Introduction: Cardboard Pressure Harness

"Pressure is calming to the nervous system" Temple Grandin

Do you remember when you were visiting the beach as a kid, your parents or peers would bury you up to your neck in the sand with just your head sticking out?

Try to go back and remember how it felt when you were lying there with the weight of the sand pressing down on you............................................................................................

Soothing? relaxing? Maybe even like the earth was hugging you...

Did you ever get a massage and felt all warm and peaceful afterwards?

Then you have experienced the feeling of relief and therapeutic effect that deep pressure can bring about!

Everyone of us can benefit from deep pressure.

After a hard day or in stressful times deep pressure can bring about that feeling of peace and relaxation you so crave for.

Deep pressure calms down the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight response) and makes room for the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest response) to do it's job, I'll get back to this later.

The purpose of a pressure applying device, such as a 'squeeze machine', pressure vest or weighted blanket is to reduce stress in people who experience anxiety due to overwhelming sensory input.

People with for instance sensory processing disorder, ASD, ADHD, anxiety disorder, OCD, Tourette's, brain injury, depression etc. or HSP can sometimes feel overstimulated and can benefit from pressure applied to their body and it's soothing and grounding effect (but anyone really... who needs labels anyway?).

Unfortunately, pressure applying devices can be quite expensive and since everybody should be able to relax once in a while, why not design a pressure vest that anyone can make themselves with cheap and readily available materials?

Cardboard is the perfect material for this project because it's relatively flexible, light, strong, and sturdy enough to provide sufficient support but still is comfortable enough to wear on your body.

Furthermore it's a waste material that's available practically everywhere for free, so everyone has access to it.

Why does deep pressure relieve stress, you may ask? I already mentioned the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system, these to are part of the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system where involuntary bodily functions are being regulated such as blood pressure, digestion and breathing.

The sympathetic nervous system is all about alertness and action, it is responsible for the 'fight or flight response'.

The parasympathetic nervous system is all about peace, it is responsible for the 'rest and digest' response. Sometimes people get stuck in 'fight or fight mode', they can't switch back from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system, as a result they feel stressed and/or anxious practically all the time.

Although the reason for the sympathetic nervous system to get stuck can vary from person to person, in the end it always seems to come down to overstimulation.

Applying pressure to the body is a way to calm down the sympathetic nervous system and give the parasympathetic nervous system a chance to finally emerge from the deep and do it's business!

The parasympathetic nervous system makes the muscles relax, the hart rate slow down, improves blood circulation and helps with digestion.

The body produces endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, which calm the senses and make a person feel at peace.

As I stated before, everyone can benefit from deep pressure therapy, but deep pressure is especially important for people who's nervous system is easily overstimulated.

Neurologically, some deviate from the norm and for those people it can sometimes be hard to function within a society that has evolved around people that perceive and process information in a different way from them.

With this Instructable I'm hoping to contribute to spreading awareness on this issue.

My inspiration for this project came (in part) from Temple Grandin, who invented the "squeeze machine", her inventiveness and research on the topic of deep pressure ( ) have paved the way for deep pressure to be accepted as a legitimate form of therapy and for the development of other pressure providing devices.

Deep pressure is a safe form of therapy if performed in the right manner, but since it's better to be safe then sorry I'd like to share some notes of caution with you:

* Before you start applying pressure to your body make sure that you are well informed about this form of therapy and/or talk to your physician.

* The body adapts to a certain amount of pressure so don't apply pressure to your body for to long at a time.

* I designed this harness with adults in mind. Even though deep pressure therapy is commonly used for kids who have been diagnosed with ASD or ADHD I'm not sure if this harness would be suitable for children. Always consult a physician before you start using any kind of pressure device on children and even if your physician approves, don't leave the child unattended wearing this.

* Never wear this harness during sleep, it's for wearing when you're active only.

* Do not wear the harness to tight, make sure that you are comfortable and can still breath in and out all the way down to your abdomen effortlessly.

* Don't use cardboard boxes for this project that have been treated with pesticides or anti-fungals (like thiabendazole), this is often the case with banana boxes. If you can, use cardboard that has been left unpainted, for this project I used what I had lying around (which has paint on it) but plain cardboard is always better.

* Wear the harness over your shirt, not directly on the skin.

Step 1: Materials & Tools


- Cardboard boxes (which have not been treated with pesticides and/or antifungals)

- Self adhesive velcro of good quality (hook and loop)

- Elastic band ( width: 3 cm/ 1,25 inch)

- Sewing thread

*Optional; Packaging tape


- Hobby knife

- Scissors

- Sewing needle

- Metal ruler

- Pencil and eraser

- Clothespins

- Pins

* Optional: Cutting mat, measuring tape

Step 2: Cut the Cardboard Ribs

Open up your cardboard box and lay the cardboard out flat.

Try if the cardboard is long enough to fit around your body, on the front the cardboard has to overlap, this is where the velcro closing mechanism will be.

Make sure that the inner ribs of the cardboard will be in a vertical position, if they would be horizontal the cardboard would fold around you instead of adjusting to the shape of your body.

If you're sure that the cardboard is the right size, lay it out flat again.

You are going to cut five straps of cardboard for the body of the harness (to whom I will refer to as 'ribs' from now on).

The ribs should measure 5 cm/ 2,05 inch in height, the length will depend on your size (don't forget that the cardboard should overlap on the front of your body).

Use a pencil to mark the outer lines of the ribs so you know where to cut, then lay your metal ruler on the cutting line and cut alongside it with your hobby knife.

If the knife doesn't cut through the cardboard entirely at once, repeat the process.

When you've cut al five ribs, see if the fit well and round of the corners with the help of scissors.

Lay the ribs out flat again and decide were the middle of the ribs is, mark it with your pencil.

Now you are going to make to small horizontal incisions for the elastic to pass through (see the picture above). The incisions should be slightly wider then the elastic band for it to slide through easily.

Repeat the above actions for all five ribs.

Tip: stick some packaging tape on the backside of the rib where you are going to make the incisions to reinforce the cardboard in this area.

Step 3: Weaving It Together

It's now time to weave the ribs together using the elastic.

Start by guiding the elastic through one of the incisions on the outer side of the first rib (by outer side, I mean the side of the cardboard that will not be touching your body).

Pull the elastic through and then guide it back through the second incision

Now get a new rib and repeat what you just did, and so on until all five ribs are connected by the elastic band. Fold the one end of the elastic over to the inner side of the cardboard and sew it to itself just above the lower rib, this encloses the lower rib in a loop of elastic.

Do not cut the elastic at the top of the harness yet, because it will be used to create a second layer of elastic down the back. To get the harness to fit your body perfectly, it's important to try it on from time to time during the creative process.

You have now arrived at a point that you can try the harness on for the first time if you would like to.

Since there is no velcro attached to the harness yet, use clothespins to close the harness.

The other end of the elastic has to been sewn to itself in between the ribs on the inner side of the harness to create a double layer of elastic and keep the ribs in place (not to firm, they should still be able to move around a bit to to move around comfortably whilst wearing the harness).

See for yourself how far you want the ribs to be apart, for sufficient pressure you should probably not let the gap consist of more then 1cm / 0,4 inch.

Lay the harness out flat again, with the inner side facing up.

Flip the elastic over to this side and lay it on top of the elastic that you have woven through the cardboard ribs. Make sure that the ribs are in the right position and connect the two layers of elastic band with the help of pins (see the picture above) and sew them to each other.

Cut the elastic just above the lower rib where you have already attached the other end of the elastic.

Sew this end in place as well.

Yay, you're done sewing :)

Step 4: Attach Velcro to the Ribs

You are now going to stick the self adhesive velcro to the cardboard ribs.

Put the harness on again with the help of clothespins and decide for each individual rib where the velcro should go, make sure the harness isn't to loose.

Mark where the overlap of the cardboard begins and ends (on both ends of the ribs), so you will know where to stick the velcro after you take the harness off.

Take the harness off and cut two pieces of velcro that correspond with the size of the overlap (make sure you have a piece of hook velcro and a piece of loop velcro).

Stick the piece of loop velcro on the piece of cardboard rib that will be up against your body, but faces out, slightly bend the cardboard while you do this.

Now stick the piece of hook velcro on the other end of the rib, on the side that will be facing towards your body. Repeat this with all the ribs.

Step 5: Cut the Shoulder Straps

Now you can cut the shoulder straps out of the cardboard.

Decide the length by putting on the harness and measure with measuring tape, or just simply try it out with the cardboard itself.

The shoulder straps should cross at least three of the upper ribs.

The height of the shoulder straps is 7 cm / 2,8 inch.

Decide what the length of the shoulder straps should be and mark the cutting lines, now cut out the shoulder straps just like you did the ribs.

Round of the corners with the use of scissors and bit by bit bend the cardboard so that the shoulder straps become curved (see the picture above), this prevents them from folding when you put them over your shoulders. Try them on.

Step 6: Complete Your Harness

With this step you will complete your harness.

You are going to stick loop velcro to the inside of the shoulder straps and attach them to the harness with the use of hook velcro.

Start by sticking long pieces of velcro to all four ends of the shoulder straps (on the side that is facing in).

Make sure that the velcro is at least long enough to cross the three upper ribs (to which they will be attached). The best way to figure out the exact location for the velcro is to put on the harness yet again.

Next hang the shoulder straps over your shoulders, press them onto the harness and mark where the velcro should go.

Keep the harness on for a little while longer because you will also have to decide the position for the hook velcro that will go on the harness ribs.

Again, push the shoulder straps to the ribs and mark the positions for the velcro on the ribs.

I noticed that it is kind of hard to mark the exact positions on the back of the harness while you are wearing it. Luckily you can also do this after you take the harness off.

First, cut twelve small pieces of hook velcro that are each about 5cm / 2,05inch long.

Stick six of these pieces on the positions which you have marked on the front of the harness, three on each side. Close up the harness as if you were wearing it.

Now you can attach the shoulder straps to the harness with the use of the velcro, turn the harness over and bend the shoulder straps back, press them up against the upper three ribs, make sure that the distance from the middle (where the elastic is) is equal on both sides.

Mark the positions and stick the remaining six pieces of hook velcro to the ribs. That's it, you're done!

Step 7: Keep Calm and Enjoy Deep Pressure

Now try on your new harness and chill :)

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