These adorable bean bag DIY gnome softies are a simple project for sewing beginners – a fun craft for kids and the cutest handmade gifts for woodland forest small-world play.
I was walking the dog last night when a couple of dry, yellowed leaves twirled down to the ground around me and I could almost smell autumn in the air. School starts in a couple of weeks, bringing summer to an official end, so we’ve been soaking up the last of it by spending these hot, dry nights on the porch. It’s fun to watch the super-slow change in the flowers and trees at this time of year, but ALSO, in case you’ve never known…it’s prime gnome-spotting season…!
Late summer nights are the perfect time to scour your yard for the enchanted little woodland sprites. With winter a few months away, they’re busy making preparations – and enjoying the most of their outdoor time in the flora and fauna. Gnomes, man…they’re just like us!
It’s so hard to catch a glimpse of them in real life, I decided to make my very own set of gnome softies (complete with a recycled cardboard toadstool home!) as a little ode to our woodland friends.
These cute little bean-bag-bottomed buddies are a fantastic way to use up some bits of project scraps – fabric, felt, stuffing or beans, as they don’t take very much of
I happen to be sharing these little mischief-makers for Sew a Softie’s month-long softie-making party! For the whole month of July, some of our favorite companies, accounts, and friends are sharing their attempts at softies you and your kiddos can re-create (there are even some kid ambassadors!). Also, be sure to check out Trixie’s fabulous new book Sewing Simple Softies with 17 Amazing Designers (you may recognize one of the contributors…wink!).
For another sewing project that encourages kids to participate in the process, be sure to stop by our latest (absolutely adorable!) fabric tutorial, a DIY soft village playset your can use for small world play. Or make a set of DIY peg doll fairies for woodland play.
To make your own DIY bean bag gnome softies you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains either our own printable products, or Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Cotton fabrics, felt or muslin in assorted colors and patterns (one gnome requires a little less than a quarter yard of fabric)
- Needle and thread
- Fabric glue or similar (I used Aleene’s tacky glue)
- A Foam brush or paintbrush
- Black paint and a pencil with an eraser (for eyes!)
- 2 handfuls of polyfill or similar for stuffing
- 1/4 c. dry beans (a little more or a little less is fine!)
- Our gnome softie free printable PDF pattern
- Straight pins or safety pins
- A fabric pencil (I use Clover water-soluble pencils)
- 3-inch x 5-inch resealable plastic bags like these
NOTE: I’ve glued on the face, beard, and hat for each of our gnomes to make this project a bit easier for kids, but if you’d like a more finished set or you’re gifting these to younger kids, you can absolutely sew the details onto the body after Step 2.
DIY Bean Bag Gnome Softie Instructions:
Print our gnome template or draw your own from simple shapes
To prep, print, and cut out our gnome softie printable PDF template (or use our photos as a guide – it’s just a combination of simple shapes!). A minor but important prep step: be sure to iron your fabric. You can use new fabric squares (1/4 yard is all you’ll need) or find some old shirts/scraps to upcycle!
Trace the gnome pattern onto fabric
I used 6 different colors/patterns of cotton fabric scraps I could mix & match to make my own, but you can use any combination of fabrics you’d prefer. 🙂
I found it was easiest to trace my shapes onto fabric using a fabric pencil (Clover makes great water-soluble pencils you can use for this). You can also simply cut around the template shapes or freehand cut.
Hosting a kids’ party or using our gnome softies as part of an event? Trace and cut out hats, beards, faces, and bodies from lots of different colors and patterns, then stack them to use as an easy build-your-own-gnome craft!
Sew the main body triangles of your gnome together
Once you’ve cut your template pieces, grab the 2 large triangular body pieces and stack the pieces on top of each other with the “good” sides in.
We’re going to sew around the edge, then flip it inside-out so we have a nice clean edge. Sew the 2 long sides of your triangle body – I used a running stitch, but just experiment with what’s easiest for you! Leave the bottom of your triangle open for now.
Flip the sewn body piece inside out
Once you’ve sewn the 2 long sides of the big triangle, flip it inside out so you have your “nice” side out – it’s ready to add features!
Assemble the face of your gnome
It’s time to add the face, hat, and beard! Start by laying your circle “face” and small triangle “hat” on the large triangle body so you have an idea of where you’ll be gluing them on.
I prepped a small dollop of Aileene’s Tacky Glue by adding a tiny bit of water to thin it out a bit, making it easier for kids to brush on. Use a foam brush to sweep the glue onto your shapes, then gently press them onto your gnome body (circle face first, then triangle hat on top).
Once you’ve added your face and hat, choose a beard! Brush glue on, then add to the top of the face as shown. Let all the glued areas dry for about 5 minutes.
Add eyes to your gnome’s face
This little gnome still needs eyes. I decided to keep it simple by stamping a pencil eraser in black paint and stamping it onto our face for two perfectly sized eyes. You could also use beads or embroider if you prefer. Let dry for 5-10 minutes before moving on to the last step.
Stuff your gnome
Now to stuff! Gently push polypill (or similar) into your softie – you can use a pencil to push it all the way into the top of your gnomes cap. Once you’ve filled 3/4 of your gnome’s triangle body with polypill, flip it upside down (I found it helpful to rest it in a plastic cup) and add roughly 1/4 cup of dried beans on top. This will weigh down the bottom of your gnome and help him stand up on his own.
Don’t worry about where your beans go while you stuff – if some fall down into the hat, they’ll work their way back to the bottom once you’ve flipped your gnome over!
Note: We’ve revisited this concept with our newest project, a DIY soft village playset. If you’re making these gnomes for little ones or are looking for ways to make this process a bit easier for your kids, we recommend putting your dry beans in a 3-inch x 5-inch (or similar) resealable plastic bag before sewing into the bottom.
Finish by sewing closed at the bottom
Sew the triangle body shut by using a running stitch (or similar) straight across the bottom. To keep the beans inside & give our gnome softies a good shape, we pulled both end-corners
To make this last step easier for kids to sew, you can:
- leave out the beans
- keep these upside-down in a weighted cup for sewing
- demonstrate this step for them
As an optional last step, you can glue or sew a little cut of ribbon across the bottom of the hat, or paint a pattern onto your gnome’s hat or body. “Sew cute,” as they say – and just the right final touch!
You’ll notice the pieces of these gnomes are all relatively simple shapes. That’s by design! You can fairly easily alter the dimensions to make any size gnome you want. Cut larger triangles, trace around a cup, small bowl, or similar for the circle face, then print the pattern out at 200% (or more) for a larger beard template.
Plan on making these for your own little gnome, but are worried about the glue and paint? For gifting to toddlers and babies, I’d skip those and just sew the face, beard, and hat on, then use a needle and black thread to embroider the eyes.
Little known fact: gnomes absolutely LOVE winter! Though the snow can make it a bit harder for them to get around, you’ll find them gathering bark bits for fires, watching out for their smaller woodland animal friends, and generally enjoying the perks of fresh powder. Keep your eyes peeled the next time the snow starts to fly!
Fans of SIMPLE sewing projects: I have more for you! Be sure to take a peek at the easy DIY crab softie I made for last year’s Sew A Softie challenge (the legs and pincers make the project!) try an artful rainbow softie made with unexpected materials, go mythical with an adorable DIY baby dragon stuffed animal or embrace your darker softie side with a devilishly adorable DIY Wednesday Addams doll (ha!).
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!
Your little gnomes are gorgeous! I hope I get to spot some in our garden too. Thanks for joining into Sew a Softie once again!
Thank you Trixie! Always so much fun to come up with these and I just adore seeing all the amazing creations throughout the month! Happy gnome-spotting!