Introduction: Stress-Reducing Weighted Blanket

Picture of Stress-Reducing Weighted Blanket

Targeted advertising has me pegged--I was recently scrolling through facebook when an ad for a "relaxing gravity blanket," claiming to be "like Advil PM for your whole body," grabbed my attention. The blanket, weighing in at 15, 20, or 25 pounds, promises more restful sleep, to ease stress and anxiety, and help your mind and body relax...all by laying under the heavy blanket.

Weighted blankets have long been used therapeutically for people with sensory sensitivity or restless leg syndrome, as well as to increase focus (particularly in classroom settings). Newer studies are finding that these heavy blankets increase serotonin and melatonin levels while also lowering cortisol levels. Your mood improves, and because the weight minimizes movement during sleep, it helps your body stay in a deeper sleep for longer.

I have several family members who struggle with sleep and/or anxiety, so weighted blankets sounded like an amazing solution. I was sold--but yikes! This blanket carries a price tag of nearly $300. I set out to make my own with a budget of $50, using plastic pellets for the weight.

There are a few sites with instructions to make your own therapy weighted blankets, but these instructions had blankets with just a few large sewn sections for the plastic pellets; this means that the pellets are free to move around within the fabric as you shift and move, giving a less consistent distribution of weight. I wanted to make a blanket with many small compartments packed full of the plastic pellets. My blanket has 480 1"x6" compartments, each filled with the plastic pellets. This ensures a consistent and even distribution of weight while also giving the blanket a sleek, modern look.

After enjoying my weighted blanket, I can honestly say that all the advertised hype was true. Getting lazy underneath a blanket while reading a book or watching TV is super relaxing, and seems to ease my muscles. I tend to move around a ton while sleeping or sitting, but with the blanket on I can stay in the same position for hours (and I find that I'll spend more time reading without my brain and body getting distracted). The only "problem" is that my children and husband also find the blanket to be deeply comforting; we often argue about who gets to use the blanket while we all relax in the living room together.

I should say that while this is primarily a sewing project and may appear intimidating, I am not a strong sewer. This project is great for anyone with a sewing machine who can sew mostly straight lines.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

Tools:

Funnel

Sewing Machine

Measuring Tape

Water-soluble Fabric Pencil

Scissors

Sewing pins

Metal Ruler (optional)

Materials:

Plastic Pellets - This is where our blanket gets its weight. Follow the general rule of 15lbs for a person weighing 100-150lbs, 20lbs for 150-200, and 25lbs for 200+. Make sure to buy pellets that are washer and dryer-safe. I found the cheapest source to be Etsy, where I bought 20lbs of polymer pellets for around $38. Pellets are also available on amazon and through other craft suppliers.

5 Yards of Fabric - This will make a blanket that is roughly twin bed size. I used a quilting cotton because it was inexpensive and light-weight, plus there are so many fun and crazy prints to choose from. As I anticipated my blanket getting a lot of use from everyone in the family, I opted for a dirt-and-stain-hiding dark print.

Plastic Tubing (optional) - if your fabric of choice is textures or fuzzy, the plastic pellets will have a hard time getting to the bottom of the sewn channels. If you find your pellets getting caught, buy a seven-foot piece of inexpensive plastic tubing from your local brewer's supply store that fits onto the bottom of your funnel.

Thread - You'll need two rolls

Step 2: Sew the Basic Blanket

Picture of Sew the Basic Blanket

Wash, dry, and iron your fabric. Pre-washing your fabric removes chemicals and pre-shrinks your fabric.

Cut your fabric in half so that you have two pieces that are 2 and a half yards long. Place the right sides of your fabric together. Pin around both long edges and one short edge, leaving one short end of the blanket (the top edge) open.

After you've sewn a big U, clip your corners to ensure that they are nice and crisp. Turn the blanket inside-out and push the corners out until they are sharp. Iron the sewn edges.

Now, put one corner of the open top edge on the ironing board. Fold the raw edges inside about a quarter-inch. Working from one corner to the other, iron down the edges.

Take the blanket back to the sewing machine and sew a half-inch border around the bottom and sides of the blanket.

Step 3: Sew Vertical Rows

Picture of Sew Vertical Rows

Spread out your blanket on the floor or a large table with the unsewn edge at the top. Using a measuring tape and a water-soluble fabric marking pencil, make a large vertical mark every inch all the way across the blanket. Move your tape down a few inches and repeat the marks. Continue marking all the way down the blanket until you have the entire thing covered.

Take your fabric over to the sewing machine. Starting at the bottom of the blanket, sew along your marks from the bottom all the way up to the top. Then keep sewing for what seems like forever until you have sewn inch-wide channels across the entire blanket.

Step 4: Fill and Sew Horizontal Rows

Picture of Fill and Sew Horizontal Rows

Starting 6" up from the the bottom edge, mark horizontal lines across your blanket at 6" increments. These lines will be your guide for sewing and closing each row of pellet pockets.

Time to get some weight in this blanket! If you use a smooth fabric like I did, insert the end of your funnel into the first row and slowly pour about 1/8th cup of beads into the funnel. If you used a more textured or fuzzy fabric, slide your piece of plastic tubing down into the first row until you reach the bottom of the blanket, attach the funnel at the top, and pour in the plastic pellets.

Shake the funnel and blanket up and down a bit to shake the pellets down into the channel (don't worry about getting the pellets all the way down to the bottom yet, just get them into their channel and out of the funnel). Move the funnel into the next channel and repeat, over and over, until you've poured pellets into each channel.

Pick up the top corners of the blanket and let the bottom of the blanket hang just above the floor. Shake the blanket up and down until all of the pellets shake into the very bottom of the blanket.

Unless you have flawless sewing skills or are a sewing robot, it is likely that your sewn channels are not all exactly one inch apart the entire way from bottom to top of the blanket (mine certainly weren't). This means that even though you are putting the same measurement of pellets into each row, they will not fill up equally. Lay your bottom row with all the filled-up pockets on a table and evaluate if the pellets fill the row up to your 6" line. If the pellets do not fill up to the line, grab your funnel and add more pellets (you'll have to shake them down again, so make sure to fill these rows before moving onto dealing with over-filled rows). If it goes over the line, use a metal ruler or your fingers/fingernails to push the excess pellets back up towards the top of the blanket a little bit.

Use your fingers or a metal ruler to help clear beads out of the way until you have a half-inch space above your 6" line with no pellets.

Carefully carry your blanket over to the sewing machine. With the row full of pellets on your left and the unfilled blanket rolled up on your right, start sewing across the blanket. Use your 6" mark as a guide to keep your stitch straight. As you go, keep clearing the pellets out of the way of the sewing machine foot.

Once your row is completely sewn across and the pellets are all safely captured in their new homes, repeat the funnel-pellet-shaking-sewing process over and over and over until you are left with just the top 6" of your blanket unfilled.

As you sew the rows, the blanket keeps getting heavier and heavier and more difficult to work with. I found it best to keep the bulk of the blanket on the left side of the sewing machine; the blanket folds neatly along the sewn 6" lines.

Step 5: Close Top Edge of the Blanket and Get Cozy

Picture of Close Top Edge of the Blanket and Get Cozy

Once you get to your final row of beads, things get a little more finicky. This row is slow going.

Starting at one end, carefully fill the pocket with pellets until it is filled to about a half-inch down from the top of the blanket. Take a sewing pin and weave in and out of the fabric in small increments right up against the packed-down pellets to seal them into the pocket. Continue going row by row, pin by pin, to fill the entire row.

Start carefully sewing the row shut, removing pins as you go. The pins should allow you to sew within one-fourth of an inch from the top edge of the blanket.Move along slowly along the top edge.

After the row is complete, sew right along the very tippy-top edge to give it a crisp, neat close.

Congrats! You're finished! Lay down or sit in a chair and get that blanket on top of you. Chill out and enjoy the natural, medicine-free feelings of relaxation.

Comments

Violet-Person (author)2017-10-21

Finished! On to a second one. By accident, a family member (with fibro) tried and out and she could actually sleep! So this thing can help those with fibro.

Dannlh made it! (author)2017-10-19

I made it! My tubes are abour 2 inches wide each. I mentioned the slightly wider tubes below, because once we calculated the right weight we measured it in a small tupperware tub and marked it with tape on the side. Then it was just scoop up to the tape line on the tub and pour.

I think 15lbs is too much weight for my wife! But she said it was great for 4 hours then she slid it down to her waist/legs for the rest of the night. She said it felt too heavy to breath after a while.

Thanks for the plans to base this off of Emily!

emilygraceking (author)Dannlh2017-10-19

This looks so beautiful! I love the 2" wide strips and your creative measuring instruments. Thank you so much for sharing!

Dannlh (author)emilygraceking2017-10-19

Thank you so much for creating the original instructable! It was what motivated me to create this one. You were definitely right about "keep sewing for what seems like forever." And I did half the pockets you did!

nancyCpants (author)2017-10-15

I love this instructable, you did a great job of pointing out the sticking points and giving realistic instructions for making this blanket. This is a really great guide, thank you for all your time and effort.

Wow, what kind words--thank you so much!

Violet-Person (author)2017-10-16

Great idea! I am working on one now. Thanks for the time about moving the pellets out of the way. I hit a pellet and broke a needle when I wasn't watching.

Ouch! Those pellets can be brutal :) Good luck finishing your project.

Sean of Earth (author)2017-10-18

I think I'm going to make this. Are the beads audible as the blanket moves?

The pellets in my blanket are packed pretty tightly, so they do not move around very much. They don't make a sound. Happy making!

Dannlh (author)2017-10-18

I just finished this for my wife. 4 hours sewing and filling. I used a twin sheet folded in half. Makes it about the size of a normal throw blanket. Channels were a bit wider, and since there was a repeating pattern on the sheet I did't need markings to sew the channels.

Calculation for fill is weight/number of pockets. This gives you weight of filler per pocket. We did 45 Grams, 147 pockets for about 15lb blanket.

Bought 20lbs of these pellets for $30.

ReachTherapy Solutions High Density Plastic Pellets for Weighted Blankets, Lap Pads, Toys, Cornhole and Eye Spy Bags - Non Toxic and Washer Safe - (10 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F2M25HQ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apap_JBpxwuf372oVg

I'll post my "I made it" photos tomorrow.

emilygraceking (author)Dannlh2017-10-19

Great idea to fold a twin sheet in half to create a smaller blanket! Can't wait to see your photos.

mrsmerwin (author)2017-10-18

My husband had a really thick denim blanket that he loved because it weighed to much. Unfortunately mice loved it too. I never thought to make one like this. Thanks for the ideas.

stillsyco (author)2017-10-14

Hey I was wondering how everyone thought about using fishing weights I happen to have plenty

jsellers202 (author)stillsyco2017-10-15

Depends on what they are made from. The fishing weights I have are made of lead and I wouldn't use them because of the contamination issues.

ChargerSRT8 (author)2017-10-11

Hi!

One thing to fill the blanket with is chains. There are a lot of different sizes and weight to choose from. If you are afraid that it will sound to much it is possible to use a thicker fabric to make it more soundproof. But probably you wont even think of it when you use the blanket. It will not sound because you will not move so much. And if you do your blanket in the size of a duvet, you can allways use a duvet cover and or one of the duvet covers you have when you have allergies. Just messure your chain (around) and do the channels little extra wide. Not much! You dont want it to sound like a baby ghost ; ). Sew the long sides of the blanket and the channels. Messure and cut the chain after the lenght of your blanket to be.( But remember that you have to close it in the ends later so leave som room for that when you ar messuring the fabric/blanket.) Then cut the chains. After that take a long stick of some sort or like a curtainwire and add a, dont know the word for it in english, but it is a little screw with a ring in one end.

Screw the ringthing in to the stick or the curtainwire. Use a piece of thread, rope or a smal carbiners hook to hook the chain to the stick or wire. After that you use the stick or the wire like a really long neadle and pull the chain in to the channels. Sew (by hand) every piece of chain in in its pocket on both short sides. Then with the sewing machine you close both short sides, like in the instructable. I hope all this is make sense. It was a long time ago I wrote in english. But like emilygraceking said the blanket is so good to have and make such a big differens when it comes to get some better sleep or just for relaxing.

Many children likes the weighted blankets to.

Thanks so much for your creative ideas!

Irishintx (author)2017-10-12

Sent this to a fb group of folks who are on the autism spectrum..weighted blankets like this have been used for many years for children & adults on the spectrum.
Thank you for this Instructables...

emilygraceking (author)Irishintx2017-10-14

Wow, thank you so much! I hope the info is helpful to the group.

alejandropera (author)2017-10-10

It's just an amazing project i'd like to do.

would you tell what size the beads you recommend?

Thanks a lot and again, amazing project!

Thank you! I just searched for "plastic pellets for weighted blankets" on Etsy and bought a box weighing 20lbs. Hope that helps!

Nice! I appreciate your information. I think i'll start this project.

Good luck, and happy making!

AndersS22 (author)2017-10-14

Great Instructable! I've wanted to try a therapeutic weighted duvet since learning how they are used to calm patients and allow them to rest - but the steep price of the commercial ones has always been too off-putting. However, upon reading your Instructable, I immediately ordered 10 kg cherry stones via Amazon (about 30 bucks including shipping). I simply prefer organic to plastic and cherry stones are supposed to be washable and dryable without starting to degrade (I hope it's true).

emilygraceking (author)AndersS222017-10-14

What a cool idea! I'd love to hear how the cherry stones work. Happy making!

NikyN2 (author)2017-10-14

update: if you do use rice, keep in mind it's quite heavier than the plastic pellets!

so, yep. I made it. 7kg of rice (roughly 15lb) in a 55x70 cm blanket (22x30in roughly). the layout is kinda the same, but it has just long 2in wide pockets (no horizontal lines).

the feeling of being under it is AWESOME. my only problem is my back hurts if I try to actually sleep under it. guess it's too full and so it doesn't really mould to my body's curves.

I have spare fabric, so I may do a second one with a bit less filling and smaller compartments.

PS: yep, rice is cheap. I only spent like €6 in rice, and had some spare!

emilygraceking (author)NikyN22017-10-14

Thank you so much for the update after you made the project and that it is helping you relax!

DreamDabbler (author)2017-10-10

Nice! I didn't realize plastic pellets could add up to that much weight in a blanket. This reminds me of when I got a weight vest for exercising that didn't have any weights. I made my own by pouring a little sand in sealable sandwich bags and rolling them up. Sand can add a lot of weight! The plastic pellets are just right for a blanket; not too heavy and you don't need to put them in something else.

How inventive of you to add sand to the vest! Very cool.

stillsyco (author)emilygraceking2017-10-14

How do you think fishing weights would work?

Lorax98 (author)2017-10-10

Hmm... I have a ton (actually about 800lbs) of lead shot #2. I was going to try and sell it to a shotgun shell reloader. Now I'm going to get someone to sew some blankets. Maybe a few 30-40 pounders.

Nice idea....

sztakacs (author)Lorax982017-10-13

If you are looking to make a really heavy blanket, stainless steel ball bearings will be far safer and have the advantage of being almost indestructible. Although how you would wash it remains to be seen.

BewareSnakes (author)Lorax982017-10-10

Please do NOT do this. Lead shot is, unsurprisingly, made of lead. Lead is poisonous in even small doses, imagine how badly that would effect the user if they were to lay 30 lbs of lead on their body day after day. Even if it is not the worse possible way to be exposed to lead, how about not exposing yourself or anyone else to lead at all? Re-sell the pellets to a re-loader and buy polymer pellets with the revenue instead. It's much safer for everyone involved.

Agreed. Lead shot is not safe to use as a blanket filler.

jsollien (author)2017-10-11

Great, now my wife wants one just like yours; "the store-bought ones have larger and squarer rectangles, and won't work as good".

Kidding aside (sort of), great design and 'ible.

emilygraceking (author)jsollien2017-10-11

It sounds like I would get along great with your wife :)

e-beth (author)2017-10-10

Ordered pellets!

emilygraceking (author) e-beth2017-10-11

Happy making! I hope you'll share the finished product with us.

deluges (author)2017-10-11

Very nice project and detailed instructions. Thanks for sharing :)

NikyN2 (author)2017-10-11

didn't even knew these existed - and now I need one, hahaha.

I may, however, do a mini version (3x3 ft, roughly), and fill it with rice. and once it's dirty... just make a new one, lol. I mean, those pellets are expensive compared to good old rice! (and the rice means I can microwave it and so it doubles as a huge heat pad!).

another option would be to empty it for washing. since it's small, it could do with just two "vertical" cells - or even one (if it's full enough!). so that emptying and filling is easy enough to do once in a while.

thanks for the awesome idea!

emilygraceking (author)NikyN22017-10-11

I love your creative ideas! A mini rice-filled version sounds so comforting, and I love the idea of it being a huge heating pad as well.

Ninzerbean (author)2017-10-11

Emilygrackeking, do you think it would be possible to fill the vertical channels all the way up first - knowing pretty much how much to put into each channel based on 1/8 cup per compartment. Then sewing up the end by basting or pinning and then sewing all the horizontal channels and just push the beads a bit here and there out of the way of the presser foot? Great instructable btw. I voted!

Very interesting idea! If you left the pellets pretty loose in the channels, you could pre-fill the entire channel and then sew the horizontal rows, but I don't think you'd be able to get 20lbs of pellets into the blanket. The pellets on mine are packed in really super tight in order to get the full weight in the blanket; I also didn't want to feel the pellets shifting around if I moved under its weight.

Wardragon18 (author)2017-10-10

Great instructable!! My wife was talking about a weighted blanket the other day. This will make a fantastic Christmas present for her!!

Thank you, and happy making! Your wife is going to love it.

ucn (author)2017-10-10

amazing idea!! What kind of pellets did you buy? I'm looking online and ask I can find are either light beanbag pellets (expanded polystyrene?) Or dense 6mm airsoft pellets for air rifles.

emilygraceking (author)ucn2017-10-10

If you search for "plastic pellets for weighted blankets" on etsy, you will find an array of pellets available in different weights. Make sure to get ones that are washer/dryer safe!

ucn (author)emilygraceking2017-10-10

thanks! Shipping 20lb from etsy through a third party freight forwarder to singapore is prohibitively extensive, though. I'm considering using tiny smooth pebbles from my local garden store instead. I can find some that are about 1/4" size. Do you think those might work? Or would they be too noisy? Or too hard?

Ninzerbean (author)ucn2017-10-11

What about using rice? Or buckwheat? I have some things made with buckwheat and rice that are for heat packs (you put them in the microwave), and I've had them for about 20 years with no problems - of course you can't wash them.

Ninzerbean (author)Ninzerbean2017-10-11

But you could make a 'pillow case' for the blanket and just wash the case when you need to.

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