How to Crochet Your Own Weighted Blanket

A lot of people are talking about weighted blankets these days. They are said to ease anxiety, help you self-soothe and help you sleep better. And what’s more appealing than snuggling under a big, heavy blanket to help ease your worries? It provides deep pressure all over your body, mimicking a hug.

There seems to be some scientific evidence to support these claims of improved sleep and relaxation. And there’s definitely a lot of anecdotal evidence from people who say that weighted blankets changed their lives. Some claim that these blankets can be particularly beneficial for people with autism, sensory processing disorder, or anxiety.

And even if the science isn’t 100% there yet, well, using a weighted blanket (in addition to whatever you healthcare provider recommends) can’t hurt, right? It’s a low-risk, relatively low-cost, fairly accessible tool that has potential to help anyone struggling with negative feelings or sleeplessness.

If you struggle with any of the above issues (anxiety, sensory issues, troubled sleep), a weighted blanket is worth a shot, right?

My Story: The Hunt for the Perfect Weighted Blanket

When my autistic son was really struggling with sleep, I was anxious to try anything that might help. Naturally, I became interested in trying a weighted blanket. I did some preliminary research into different products, but ran into various problems:

  1. The options were all quite expensive. A child-sized blanket was typically at least $120 USD. That felt like a lot of money to spend on something that might not do anything. What if he didn’t respond to it?
  2. There weren’t any options available locally – they were all online. Which meant I couldn’t touch and feel the blankets myself before purchasing. I didn’t feel comfortable laying down money for something so intrinsically tactile when I had never been able to physically interact with it.
  3. Most of the options were made from synthetic materials. They used synthetic fabrics like acrylic and polyester, and were weighted with plastic beads. This sounded both uncomfortable (I hate to sleep on and under non-breathable fabrics!) and not ideal from an environmental standpoint.
  4. Most of the options were kind of ugly. Again, if I was going to put down that much money for something, I didn’t want it to be an eyesore. Most had childish patterns and/or looked like therapy tools, not bedding.

Ideally, I was looking for a relatively inexpensive product, that was made from natural, breathable materials, that was available locally, and that looked nice, too.

I came across one company that made a product which met almost all my desires: Sheltered Co, a small business in California that made gorgeous hand-crocheted blankets from deadstock (leftover) fabric (mostly stretchy cotton jersey). They bought bolts of fabric, cut them into strips, and crocheted them into densely-woven blankets that weighed 13lbs or more.

The resulting blankets were environmentally-friendly, beautiful, and breathable. They weren’t local, though. And the biggest problem? They were expensive. I’m talking $335 USD plus shipping minimum for a child-sized blanket (+$100 for an adult-sized). Yikes! We’re a single-income family, we don’t have that kind of cash to spend on things that might not work!

The moment I first saw one of their blankets, I was blown away by their simple, elegant beauty. And the moment I saw the price, I thought, “I bet I could make that.”

If you can single-crochet a giant rectangle, you can make one of these blankets.

Making my First Blanket

My journey towards crocheting my own weighted blanket had its own problems. I didn’t have access to deadstock cotton jersey fabric like the folks at Sheltered Co, for starters; and I didn’t have a way to easily cut fabric into strips if I had. So I decided my first step would be to find pre-made cotton jersey yarn (often called “t-shirt yarn”).

I spent a lot of time hunting down the right kind of yarn. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find yarn as thick as what I’d seen in those photos, but I thought I could still get some good results with a super-bulky weight. But just as with the blankets themselves, I couldn’t find a local source, so I ended up having to purchase the yarn online without being able to touch and feel it. (At least in the case of yarn, the cost was much lower than a whole blanket, so it was less of a leap of faith.)

I ended up going with Hoooked Zpagetti t-shirt yarn. It’s made from recycled jersey fabric, so it’s environmentally friendly. It’s generally made from at least 90% cotton, so it’s natural and breathable. (Because it’s made from leftover fabric, the contents vary). I got it from Lovecrafts, but a number of sites sell it. I continued to run into problems with the yarn, but I won’t get into that here — I’ll just share my tips when I tell you how you can make your own blanket.T

My first blanket was . . . okay. I tried mixing colours and discovered that when using recycled yarn, sticking with one colour is better to get a more consistent result. I also misjudged the sizing a bit, and ended up with a narrower blanket than I wanted.

I also learned that there is no attractive way to tie t-shirt yarn end together or weave them in. So for my next blanket, I would have to bust out my sewing machine and actually sew all yarn ends together, which added a step.

But gosh, it felt good to wrap around my body. And it looked pretty good, too! Even if it didn’t help my son sleep, it would make an attractive throw blanket for the family room.

I made three more blankets (one for my daughter, one for a friend, and one for my sister) before I finally felt like I’d hit on a good formula.

Testimonials

Here’s what one friend said about the one I made for her:

I use it every single day! I find it really comforting, especially when my body is feeling uncomfortable. I even feel like my sleeping has improved since I started using it as my blanket at night. Even though it’s summer, it’s still cool enough to use at night, and in winter I just double it up with my usual blanket. Plus it’s cute!

And her roommate:

[My friend] has used it more than me, but honestly I love it whenever I do use it. I find it really soothing, and because I tend to be really restless when I’m anxious, the weight is comforting and reminds me to relax. It just helps me feel more secure? Kind of like I’ve been tucked in, haha. And if I’m sitting up to read or whatever, I can double it over and lay it over my legs, which are usually the most restless part of me. We are often arguing over who gets to use it! So yeah, it gets a lot of use out of us!

I personally took my daughter’s weighted blanket with me when I got a root canal, and I found the pressure of the blanket soothing during the stressful procedure.

The Blanket: Details

These guidelines are for a child-size blanket. It will be approximately 3×4 feet in size and weigh around 6 lbs. This is generally considered a good size and weight for a child (weighted blankets are recommended to be about 10% of the person’s body weight). For an adult, you’d have to make adjustments (buy an extra ball or two of yarn and add chains/rows).

This blanket has a very open weave. You can put your fingers right through the holes. Some users like this feature, and find comfort in lacing their fingers through the holes.

It does not provide significant warmth (which is a huge advantage in a warmer season or climate). If you want warmth, you can layer it with another blanket/comforter.

Cost: a ball of Zpagetti yarn is typically around $11 USD. Five balls (what I recommend) then comes out to about $55. However, look out for sales, and check different websites for better prices. I got mine on sale once and only paid about $41 for all the yarn I needed for a blanket. If you’re buying a jumbo crochet hook for the first time, they generally run you about $5 each.

Construction:
The whole thing is made with single crochets through the front loops only. Crocheting through the front loops creates an attractive texture and also makes the blanket stretchier. (Click here if you need a refresher.)

Ready to make your own?

DIY Weighted Blanket Instructions

Important Note on the Yarn:
One thing I learned the hard way is that because most (all?) t-shirt yarn is made from leftover jersey material, every skein of yarn is different. The makers cannot guarantee an exact weight/thickness for the yarn, and the stretchyness also varies. This means I can’t give you exact instructions on what size hook to use, how many chains to start with, or how many rows it will take. I can offer general guidelines, but you will have to do a bit of experimenting to get the exact size and drape you want.

Also, even if you buy the same colour from the same place, you might get varying shades. I was disappointed once by mismatched yarn, all ordered from the same site. For this reason, if at all possible, get this yarn from a brick-and-mortar store so you can see for yourself that it all matches. Or buy directly from the manufacturer site (which is easier/cheaper to do if you’re in Europe).

You want to use a much larger hook than what the yarn manufacturer recommends, because they are expecting you to be making something sturdy (like a rug or a cushion cover), not something that drapes and hugs. A blanket is an unconventional/unexpected use for this yarn.

As I mentioned above, you will run into knots in your skein where fabric yarn ends were tied together. These do not look nice in your blanket. The best way to deal with them is to untie them and sew them together yourself. I will give a bit more detail in my instructions below. However if this is not an option for you and you’re not that picky about the look of your blanket, you can ignore them and leave them in. It wont affect the durability or function of the blanket.

Materials:

  • 5 skeins of matching Hooked Zpagetti yarn (or similar extra-bulky t-shirt yarn)
  • 19mm or 25mm hook, depending on thickness of yarn and personal preference
  • measuring tape
  • sewing machine (optional)
  • thread to match yarn (optional)

Step 1: Make a test swatch.

I would recommend doing a couple of large test swatches to gauge what size hook you need to give you the look and drape you want.

(The bigger the hook, the drapey-er the blanket. As a general rule, I’d say err on the side of bigger/drapey-er. If it’s too stiff it will feel like you’re sleeping under a rug.)

To make your test swatch:
1. Chain 25 or so.
2. For the fist row, single-crochet into every stitch, working into the bottom or the top of the chain — whatever you prefer/are used to.
3. For the next few rows, single-crochet into the front loop only. Once you have about 25 rows, you can stop.

Spend some time with your test swatch to gauge if you like the look and feel of it. You might decide to start over again with a different hook size until it’s the way you like it.

Calculating Size:
When you’re happy with your swatch, count how many stitches your yarn and hook combo take to make one foot in width. You’ll want to triple that to get a blanket that’s roughly three feet wide. (Feel free to round up — better to get it a little big than too small.) In my experience, it takes roughly 50-65 stitches to make three feet.

Next, count how many rows it takes to get one foot in length. Quadruple that number to get a blanket that’s roughly four feet long. In my experience, it takes roughly 75 rows to make four feet.

Step Two: Start Your Blanket!

You’re just making a bigger version of your test swatch, using the numbers you came up with above for the full size.

I start with a chain of between 50-65 stitches.

Then I single crochet into every stitch through the front loops only.

Then you keep going until you have your desired length!

When you come to yarn knots/end in your ball (and you will), you can leave them; but it looks MUCH NICER if you undo the knot and sew the ends together with a sewing machine. With matching thread and a zigzag stitch, just overlap the ends about 1/2 inch and sew together.

To finish off, just tie a really tight double knot, and trim the yarn. It doesn’t really work to weave in the ends with t-shirt yarn.

Optional: for a more polished look, once your blanket is your desired length, you may choose to single-crochet all the way around your blanket (i.e. across the top, down one side, across the bottom, and then up the other side.) I omitted this step in three of my four blankets and liked the look without. Tie a tight knot and trim yarn.

Postscript:
You may be wondering, “What about your son? Did the blanket help him sleep??” Unfortunately, he didn’t really take to the weighted blanket. He’s really teeny-tiny (at almost five years old he weighs only 32lbs!) and has poor coordination, so a heavy blanket wasn’t the right fit for him right now. He ended up requiring prescribed medication to help him sleep through the night. But maybe he will like it when he’s a bit bigger.

Maybe Someday.

Hi friends.

No, I haven’t finished my series on the crunchy community, and honestly, I don’t know if/when it will ever get done.

I’m just writing in to say that I haven’t forgotten about the blog, but I don’t know if/when I will ever continue.

Life has been hard these last four years, and has just gotten harder in the last few months.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few years it’s that when things are hard, buckle up, because they’re only going to get harder.

Maybe someday things will get easier. Maybe someday I’ll be able to follow my dreams and create art and beauty and new life.

But today I just have to get through the day. And that’s probably how it’s going to go for years to come.

(To be clear, nothing dramatic has happened or changed in my life. Just all of the same — no sleep, no answers — but a little bit worse.)

If you want to know what I’m up to, I’m sometimes active on Instagram.

Why are we so drawn to alternative medicine?

Photo credit

The other day I began my story of how I fell in love — and then out of love — with the crunchy community. I said I wanted to explore some of the dangers and pitfalls of the wellness industry.

But before I spend too much time discussing the negative sides of “crunchy living” and alternative medicine, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that alternative healing practices definitely have their strengths and benefits, and I totally understand their allure.

Many of us turned to alternative medicine when conventional medicine failed us.

Because the truth is, the conventional (Western) medicine model can be very disempowering for patients.

The doctor typically holds all the power: it’s their office; you go in on their time. They tell you what to do. They decide your prescription and the dose, and tell you when to come back.

They often use unfamiliar, infantilizing jargon that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and belittled. And they often shame you if you admit to googling your symptoms or trying out alternative healing practices. It can feel like they don’t want you to have any agency in your own wellness.

No matter how old, intelligent, or experienced you are, you often leave a doctor’s office feeling like a child. It’s a relationship where the doctor knows everything and you know nothing.

We often come out of a doctor’s office feeling like we weren’t heard or taken seriously. We often feel like there is nothing we can do to aid in our own healing. And we feel like our doctors don’t take into account our whole selves: we don’t feel like our spiritual and emotional selves are acknowledged.

And that’s if we can even get ourselves to step through the door. Hospitals and doctor’s offices are often cold, sterile, unwelcoming places. They tend to be crowded and busy, and we feel anonymous. Monitors beep, we stand in lines, everything smells antiseptic. Most of us will do just about anything to avoid going there in the first place.

Compare that to many holistic wellness centers, which are typically more welcoming and empowering. The floors are often carpeted and you’re encouraged to take off your shoes. There is often soothing music playing, and diffusers bubbling with calming essential oils. The lights may be dimmed and there is probably a potted succulent on the receptionist’s desk.

Your alternative healthcare provider often listens carefully as you discuss not only your source of pain, but your daily routine, your diet, your emotional responses to you suffering, and alternative remedies you’ve tried. They take you seriously when you say you’ve tried acupuncture or cutting out gluten. They typically use language you understand. They often offer a number of options and encourage you to find a dose that works for you. They might give you their email address in case you have additional questions for later.

You typically leave a wellness center feeling like a whole person who is actively participating in finding a solution.

And sometimes you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home. The Internet offers an infinite number of ideas, suggestions, and solutions. There are millions of people out there telling you that you can take control of your own health. You just have to read the right books, eat the right food, do the right exercises, or take the right supplements.

Who wouldn’t want to go that route over the medical route if possible?

Well, unfortunately, I’ve discovered firsthand that there are some problems inherent in the alternative health model as well.

For one thing, alternative healthcare is not as well regulated, so a lot of nonsense – often dangerous — can slip in. There is often not enough accountability for peddlers of alternative medicine.

And sometimes the burden of figuring things out for yourself can become overwhelming rather than empowering.

And when alternative healing doesn’t work, you can wind up feeling like you didn’t try hard enough, or that you’re just too lazy, or any number of self-defeating things.

And it’s these problems that I want to explore a bit more in future posts.

Thanks for following along!