used two stitches for the larger one and just the backstitch for the smaller one.

10. Test it out!! Make sure your masterpiece works as you want it to BEFORE you take it outside. That would be a costly mistake to find out it was too lumpy later. I put in my beans and then actually held the gap shut while I played before I sewed my bag completely shut.

I hope this tutorial has helped with improving your photography and your sewing skills! Post completed pictures of your masterpieces!!

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  1. Good idea! I love inexpensive solutions, especially when they travel well, like a cute beanbag!