Sew a Weighted Activity Blanket
A weighted blanket is exactly what it sounds like: a blanket made heavy by the addition of polypropylene pellets sewn into the blanket itself. More and more, weighted blankets are being used as an effective treatment strategy for children showing the symptoms of sensory processing challenges, including autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, anxiety, and stress. For those unfamiliar with the sensation of using a weighted blanket, it’s comparable to the lead x-ray vest draped on your chest at the dentist’s office. In adding physical pressure by applying weight to the body, a weighted blanket can help soothe, calm, and regulate children and adults with sensory processing challenges. A weighted blanket is like a warm hug that molds to the body to relax the nervous system.
This small blanket (40 by 40 inches) is great for times when concentration is the goal, and it’s easy to transport around the house. Whether your child or grandchild is reading, playing board games, or drawing and coloring, this blanket may provide a sense of security and calmness that allows them to fully enjoy the activity.
Before You Begin
Weight. Determine the weight, in ounces, of the pellets you’ll be adding to your blanket. Generally, 10 percent of the weight of the user plus 1 to 2 pounds additional weight is appropriate for a weighted blanket. Divide the number of ounces by 64 (the total number of squares holding the pellets) to determine the weight in ounces of pellets that should be placed into each square.
Pellets. There are a number of pellet products on the market, but Poly-Pellets by Fairfield have received the most favorable recommendations from the weighted blanket community. They’re machine-washable and dryable on low heat for easy blanket care.
Thread. I used different colors of thread in the bobbin and top thread to match the fabrics I chose. You may want to use contrasting colors. Use the colors you like best!
Fabric. I used a medium-weight polyester fleece fabric for this project, but there are a multitude of fabrics suitable for this blanket. If your climate is too warm for fleece, cottons are fine. You’ll want a washable and dryable fabric with a fairly tight weave that can support the overall weight of the blanket once all the pellets have been inserted. Wash and dry all fabrics before you begin the cutting process to allow for any shrinkage.
Please read through all of the instructions before you begin. For all seams, use a 1/2-inch seam allowance. To reinforce stitching and ensure the pellets are captured, backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam.
Step 1: Cut the fabric for the front to 41 inches wide by 40-1/2 inches long.
Step 2: Cut the fabric for the back to 41 inches wide by 43-1/2 inches long.
Step 3: Place the two pieces of fabric right sides together, and align the sides and bottom. Pin together (see Figure 1).
Step 4: Sew the two pieces together along the sides and bottom. Trim seam allowances to 1/4 inch, to reduce bulk. Trim bottom corners diagonally (see Figure 2).
Step 5: Turn right side out. Pin the sides and bottom through both layers to flatten and prepare for topstitching. Topstitch through both layers using a 1/2-inch seam allowance (see Figure 3).
Step 6: With this step, you’ll begin to create the channels in which you’ll pour the pellets. Measure and mark 5-inch increments across the width of the blanket top. Mark the vertical lines to follow while stitching. You’ll have seven stitching lines and eight 5-inch-wide channels (see Figure 4). Pin to ensure the top and bottom fabrics don’t shift as you sew.
Step 7: Sew each seam from bottom to top. (Tip: Start with the seam on the right side of the blanket, and as you move to the left, roll up the excess fabric that’ll increase as you go.) Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam.
Step 8: Measure and mark 5-inch increments horizontally, starting from the bottom.
Step 9: Start adding the pellets. Using a small measuring cup, pour the determined amount of pellets into each of the eight channels. Shake them down to the bottom of the channels.
Step 10: Sew the blanket along the marked sewing line closest to the bottom edge of the blanket (see Figure 5). Be sure the pellets don’t migrate back up to the top of the stitching line. (Tip: Sewing over the pellets may break the needle. It’s easier to go slow and be sure the pellets are down in the bottom of the pocket than to attempt to sew over them. Using the heavy denim or jeans needle helps cut down on needle breakage.)
Step 11: Continue adding the pellets to each channel, shaking them down, and then sewing across the row. Take your time as you sew. The blanket will get heavier with the addition of each row. Figure 6 shows the blanket with all seams, except the top row, sewn. (Tip: You may need a helper to manage the blanket as it gets heavier. Always position the blanket so that the rows with secured pellets are to the left of your needle.)
Step 12: When you reach the top of the blanket, add the pellets, shake them down, and pin both layers at the top of each pocket. It’s especially easy to spill the pellets on this row, so take care to keep the pockets upright as you sew. Use a zigzag stitch on this seam (see Figure 7).
Step 13: Measure and trim the top edge of the backing fabric to 2 inches longer than the front fabric edge (see Figure 7 again).
Step 14: Fold the top edge of the backing fabric in half, matching the top edge to the top of the blanket front (see Figure 8).
Step 15: Fold the 1-inch top edge down over the blanket front and pin in place (see Figure 9).
Step 16: Using a topstitch, sew through all the layers to secure them (see Figure 10).
Susan White Sullivan is an author, crafter, and seamstress with more than 25 years of experience in the crafting world and the publishing industry. This project is excerpted from her most recent book, Weighted Blankets, Vests & Scarves (Spring House Press).
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