Weighted Blankets- a new endeavor

Well, recently I was able to try something I have wanted to do for a long time. I made a weighted blanket for my dear nephew Elijah.  Elijah is an awesome kid.  He has a gentle spirit and is always making sure all the little ones are having fun at our family get togethers. He, like many others, suffer from a sensory disorder which can cause lack of sleep and heightened anxiety. Weighted blankets are used more and more to help many people with a lot of different issues such as anxiety, insomnia, stress, autism and sensory disorders. The heaviness of the blanket helps the brain to send neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine throughout the body to help the person relax.  I wanted to share my journey of making this in order to help others and help anyone who might attempt the project! 

1. First, you need to calculate how heavy the blanket needs to be.  The blanket needs to be between 10% and 15% of the person's body weight. You can achieve this by purchasing Polly Pellets, which are little beads of plastic that can fill the blanket the same way you would by filling for a quilt.  Some people purchase beans or rice, but the problem with that decision is that you can't wash the blanket.  The advantage to the Polly Pellets is that they are machine washable and also have hypo-allergenic options if you or the person using the blanket is prone to allergies.  The blanket I made was 10 lbs, which was on the heavier side, but I wanted the blanket to last as he grows into a teenager at least! So I ended up purchasing 2 five pound bags of Polly Pellets on Amazon. 

2.  You have to choose what kind of fabric to use.  You want to choose fabric that is sturdy and not prone to tearing, but also soft for the added comfort for the person using it.  Stay away from Apparel Fabrics that have spandex or stretch to it, it needs to stay within the quilting fabrics, flannels, fleece or acrylic felts can be nice. I chose to do a patchwork of cotton Calico squares paired with a plush fleece for the backing.  I sewed the patchwork first, then cut the pieces for the edges.

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3. How to incorporate the pellets?  Well this was something I really spent some time thinking about.  All the tutorials I viewed online were just pouring the pellets into the columns of the blanket as they sewed...This gave me heightened anxiety!! I would think the risk of spilling so many pellets, the risk of breaking sewing needles, and the risk of me just giving up would be high if I tried this method.  So, I decided to make pockets to be filled with pellets.  That way, when the main blanket was being constructed, I could just drop a bean bag into the column instead of trying to pour the pellets into such a large blanket.  So I cut strips of cotton fabric to make the pockets and measured 8 across and 8 down, making 64 pockets and 64 sections of the quilt at the end.  Then I needed to measure how many pellets to put in each square.  Now, I am NOT one to really excel in math, but I knew that if I tried to do something tangible, the odds of me getting it right would be better.  So I had 2 five pound bags, and 64 pockets, so that meant 32 pockets per bag.  So I emptied one bag of pellets into a large mixing bowl, and grabbed a formula scoop...(Because having a baby means I have a lot of these, haha) and measured how many scoops were in the five pound bag. Well...it was exactly 256 scoops for the 5 pound bag, divided by 32 and it was 8 scoops per pocket.  This would make the pellets be distributed evenly across the blanket and make the sewing process a little easier. 

4. I got to sewing.  I thought sewing the pockets was going to take forever, but once I got in the rhythm of measuring the scoops, it really went fast! I literally sewed all the pockets in one afternoon.  I also had a little fun with bean bags when they were finished, lol.  Might have to make some for a bean bag toss game or something soon.   After that, I sewed 8 columns along the length of the blanket, leaving the edges raw.  Once the columns were done, I dropped one pellet pocket into each columns and sewed across to seal their location.  This went faster than I anticipated as well.  Although, because this blanket is large and heavy, it got quite heavy to hold and feed through my machine as I went along. 

5. The edging was definitely the hardest part.  I'm sure a sewing serger may have helped in this situation, but the heaviness of the blanket was hard to feed through my machine at that point. I continued though, and added a border that matched the back side and added some lime green because Elijah likes that color.  The sewing was not my best work on the edges, but for my first attempt, I'm happy with the way it turned out. Hopefully I can get better as more people let me make blankets for them! 

I hope this blog is helpful to anyone who might want to make or have a weighted blanket for themselves! If you are interested in having one made, I'm happy to help.  Email me for details. It takes a little communication to calculate what your needs might be, and would probably take a few weeks to complete, but I'm happy to take on projects such as this one! It blessed me so much to be able to help my nephew by making something like this! 

Angela Pitts1 Comment