12 March 2013

So... I SEWED! (weighted blanket tutorial)

 It's true. I actually got behind the wheel of a sewing machine and SEWED.
Me, the sewing-machine-a-phobe. (I've had an irrational fear of the needle going through my finger since Intermediate, when a girl in my sewing class did just that).

If you know me AT ALL (or have been reading my blog for longer than five minutes) you will understand what a big deal this is for me. I am the glue gun queen. I make bunting with staples and spray glue.

And yet, here I am sewing.
It must be a truly worthy cause...

Here's the back-story.
My oldest son, Dash, has been an ongoing terrible sleeper for years. He used to be a great sleeper when he was a baby, that was a long time ago. He's now ten. This has been a LONG back-story.
Dash walks around with black circles under his eyes.
No matter how early we send him to bed, he can just not switch off his brain.
For the longest time, one of the only ways we could get him to sleep without hours of procrastination (until he finally collapses with exhaustion) has been to have the comfort of a warm body lying next to him to help him settle.
Sometimes I would have to lie with him. Sometimes we would find him snuggled up in one of his siblings' beds.
This was not ideal, for anybody. Especially with him getting older.

I was bemoaning this fact to my counsellor, and complaining about our nightly battle getting our eldest to go to sleep, and she suggested something radical.
A weighted blanket.
Jane had actually made one for her son, from 5kg of rice and a pillowcase. She brought it out and showed it to me. It looked simple enough. Heavy. Hard to know how this would help.

The idea is that you give them a soothing backrub, then place the blanket over their "middle". The weight takes the place of a body, it helps the child who struggles to sleep feel "anchored" in the bed.

"Was he always a bad sleeper," Jane asked me.
"No, he was brilliant as a baby. The best sleeper out of all of them," I replied.
"So when did he stop being a good sleeper? Did you used to wrap him? Was it when you stopped?"
"I... um... YES! That's it! When we stopped wrapping him! Hubby used to do this thing he called 'a geordie straitjacket'. I've got video footage of Dash trying to houdini himself out of it in the morning... he would have been about 18 months old, I spose...."
"Bingo," said Jane. "There's your answer. He needs to feel that security in his body so he can get to sleep."

"Want to borrow it? See if it works?"
Oh yeah!

That night I showed Dash the weighted blanket, secretly rather skeptical about whether something so simple (and heavy... and surely uncomfortable???) would actually work.
Dash seemed to accept it without question.
We did the backrub, said a goodnight prayer and then laid the rice blanket across his middle...
I did not expect miracles.
Usually there would be at least five procrastinatory bed-exits, three lots of thumping on the wall asking for milk and at least one request to go sleep in my bed or have a snuggle.
This time, not a one.
Nothing. Nada.
From Dash's room, only silence.

The next morning a bright eyed, bushy-tailed boy emerged from his room stretching and proclaiming: "THAT was the BEST SLEEP EVER!!!"

Who would have thought that 5kg of rice sewn into a pillowcase could have such an effect?
So this summer, in spite of the heat, Dash has slept well with his body laden down with rice.

Until Jane needed her blanket back, and I had to figure out how to make one.
In desperation, I began sewing a pillowcase by hand, but that was just painful.
Finally I turned to my clever, KIND, friend Meg.
Would she sew the blanket for me with her magic sewing machine (since she knows how sewing-machine-challenged I am)??
Kind Meg.
Some over, she said. Bring the rice, bring the pillowcase, she said.
So I did.

And then came the twist.
"YOU are going to sew it!" she announced. Is that an evil laugh I hear???
MWAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, Meg turned the tables on me.
Insisted I face my fear of needles. Helped me every step of the way...

And suddenly I am sewing my child his very own rice blanket. ME!
I'm doing this! (yeah, just look at my face. It's another miracle.)

It took around two hours to complete - rice is tricky to handle. At the end, well it was a eureka moment.
I sewed my kid his own blanket. He decided that it was BETTER than the original (maybe cos it's RED?).
Meg also test drove the blanket on her boys... who found it uncomfortable and annoying. This is not for everybody. But for us? For Dash?
A miracle cure.
No more procrastination at bedtime. Just a familiar ritual and a blanket made of rice to anchor him to the bed and send his brain the message that it's time for sleep.
No more dark circles under his eyes. A boy who can concentrate in class and cope with pressure better cos he's getting a decent night's sleep every night.

If this sounds familiar, you might want to give making this weighted blanket a try...
(or you can save yourself the bother and shell out lots of dosh on a professionally made one from here)

What You Need:

  • 5kg bag of rice
  • a measuring scoop
  • a cotton pillowcase
  • a sewing machine
  • a kind friend to push you out of your comfort zone and help with filling the rice (optional)

Weight guide: the professionals advise 10% of a child's body weight in rice + 1 kg extra.
Dash weighs 35kg; our blanket weighs approximately 4.5 kg, give or take a bit.
The trick is just to measure the same amount of rice into each pocket. (Oh, and fill it over a tray or a large bowl so the rice doesn't get everywhere...)

The Finished Article...

(Wobbly sewing... but it WORKS)


(which could be a thing of the past - do I feel a sewing machine coming on??)

[PHOTO CREDIT: All Photos taken by Meg. While I SEWED.]

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