Weighted blankets: Sewing with care for foster children

For a child in the foster care system, feeling safe and secure is no small thing – neither is knowing that someone cares.

Linda Peterson of Nampa is a foster mom who recently came out of “retirement.” Another way she helps children in crisis is by making weighted blankets, which have been shown to have a calming effect.

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“For them to think that somebody cares enough to make something special just for them, the way they wanted it -- they get to order the colors they want, and if they want superheroes or flowers or whatever, that's what I'll go do. I'll go get the fabric that they want,” Peterson said.

Peterson has made more than a dozen weighted blankets for foster children. She fired up her sewing machine after receiving a call from Jonathan Wakeman of One Church One Child, an organization that rallies support for foster children, foster parents and social workers from churches, businesses and other community organizations.

“At that point, we had been retired from being foster parents, and I needed something to do,” Peterson said. “This gave me a reason, and I can’t say no when it comes to foster kids.”

Wakeman said there is an urgent need for foster parents.

“But beyond that, there are a lot of people that want to help, but can’t be a foster parent,” Wakeman said. “We know that’s a big thing, so we try to give as many options as possible.”

One option is making weighted blankets – or contributing the necessary funds or materials. Weighted blankets are designed to be one-tenth of a person's body weight.

“The pressure stimulates the body to release a lot of amazing chemicals like serotonin, melatonin, oxytocin, and it really has a physical therapeutic effect on children that calms them down, and allows them to just feel safe and secure so they can sleep or they can think better, or they can calm down after something that’s got them a little riled up,” Wakeman said. “I like to say they’re like a portable hug.”

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The following is a letter written by a child who received one of the custom weighted blankets:

Dear Linda Peterson,

I want to thank you for giving me the W.W.B. - wonderful weighted blanket!

It feels so good. It feels like a giant bear hug that stays stationary and feels like a blanket melatonin. I sleep better; am not as cranky when I wake up, although my mom might not agree. Your skills with a blanket are really unique, and I'm blessed with it.

God Bless You,


"I'm just hoping that they'll enjoy it. I'm trying to do a good job so that it lasts and they'll be happy with them," Peterson said. "Just put smiles on their faces is what I'm hoping. That's my reward; just to see a smile on their face."

One Church One Child would like every foster child who would benefit from a weighted blanket to receive one. To volunteer, to donate funds or materials, or to find out more about how you can help foster children, call Jonathan Wakeman at (208) 334-0971.

One Church One Child Treasure Valley also has a Facebook group.

Instructions for making a weighted blanket

By Linda Peterson

Materials: 4 yards of cotton fabric

Matching thread

Poly pellets (I buy mine off EBAY bulk 50 lbs for $100.00)

Tailor's chalk

Something to measure with

Scale to weigh pellets in ounces

I usually make them about 40 inches by 60 inches. You can adjust the size for the size of the person you are making it for.

The amount of poly pellets per blanket depends on the weight of the person the blanket is being made for. It is 1/10 of their weight So for a hundred pound person you would need 10 pounds. Convert this to ounces.

Pre-shrink your fabric.

Cut fabric to desired size. Place wrong sides together and sew around three sides. I sew it twice for strength. Clip corners and turn right side out. Iron flat. Turn opening edges in and press down. Top stitch around the three sides.

Using the tailor's chalk mark evenly spaced channels lengthwise. I do these about 5 inches apart but you can do smaller if you want. Sew down your chalk lines.

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Then mark out evenly spaced lines widthwise to form your pockets. I usually use 5 inches as my guide here too but you can do smaller.

Once marked you will know how many pockets you will have. Divide the amount of pockets you have into the amount of ounces of pellets you need for the blanket. This will give you the amount of ounces you will need to put in each pocket.

Using your scale weigh the pellets for one pocket. Place that amount down each channel. Sew across the chalk line and repeat until all the pockets are filled.

Topstitch across the opening, and you are done.