My nephew, Leo, was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder this past November. The word diagnosed is a hard one for me. To me, that makes it sound like there is something wrong with him. There is definitely something different about him and the way his brain functions and he for sure does have Sensory Processing Disorder, but, that’s the way God made him. He’s not defective, like the word ‘diagnosed’ makes him sound.
To me, his is still my first nephew, the one that I babysat twice a week for the first six-ish months of his life. The one that I still seem to have a very special attachment to. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of my nieces and nephews equally, but Leo and I have something extra special. He’s always come to me easily, even when he wouldn’t go to others. And I love that!
After spending the last week with my sister and her family, I’ve seen just how difficult days can be for him. And for his Mom and Dad.
Their journey with SPD is just beginning, Leo started occupational therapy once a week last fall and they have already seen some improvement. If you want to read more about their journey, my sister has started a blog here.
One of the things their Occupational Therapist recommended was a weighted blanket.
They are supposed to help with sleep and with calming. Jessica went on Etsy to find one and man, they are kinda pricey! Lucky for her, she has a sister who loves to make things that bring comfort.
Jessica bought the plastic pellets that provide the weight here. They are the same pellets that are found in the bottoms of some stuffed animals. You could use something natural, like rice, but then you couldn’t launder the blanket.
So, here’s how I made three, yes, that’s right, three weighted blankets.
This is my thought process: Leo needs a blanket, his little brother always wants what big brother has, so he needs one too. And they are supposed to help kids sleep and my oldest is a shitty sleeper, so I’ll make him one while I’m at it.
Why I do this to myself, I’m not sure.
I made my youngest nephew an Eye Spy quilt for his first birthday and had intentions of making three or four more for all the boys, so I already had a bunch of 5” squares cut.
See a pattern here?
I decided to make the tops of the blankets Eye Spy style with all the charm squares I already had cut for the quilts that never got made. I also used up some pre-cut charm packs from my stash and I sifted through my stash to find more fun prints.
Turns out, I have a lot of fun prints!
108-5” squares or one-1.5 yard cut for the top
1.5 yards for the back
5 yards of blanket binding
Plastic Pellets – see below for pellet math
We decided to use all quilting cotton, as the blanket will get used in the summer months, and we didn’t want it to be too hot.
PVC pipe ~3’ long
The blankets I made are 41” x 54”, or 108-5” squares.
If you wanted a much faster and easier route, do a whole cloth blanket, use two – 1.5 yard pieces of fabric.
After cutting all the charm squares, I assembled them into 9 rows by 12 columns.
I was a chain piecing machine for the tops!
For two of the three blankets, I had to piece the backing, as I only had one-1.5 yard cut in my stash. For Leo’s, I used the 1.5yd cut and didn’t have to piece, ahhhh, I love it when that happens!
Once the top and back were done, I laid them wrong sides together and pinned all the way around. Basically making a quilt sandwich with only bread, no batting. I also put my walking foot on to help things move through the machine easier. I basted the quilt sandwich together all the way around and then I started quilting the pockets on.
Making the Pellet Pockets
Using my seams as guides, I top stitched 1/4” on either side of the seam on all of the 9 rows. I started in the middle and worked my way out, just in case I needed to do some fabric manipulation to get the top and backing to be the exact same size. Sometimes I’m not the most accurate cutter or sewist!
Making the top and the back was easy peasy, lemon squeezey.
Making it weighted was another story. It’s not hard, just time consuming.
Once all the rows were quilted, I quilted the middle column in the same manner. The throat of my machine is quite small, she’s an old girl, and I didn’t want to have to be shoving the whole quilt through there. Quilting the middle column meant I would only have to fill one half of the blanket at a time.
Now comes the tedious part. Filling and sewing the pockets.
I read that the amount of weight needed for weighted blankets is 1lb of pellets per 10lbs of the person’s weight, plus one pound. Leo is 45lbs, so 4.5lbs +1lb = 5.5lbs of pellets, but he’s going to keep growing, so I rounded up to 6lbs of pellets.
Then, to determine how much to put in each pocket, I divided 6lbs by 108 pockets. But, let’s be honest, pounds suck to work in, so I converted it to kilograms and grams. It came out to be 25.5ish grams per pocket. I got out my handy dandy kitchen scale, measured out how many pellets that was and then tried to find something in my kitchen that could measure the pellets easily and accurately. Turns out, two tablespoons was ~25.5grams of pellets.
So, back up to the sewing room with my tablespoon, a funnel and a piece of PVC pipe.
First, I had to rip out the basting on the very outer edge. I discovered that if I only ripped out enough of the basting to get the pipe in, the stitches that remained, helped keep the pellets in on the last row. Sorry I didn’t get a photo of this, I was in the sewing zone! I pretty much only ripped 1.5″-2″ out of each row.
I poured two tablespoons in every pocket, trying to get the pipe as close to the bottom of the pocket as possible so the pellets wouldn’t get hung up on the seams. Those little buggers have a way of migrating!
Then, I would pin each pocket right above the pellets, twice, to keep those damn things from escaping!
In the photo below I only have one pin. I took that when I was a rookie on my second set of pockets, before I realized two pins were better than one. With great care, I would top stitch the seam in the same way I had on all the others. Repeated until all the pockets were full!
Finishing the Blanket
I used pre-made satin, rainbow, blanket binding. For the two little boys, I didn’t fill the outer perimeter of pockets, so sewing the binding on was easy. For Leo’s, I had to pin the shit out of it again to keep the pellets from invading and getting under my walking foot.
The pellets and I have a love hate relationship…
Pretty wild, isn’t it?!
The blankets were a surprise for the boys when we got to Mexico. Leo loved his! He slept with it every night. I hope he continues to get great use and comfort from it. The little boys were far less interested in the blankets and way more interested in finding geckos. But, they all loved to play Eye Spy with them!
And a big thank you to Mimi for hand sewing the binding while we were in Mexico!