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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sensory Processing Disorder: How to Make a Weighted Blanket

Lately I've been toying with the idea of making Raya a weighted blanket. She loves heavy things and has a lot of sensory seeking behaviors in regards to proprioception. Translation: she craves sensory input that helps her to gain awareness of where her body is in space, and it takes stronger than average input for her to get the feedback that her body is craving. (or at least that's how I understand it :) She seeks out "heavy work" activities, like carrying heavy things, pushing heavy things around on the floor (chairs, full laundry baskets, etc), and anything that gives heavy resistance to her muscles and joints. Lucky for us, carrying her backpack is a good heavy work activity because the poor kid gets to do that for a few hours a day. :)
The idea behind a weighted blanket and other heavy work activities is that when the child gains greater body awareness through proprioceptive input, the nervous system can be calmed and the need for constant fidgiting, moving, jumping, crashing into things, etc. decreases. In other words, it helps the child to calm down, relax, and become less defensive about things that bother him/her.

After looking at several online tutorials and websites that sell them, here is how I made Raya a weighted blanket:

I started with a piece of flannel and a piece of cotton of the same size. I laid them right sides together on the floor, smoothed out the wrinkles (because I was too lazy to iron it) and trimmed any excess that didn't quite match up.



Once I was sure that the fabric was aligned, I pinned all the way around the edges so that it wouldn't move when I picked it up.

Next, I stitched around 3 of the sides (both long sides and one short side) so that it was open all the way across one end. I left about a 1/2" seam allowance so that I'd have room to top stitch it twice. 
PS No judging. I'm not a seamstress and I get too impatient to aim for perfection. :)

Then I clipped the corners to keep them from being bulky when I turned it right side out:
Yes, I have freckles on my fingers.

Once the corners were clipped, I turned the blanket right side out, making sure to pull/push the seams out as much as possible. I do this by pinching right on the seam like this: (pardon the blurry picture)


Then I pull and lay it flat like this:

And iron the seams like this:

After I had ironed all 3 of the side seams, I top stitched around all 3 sides. (I left about 1 inch of seam length open on the end of the blanket that was open so that when I was ready to finish the last side, I wouldn't have to pick out seams.)

The most difficult part of this project is just figuring out how many squares your blanket is going to have, how big they need to be and how much of the filler each square needs to have in it. Raya's blanket ended up being 8 squares wide, 6 squares long, and the finished weight is about 3 lbs. (*Note: According to this article, the guideline for deciding on the weight of the blanket is 5% of the body weight. Other sources I read said 10% of the body weight+1 lb. All of the articles I read said that you should always check with your child's OT/doctor before using a weighted blanket.)
After I did my math, I sewed vertical columns in the blanket:
Since there were no lines to follow on this fabric, I folded the side of it over to give me a
somewhat straight line as a guide. There were a lot of crooked lines on Raya's blanket. :)

After you've worked all the way across the blanket & have all the vertical columns done, the real fun begins. :) Here's what I used to fill Raya's blanket:
I got them at Walmart in the fabric section next to the quilt batting. They were about $5 a bag.


Here's what they look like:
If you spill them, you'll be SORRY!!!! They're slightly bigger than rock salt and very hard to see
when they're on the counter or floor. So be careful. Just sayin'. :)


I used 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons for each square. You can either pour them in like this:

Or like this:

Even though scrunching the fabric up around the funnel was kind of a pain, it made it much easier to get the little pellets where I wanted them without any of them sticking to the flannel on the way down.
Once you've put enough for the first row of squares in each column, you can stitch across the columns to seal the pellets in. (BE CAREFUL to push all the little pellets out of the way and not run over them or you might break your needle and/or sewing machine.)

Keep moving across the blanket by adding the right amount of pellets in each column and then sewing across all of the columns. It will start to look like this:

It gets a little more cumbersome as you go along because there is so much more weight with each row. When you get to the very last row, it's a good idea to use pins so you don't end up with a mess. You'll want to fold both layers of the fabric to the inside of the blanket and pin all the way across so that the beads don't fall out and so that the fabric stays in place as you stitch the blanket closed.

I stitched close to the edge on this end and continued to stitch all the way around the blanket. Then I came back to the end that had been open and stitched across it again only that time I left a larger margin to match the other 3 sides. I hope that makes sense.

And here's what it looked like when it was all done:
 
Not the prettiest thing I've ever made by any means (read: there are a lot of crooked lines) but it turned out great for just winging it. :) So far, Raya has absolutely NO interest in it. Go figure, right? :) I think she just needs to feel it out a little more though and figure out what to do with it. She does seem to like laying on top of it like a pillow, so I guess that's something.
Oh, and a side note, she hasn't puked on it yet so I haven't tried washing it yet but the pellets are supposed to be machine washable. My plan is to wash it in the washer on the delicate cycle and then hang it to dry so that it doesn't get caught on anything & tear open. That would be a mess.

So that's how I made a weighted blanket. :)

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing, I just found out my son Dominic has Sensory Processing Disorder it's a lot to work through. He is extremely sensitive to touch. Sometimes if someone even looks at him he will have a complete meltdown. Hope little Raya is doing well, she is absolutely beautiful!

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  2. I tell ya Brandis, you are one talented lady! Does she like it now?

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  3. I loooove this tutorial! Very clear and precise directions! You made a complicated project seem simple! I am eager to try this! Thank you!

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