A couple weeks ago one of my sisters mentioned that she wanted a weighted blanket for her son, who has some sensory issues. Weighted blankets are pretty expensive, so I said I would look into making one. I slept on it for a couple nights, and came up with this very effective method. I was surprised at how nice the weight of this blanket felt – I definitely see how it can be soothing and comforting. My nephew adores his, and – after playing with this one before we shipped it off to my sister – my kids want me to make them one, too!
I would love to see your photos if you make a blanket using this tutorial – email pictures (or links to pictures) to mamasmilesblog at gmail dot com with “weighted blanket” in the subject line.
I sometimes get questions about sewing machines on this post. I have been using the Janome HD1000 (affiliate link) for a couple of years now, and I like it! It is extremely sturdy; the only quirk I have noticed is that getting the bobbin in correctly can be tricky at first. My first sewing machine was an older-generation version of the Brother XL2600I. It was very easy to use, but couldn’t always handle thicker fabrics.
Weighted Sensory Blanket Tutorial
- 100% Cotton fabric – enough to make whatever size blanket you want, times two.
- Poly-Pellets Weighted Stuffing Beads – Amazon is an expensive place to buy these, but the link will give you an idea of what to look for. We got ours from a highly rated eBay seller. If you can find them locally, that’s probably the most cost-effective solution – they are heavy, so shipping can get expensive quickly.
- If you have a walking foot it will make this project much easier – eliminates puckering and the fabric glides through. Thanks Anniebananie for this tip!
Poly pellets: I know that poly pellets are expensive. The best alternative I have seen in reader comments (thus far – January 2014) is Anita’s suggestion to use denim as the fabric with no special filling. It will naturally make a heavy blanket, but it will not dry as easily as one filled with pellets. Rosie also mentioned that you can use cherry stones as a natural alternative – she says you can wash them at up to 40C and tumble dried on low. Read through the comments for more suggestions and helpful comments.
Making blankets with fleece: Several readers want fleece or minky blankets, but have struggled with the beads catching on fabric and then being in the way when stitching. Reader Anniebananie wrote in with the tip of adding an extra layer of cotton against the fleece. Other readers have made a fleece or minky cover for a cotton blanket.
Making larger blankets: Anniebananie also had the wonderful idea of leaving both the bottom and the top open for larger blankets. She then stitched a horizontal center seam and worked her way out from both ends – less bulk to work with while stitching!
STEP 1: Stitch your fabric together on three sides:
STEP 2: Stitch vertical columns. Mine were about four inches apart.
This process is much easier if one of your fabrics has a pattern you can use as a guide; otherwise I recommend measuring out and drawing on your stitching lines with a washable marker or disappearing ink marker (you can buy these at the fabric store; the Crayola kids washable markers also work). I was having camera issues and this photo isn’t very good, but if you look closely you can see how I used the pattern as a stitching guide. You could stitch directly on the printed lines; I found it easier to line up my presser foot with them:
STEP 3: Add your poly pellets. This is what they look like – and I think it’s cool that they accidentally formed a heart-like shape.
STEP 4: Fill each column with however many pellets you want per space. I used about 1/4 cup of pellets for each roughly 4×4 inch compartment. Note: the final blanket should not be heavier than 10-15% of the user’s body weight.
STEP 5: Once all of the columns have been filled, stitch across that row. Then repeat until you have filled up to the top of your blanket. I made the top row about 6 inches tall instead of 4, because that made it easier to stitch the blanket shut.
Here you can see the filled, stitched pouches. Orange is my nephew’s favorite color, and I’m showing the plain side so that you can see the stitching:
Update: Reader Linda Schmidt emailed me this tip for finishing the final rows, which I know a lot of people have struggled with:
“Getting closer to the last few rows I stitched almost all of the way across each of the the pockets leaving only enough room for the bottom of a funnel to fit in. This kept most of the pellets from cascading out as the last stitches were placed.”
Thanks for the tip, Linda! I love seeing photos of the quilts people have made and receiving feedback like this!
STEP 6: Finish the edges. You can bind them, but I took the easy route and serged them.
If using with a child, please be sure they keep their head outside of the blanket.
How do you help your kids calm down? I’ve written before about how sensory play helps my kids break out of grumpy moods, and you can find all sorts of sensory play ideas at my collaborative sensory activities for kids board on Pinterest.