Introduction: Weighted Blanket - Including What to Know Before You Start
Weighted blankets are all the rage. People are crazy about these, and at $125-$300 a blanket, you started wondering, is it all hype? Why would people pay that much for a blanket?
The underlying science of weighted blankets are that by applying pressure to the body they will increase the release of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the body that promotes relaxation.
There are other names for weighted blankets, such as gravity blanket or therapy blanket. They are not a new thing, they have been used for ages. But they are super popular right now.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, I don’t play one on TV and never intend to either. The information I am sharing is from personal experiences, internet research and discussion with people that have these blankets. I don't know everything, but I do enjoy making these blankets and so far those that have received them, seem to enjoy them.
You can learn a little more about the suggested benefits by a quick google search. Here is a site you can start with:
Anyway, all that mumbo jumbo aside, you might be reading this because you want to make or buy a weighted blanket. Hopefully I can provide more info on what goes into making the blanket and what works for me.
Word for the wise, you can make a blanket in a weekend, but this is not a one hour project and materials are not cheap. In some cases you might have to purchase some materials online. If your planning to whip one out in an evening for $20 or $30 bucks, forget it. The fabric will cost you $25+ on the cheap side, weighted pellets or beads are $2-$4 a pound. Raw cost for me to make a throw size, weighted blanket with all material included is at least $75 and it takes me about 2 days. But that is part of why they sell for so much. That being said making the blanket is actually really fun and rewarding.
Step 1: A Few Things Before You Start Sewing: User
It is first and foremost important to consider who you are making this blanket for. This can effect ever other step in the process.
Are you are making this for someone with a sensory disorder, like severe ADHD or autism? If that is the case the materials you pick will matter A LOT. Too many colors, too wild of a pattern or too many textures all play with a person’s senses. The purpose of the blanket is to relax and provide comfort. Someone with a severe sensory acuteness can find these things stressful, not relaxing. This is why a true therapy blanket is plain, made of cotton and solid colors.
Are you making this for someone with anxiety issues or PTSD? Go a little on the heavy side. I have no science to support this, but my experience with those I have made blankets for that suffer from these "restless" types of disorders actually seem happier with blankets that weigh them down more. Something about being more grounded.
There is no one fabric, weight, size or color for everyone, but think about who you are making this for and you can get a good idea of what details to place at your highest priority.
Step 2: A Few Things Before You Start Sewing: Fabric
When considering the fabric you want to use, think about the person you are making the blanket for. If you are not making this for someone with a medical concern, than the sky's the limit for the fabric you use.
In the end the important thing to think about is the recipient's needs, as stated in step one. But also think about some of these factors:
- Are they short, like me? In that case a long throw size is extra weight that hangs off the couch and pulls on my feet, thus I don't like it.
- Are they using this at night? A minkie or sherpa fabric will slide around and fall off the bed in their sleep. It is also warm and might be sweaty in their sleep.
- Will it be used as a throw blanket for the couch? They will want something to snuggle into, so maybe not a cotton or wool blanket.
A few more things in mind:
- The fabric will define the weighted pellets and/or if you have to line the blanket.
- Some people get pre-made blankets and open the seam on one side. I have done this, it worked great and cut down on cost. I have also gone to the local fabric store and purchased fabric, either way is fine.
- You can use any type of fabric, some popular fabrics are minkie, sherpa, wool, polar fleece and cotton.
- Remember that you have to put the weight in the blanket so check the weave, you don’t want the weighted pellets to drop through the fabric.
- If the fabric you choose doesn't have a tight weave you need to plan to have a liner, like a extra length of muslin or cotton on the inside to hold the pellets in.
- Once the weight is in the blanket, you don’t want the fabric to droop, so buy quality fabric.
See more about fabric, under the fifth point, about the weight in a weighted blanket.
Step 3: A Few Things Before You Start Sewing: Heavy
How do you know how heavy a weight blanket should be? Well the blankets should give the person using it the feeling of being relaxed. Too light, and it is just a blanket, too heavy and it is overbearing.
Think of it this way, when the blanket is too heavy it is like going on a long walk, you feel fatigued and exhausted, essentially weighted down. At the right weight it will feel like a welcome hug, grounded and relaxed.
How do you find that weight? The magic number is 10% of a person's body weight, give or take 3 lbs. A child’s blanket should never be more than 10 lbs, and are most often in the 5 lbs range. Weighted blankets are not recommended at all for pregnant woman.
The plus or minus 3 lbs is personal preference. As I mentioned earlier, my experience with those that have anxiety issues is that they seem to prefer a blanket that is a little on the heavy side, weighing them down more.
I have no medical concerns and actually prefer a blanket that is on the light side. My husband who also has no medical concerns likes a blanket about exact to his weight.
So how do you know what to make? Well you can make multiple blankets and play with the weight, go to a craft fair and try out blankets someone else has made, or just make one to the 10%. The nice thing is if you make one to 10% and you don't like it, chances are your husband, parent, child, friend or neighbor will love it and you have an idea of what weight you want to make for the next one.
Step 4: A Few Things Before You Start Sewing: Size
The size you want the blanket to be is totally up to the person making the blanket and how the blanket is going to be used. But size does matter.
Think about the person you are making the blanket for and how they are most likely to use the blanket. Will this be a throw blanket for relaxing on the couch or to take out to sporting events or activities? Will the blanket be used to help them sleep at night? Are they tall or short? Is this for a child or an adult?
Here are a few sizes to think about, but it is your call what size you make it.
- Kids blankets are usually 30 X 50 inches
- Throw blankets are 50 X 60 inches
- Long Throw blanket are 50 X 70 inches
- Twin size blankets are 60 X 90 inches
Make sure to get the fabric larger than the size listed here. You will need two to four inches for the seam of the blanket. And if you want to make a binding you will need fabric for that too.
Step 5: A Few Things Before You Start Sewing: Weight
Now the big questions, what is a weighted blanket weighted with?
The magic of the weight in a weighted blanket is the poly pellets or glass beads. These are the same things used by our grandmothers for years to make all those cute little dolls with the heavy rear ends. How do you know what to use? Everyone you ask will have a list of do’s and don’t. There are lots of opinions and interpretations. Here is my breakdown:
- Poly Pellets: Poly is actually the brand name. This brand has been around since . . .well forever. These are plastic pellets, made of 100% polypropylene, hint the Poly part of the name. You can find many other brands of plastic pellets, but essentially, they are small round plastic pellets that create a uniform fill. They do have a texture like tiny pebbles. Many people have said to stay away from recycled pellets, something about their smell. I have never used recycled pellets so I can not speak to this.
- These are NOT made of PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate), the dreaded bottle plastic. These are said to be safe.
- Glass Beads: Also like the name implies, these are truly glass beads, like what is used in a sand blasting cabinet. The weights and sizes of these beads vary from small pebbles to a thin sand. Choose wisely, they have to stay inside your blanket without sliding through the weave of the fabric. While these are glass, I have never heard any stories of the glass breaking or splintering, again said to be totally safe.
A great resource for more info is https://thesleepstudies.com/glass-beads-plastic-pellets-for-weighted-blanket
FYI I am not in any way affiliated with this website. I don't know who wrote it, but I found the info very helpful.
Whether you choose Poly pellets or glass beads, it will make a difference in the fabric you use for your blanket and the overall feel of the blanket. Because Poly pellets are larger and plastic is lighter, you will need to use more pellets by quantity to get the same weight, but you can use a looser woven fabric. This will mean that the weight is visible when the blanket lays flat. The blue a grey blanket I am making for this, will be made with a version of Poly Pellets.
Using glass beads means a thinner profile for the blanket, so you may not actually see the weight in the blanket. But it also means that likely you will have to include a liner to keep the pellets from sliding through the weaves in the fabric, adding to cost. The all grey minkie blanket in some of my pictures was made with glass beads and includes a cotton liner.
Step 6: Important Things I Learned - Trial and Lots of Errors
- When you pick your fabric, know your pellets, for my first project I used minkie and my glass pellets slid right through. I had to use a liner to keep the pellets in and that adds extra time and costs.
In a pinch, old sheets make a great liner, after all no one is going to see the material on the inside anyway.
- If you use minkie fabric, just plan to use a liner.
- Weight is total weight, not just the pellet weight. Weigh the fabric before adding pellets. Otherwise your 18 lbs blanket will end up being 23 lbs after your done.
- All pellets differ a little, so don’t assume that 1 tablespoon will always weigh the same. Different manufacturers or materials will make an even bigger difference. You have to actually weigh each pocket as you go. You have to have a scale to distribute the weight evenly.
- Get a fabric with lines in the pattern, like a plaid. You might be great at sewing straight lines, but once your halfway through the blanket and there is some weight to one side, it will want to slide off the table. You will get tired of fighting it, and your lines will start getting crazy. The bottom and top fabric don’t have to have lines, but if one does you will save yourself a lot of frustration.
- Plan a few extra inches of fabric on the top of the blanket, this will give you plenty of space for feeding the pellets and to sew the last line without having to vacuum up thousands of pellets later. Trust me, at least an extra 2 inches.
- When you are pouring the weight into the blanket, rest the blanket on a chair. Set the blanket in the chair, pour over the back of the chair, so the weight settles in the seat of the chair. If you have a swivel chair, or one on wheels this helps move the blanket around and saves some arm strength and back twisting. The 10 or 15 lbs of blanket will start feeling a million times heavier after moving it around for 2+ hours.
- Tape the funnel to the wrapping paper roll. My hubby is a genius!
- If you use polar fleece, cut off the rolled raw edge, it just leaves a lump in the blanket.
Pro Tip: If you cut it nice, you can use it as a “ribbon” to wrap around the blanket. This looks nice if your giving the blanket as a gift.
Step 7: Not Let's Get Down to the Fun Part. What Do You Need
- Sewing machine
- Shipping scale (or food scale) that measures ounces
- Scale (like the one from your bathroom) that measures pounds
- Cup (I use a measuring cup)
- Fabric = 2 lengths (front and back) - see above for more on picking fabric
Pellets or beads - see above for that too
For this instructable I am making a long throw size. Using a grey anti-pill polar fleece 60 X 78 and a blue and grey print polar fleece 60 X 74. For the weight I am using a type of poly pellet.
Things that will make life WAY easier:
- Calculator (yes really, use the one on your phone)
- Pen and Paper (or a writing thing and something to write on)
- Embroidery Tape (blue tape from your garage if you don’t have embroidery tape)
- Empty wrapping paper roll
- Spoon (or small scoopy devise)
- Fabric Pen (if your fabric does not have lines to follow)
Step 8: Now Let's Get Started
Start by making a blanket . . ok duh, that is what this tutorial is about right? But really, start out by doing the same steps you would do to make any simple two fabric blanket.
- Take right sides of the fabric and line them up together. You want right sides together, (that means that the sides you want to see when the blanket is complete are touching).
- Than sew a tight straight stitch along 3 of the 4 edges. You want to leave one side open for adding the pellets.
- When you sew, leave or 1/4" to 1/2" seam. If your blanket requires a liner, sew all 3 or 4 layers of fabric together at once. Put the liner fabrics on the outside, so when you turn the blanket right sides out, the liner will be in the inside.
- It doesn’t matter what side of the blanket is left open - unless there are only lines (stripes) in the fabric running one direction, make sure you leave open the side with the lines running vertical, so you can sew on the line after weight is added. If it is plaid, than Bob’s your Uncle.
- Now, turn the blanket right sides out, and lay the seam flat. You should now have three sides sewn together and one side open, like a pillow case.
- Now sew a small tight zigzag line around the 3 sewn edges. You are doing this for aesthetics. When you complete the 4th edge, you will not be able to turn the blanket inside out, thus you will fold in the fabric and close it with the same small tight zigzag line giving the blanket consistency all the way around.
Step 9: The Grid and the Weight
To evenly distribute the weight, a grid of pockets is created that hold the weighted pellets in place. This way you don’t get 10 lbs all in one corner of the blanket. These don’t have to be squares, have fun, make them whatever fits your fabric, rectangle, triangle, duck shapes. Again there are a lot of opinions about how big or small each pocket should be. I feel this is defined by the material, what weighted pellets you use and just plan personal preference. Here is how I define my grid.
1. Weigh the blanket, using the scale (like the one from your bathroom) that measures pounds to see how heavy the blanket is at this time. Write that number down. In the picture you can see my fabric weighs 3 lbs.
2. Now lay the blanket out on the floor or table so you can see the whole blanket. Look at the fabric. If you have plaid or stripes measure the distance between the lines, I find that 4 to 6 inch squares are ideal. See how your blanket lays out using the patterns you have in the fabric. Don’t set up the pockets to sew through the animals on the fabric when maybe you can sew a grid around them.
I said that the pellets and personal preference also weigh in:
- If your using Poly pellets, they are larger in size for the same weight. Thus your pockets will need to be large enough to fit the desired weight in each pocket of the grid. Glass beads can be very small but are heavier, so you get more weight with less mass. In the end you want the pellets to have enough space to lay flat in the pocket later, after you wash the blanket, you want to lay it flat to dry, so some space is a good thing.
- Personal preference is all about you, do you want to sew and fill four hundred pockets with a ⅛ oz of pellets or only one hundred pockets with ½ oz of pellets each? Obviously one hundred pockets is faster, but is it better? In my experience, big pockets are not better. When the weighted pellets have lots of room to move around, they do. And that takes away from the even distribution of weight. Thus I go for a 4”x 4” to a 5” x 5” square. Somewhere in this realm usually means around 200 pockets. Thus I keep my sanity and the weight distributes nicely.
3. Don’t sew anything yet, just get out a piece of paper and draw your plan. You will need vertical and horizontal lines to create the pockets/grid for the weight. Count how many horizontal pockets and how many vertical pockets you have and write that down. Take those two numbers and multiply them to know how many pockets you will make total. For instance if you have 14 horizontal pockets and 16 vertical pockets, you will have created 224 pockets.
4. Now that you know the weight of the fabric in pounds, the number of pockets, and how heavy you want the blanket to be you can define how much weight goes in each pocket of the grid. See above in "Step 3: A Few Things Before You Start Sewing: How Heavy" if you need to figure how heavy you want the blanket.
- Start by taking how heavy you want the blanket to be and subtracting the current weight of the fabric to get the weight that needs added.
- Let’s say the current fabric weight is 3 pounds. I want a 10 pound blanket. Thus I need to add 7 pounds.
- 10 lbs - 3 lbs = 7 lbs
- Let’s say the current fabric weight is 3 pounds. I want a 10 pound blanket. Thus I need to add 7 pounds.
- Since there are 16 ounces in a pound, you can multiply the pounds needed by 16 to get total ounces to add.
- I need to add 7 pounds, times 16 equals 112 ounces.
- 7 lbs X 16 = 112 oz
- I need to add 7 pounds, times 16 equals 112 ounces.
- Divide the number of ounces needed by the number of pockets to get how many ounces per pocket.
- I need to divide 112 ounces to 224 pockets, I need to add 0.5 ounces per pocket.
- 224 / 112 oz = 0.5 oz
- I need to divide 112 ounces to 224 pockets, I need to add 0.5 ounces per pocket.
5. Now go to your Shipping scale (or food scale) that measures ounces and actually measure out the ounces that go into one pocket. I am a visual person and this helps me see how much or how little I am adding. All pellets differ a little, so don’t assume that 1 tablespoon will always weight the same. Different manufacturers or materials will make an even bigger difference. You have to actually weigh each pocket as you go, but for now this gives you a visual of what it will look like.
- Now we go back to personal preference, are you adding a 1/16th ounce of weight to 500 pockets? Do you really want to do that, would 1/8th ounce to 250 pockets make a difference? Look at the volume of pellets and the size of the pocket. Find the medium that feels good to you and flows with your fabric. Making 2” X 2” squares looks amazing, but will take way longer than 2 days to make. A 6” X 6” square might seem huge and sloppy or maybe it is the perfect fit for your fabric and pellets.
6. Once you have played with the numbers and your fabric to find the grid that works for you, take the Embroidery Tape (blue tape of you don’t have embroidery tape) and mark your lines. Just a small piece of tape at the line you will start on is enough if your fabric has stripes.
- If your fabric does not have lines to follow for sewing, you will need to use a fabric pen to draw lines for sewing, draw the lines all the way across the fabric. See the attached image, draw both the red and the blue lines, creating your complete grid.
Step 10: Start Sewing - Horizontal Lines
Now that you have had a mental drain from figuring out the size of the blanket, how the grid will lay, how big the pockets will be, the weight and size of the blanket and all that other jazz; you are ready to lean back and just sew.
Start by sewing a tight straight stitch for all the horizontal lines on the blanket, these are the blue lines on the attached picture. The horizontal lines run the length of the blanket and end at the open side. These stitches need to be tight enough that pellets cannot travel between the stitches and end up in a different pocket.
Leave a few inches between your final stitch and the end of the fabric. This will allow for space to fold the fabric in on itself when you make the final stitches on the last row, creating the binding to finish the blanket.
Step 11: Fill and Sew Vertical Lines
Now your blanket has a few long pockets stretching from the bottom to the top horizontally. You are going to fill each of these pockets with the desired weight of pellets per one pocket. In this example, you are adding 0.5 oz to each line/pocket.
To make this easier, take an old wrapping paper tube, tape a funnel on the top. Shove it down the first pocket and than pour the pellets in the funnel. This will assist guiding the weighted pellets to the bottom of the blanket. This way you don’t have to shake the pellets down, and they end exactly where you want them.
Now remove the tube from the first pocket, go to the next pocket and repeat until all the pockets from one row are filled.
After one row has been filled, sew the same type of tight straight stitch across the vertical line as you did the horizontal lines, closing the pocket. This is the lowest red lines in the attached drawing. FYI your sewing machine will be unhappy if the needle hits a pellet, so guide the pellets out of the way with your fingers if you have too.
Now start the next row of pockets, one row at a time. Fill each of these pockets with the desired weight of pellets per one pocket, after one row has been completed you will sew across the vertical line, closing the pockets on the second row and moving to the third . . . continuing until you are at the last row.
Pro Tip: When you are pouring the weight into the blanket, rest the blanket on a chair. Set the blanket in the chair, pour over the back of the chair, so the weight settles in the seat of the chair. If you have a swivel chair, or one on wheels this helps move the blanket around and saves some arm strength and back twisting. The 10 or 15 lbs blanket starts feeling a million times heavier after moving it around for 2+ hours.
Step 12: The Last Row
By now you have figured out that when you get to the last row, if you filled all the pockets with pellets, you would have an awful time keeping the pellets in the pockets and getting the pockets sewn closed. The trick here is to fill one pocket at a time while you are sewing.
First you need to trim the excess fabric (if you have any) so both the top and bottom fabrics are the same length. In this case my solid grey fabric is longer than my print fabric so I trim the solid grey fabric so it is close to the same length as the print fabric.
Now, while sitting at your sewing machine, pour the pellets in the pocket, one pocket at a time. Sew that pocket closed and than pour the weight in the next pocket. Depending on how big the pockets are, you may have to fill two pockets at a time, due to the neck width of the sewing machine (room between the needle and the edge of the machine as the fabric runs).
The other trick with these pockets, are that you are closing the blanket at the same time you are adding the weights. This is why you left an extra few inches of fabric. Pour the pellets in the pocket, fold the fabric right sides together, creating the binding and than sew a small tight zigzag line looking similar to what was sewn on the other 3 sides.
Add pellets to the next pocket and continue to the end of the blanket.
DONE!! Happy dance! Now just lean back and snuggle in your completed blanket.
Step 13: Binding? - That's a NO for Me
Some people will put a binding around the edge of the blanket, either a store bought binding or one made with scrap fabric. I have done this, and it does add a step of professionalism, especially to the twin size blankets, but personally I hate making bindings. It goes back to quilting as a child. . . yeah hate is a strong word but, I just hate bindings.
I don't add these to my throw size blankets unless I have to, and then I whine and complain when I am sewing them. They are not hard, but we all have things we don't like, and this is mine. It's up to you, here are a few pictures of with and without binding, you can decide if it is worth it.
To add binding, instead of leaning back and snuggling after the last step, continue working and sew on the binding. You will have to read a different instructable for binding, maybe try this one for starters:
Again, I am not in any way affiliated with this, I don't know who wrote it, but its a place to start. There are other great instructables on bindings, find one that calls to you.
Step 14: Can You Wash the Blanket??
This is probably the biggest question I am asked after someone buys a blanket. And the answer is yes, of course. Just wash it in your washing machine, cold water, gentle cycle. Than lay it out flat to dry. Remember that there are weights in each pocket of the blanket, so hang drying will make the blanket fabric sag. Lay flat on a bed or floor and flip it over a few times as it drys. You can even have a fan blowing on it to dry faster.
If you live in a particularly dirty environment, plan to take it outside (like for a sporting event) or if you are in some other way concerned about it getting dirty all the time or washing it too much, you can add a duvet cover. You can buy duvet covers, but they are so easy to make. Another easy project, but for another time, for now, just think giant pillow case.
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