Tuesday, 4 April 2017

How to make a weighted blanket.

When we received L's provisional diagnosis in late 2015 we were searching for solutions to L's sleep issues, or lack of wanting to sleep thereof.

One sensory tool that I kept stumbling across were weighted blankets. A weighted blanket can be used as a calming tool and/or for aiding in the individual to get to sleep.

A weighted blanket essentially provides an individual with both deep tissue pressure and sensory input. Researchers have found that deep tissue pressure stimulates the release of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that works as a neurotransmitter in the regulation of an individuals mood, sleep and sensory perception. A weighted blanket mimics deep tissue pressure, or proprioceptive input, and can therefore have a calming and soothing effect.

I initially looked into purchasing a weighted blanket however due to the process involved in making one, they can be quite expensive.

So me being the crafty person that I am and being willing to give anything a go, I decided to try and make one.

It was quite a fiddly process, especially when it came time to sew the beads into the blanket but it was also very rewarding to see the blanket start to resemble a weighted blanket.

Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of each step so you will have to make do with my dodgy drawings!

Prior to making the blanket I did speak to quite a few Occupational Therapists about what weight blankets should be. One that I spoke to said that the blanket had to be 10% of L's body weight. Another said that this wasn't necessary. The answer that you will receive will honestly depend on which OT that you speak to.

The one thing that was consistently said was that if you are using the blanket to aid in sleep then the blanket should be taken off once the child is asleep so that a) the child doesn't overheat and b) the blanket doesn't pin them down. I was also told that as long as the blanket was heavy enough to provide deep tissue pressure but light enough that the child can easily remove it, then that is all that matters.

So, let's get into the tutorial!

I decided to make a lap blanket. The end product was roughly 80 cm by 60 cm. I used polar fleece for the blanket outer as I had metres of the stuff in my sewing cupboard!

You will need:

- Decide on the measurements of the blanket and then double it to get the fabric measurement. I used roughly 1 metre of wide polar fleece.
- Lots of small organza bags that the beads can be put into.
- Lots of poly pellets stuffing beads. I used the ones that are normally used in making teddy bears and soft toys. I used roughly 4 kilograms of beads. These can be quite expensive but you can buy them in bulk off of Ebay - buying in bulk is the inexpensive way. I used the beads as opposed to rice or wheat so that if the blanket needs a wash, the beads would dry easily and there isn't the possibility that the filling would swell over time.

What to do:

1. Cut two rectangles out of your chosen fabric and place them right sides together.

2. Pin 3 raw edges of the fabric, leaving one long raw edge unpinned.

3. Sew the three pinned raw edges. I did one row of straight stitch and one row of zig zag to give the blanket seams extra strength. In effect you have made a giant pocket.

4. Turn the fabric right sides out. I then did a row of straight stitch around the three sides, starting about an inch in from the open side of the pocket.

5. Now comes the thinking part. You need to decide on how many channels you want on the blanket. These channels are what you are going to put the beads into to weight the blanket. Word of warning though, if you make the channels too thin, it makes getting the beads into the blanket even more fiddly than it needs to be. I randomly measured the channels and then pinned them so that I knew where to sew.

6. Sew along each of the pinned lines making sure that you back stitch each end of the line to stop it from unravelling. I started each line about 1 inch from the edge of the open side of the pocket.

7. Now you need to fill the organza bags with the beads. The reason I did this was that on the off chance that L would be a little too rough with the blanket or chewed on it, I didn't want the beads coming loose. Make sure that the beads are distributed evenly between the bags so you'll also need to determine how many "individual pockets" you want in the blanket. Make sure that you also tie off the bags securely.

And to state the obvious, the larger the blanket the more beads you are going to need for the weight.

8. Now the fiddly part. You need to put the filled organza bags into the channels. Once you have filled each channel with one bag, you will need to sew off the row so that when the blanket is lifted up, the bags don't all slide to one side.

I did one row at time, leaving a gap of approximately 1cm between the edge of the bag and the pins. I also sewed each row before filling the next so that it went through my sewing machine easier.

In each row I alternated bags of beads and a ball of hobby fill, only because I didn't purchase enough of the beads. Again, how you fill the blanket really depends on your preference as to how heavy you want the blanket to be.

9. Once you have finished one row, continue onto the next using step 8 until the channels are full. When I got to the last row, I left a seam allowance of approximately 1 inch so that the raw edges could be folded over.

10. When the last row is in, fold the raw edge inwards so that the seam is neat. I found this to be the hardest part to sew, as the blanket had some significant weight to it and kept wanting to slide off of my sewing machine arm. I also did 2 rows of straight stitch to ensure that the seam was quite strong.

And voila, you're finished!

L loves his weighted blanket, it is part of his sensory bag that he takes to school each day. He doesn't need to use it every day but it is always there.

I would love to see your weighted blankets too.

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