Never in a million years did I think I would be brainstorming ways to occupy my dad in his senior years. Dementia has taken his mind to a place that is at times lonely and confusing. When I came up with the idea to make something for his idle hands, I was searching the internet for something I could make for him. I found three ideas that intrigued me. There were tons of aprons and mats with items sewn to them to fidget with, weighted lap pads that drape across the knees to bring comfort, and mats with pockets to put your hands in to relieve anxiety. So, I decided to design all three ideas into one Busy Blanket project with Poly-Pellets®!
This combination sensory and calming weighted lap pad for seniors with Dementia and Alzheimer's, others with ADD and ADHD, and people who simply benefit from touching and fidgeting, has 6 busy squares on one side to keep restless fingers occupied to elicit curiosity, memories and awareness. On the other side there are pockets to place your hands with a soothing satin lining.
The weighted aspect of the 15" x 20" mat gives comforting and calming effects, filled with a 6 lbs. bag of Poly-Pellets® by Fairfield. The washable case is made separate from the weighted insert, and has handles so that you can roll up your Busy Blanket and go!
My choice of fabrics needed to be attractive and appealing so that my mom would be happy to see it laying around the house when not in use. My parents had a quilting business for many years in Oklahoma and have a genuine appreciation for pretty fabrics, elaborate trims, and sewing notions. I felt like Dad would be happy to have familiar calicos, fringe, pompoms, beads and buckles to fidget with on his Poly-Pellets® Busy Blanket.
Another requirement was that his Busy Blanket needed to be washable. He loves coffee, and his shaky hands don't always keep his coffee cup steady. So, I designed the case to have a zipper opening and to be separate from the weighted insert so my mom can place the case in a lingerie bag and wash it on the gentle cycle and hang it up to dry.
If you're a sewer and a maker like me, you will probably be able to find all the supplies you need in your fabric and sewing stash. Otherwise, here's a list of supplies you need and the instructions, plus a video that shows how to make a Busy Blanket with Poly-Pellets® for someone special in your life.
Project Type: Sewing
Time to Complete: A weekend
Cutting Mat & Rotary Cutter
Here's what you need:
1 Yard Fabric for the Outer Case
1/2 Yard - Fabric for the Weighted Insert
(6) 1/4 Yards each - Coordinating Fabrics for the Busy Squares
1/4 Yard - Gold Satin for lining the Calming Pockets
(1) - 12" Zipper (Black)
(2) - 5" Zippers (Purple and Orange)
2 Yards - Ribbon for the Handles (1-1/4" wide)
1/3 Yard - Green Pompom Trim
1/2 Yard - Fuchsia Ribbon (1"wide)
1/4 Yard - Pink Ribbon (5/8" wide)
1/4 Yard - Orange Ribbon (7/8" wide)
6 " - White Ribbon (1" wide)
(1) - 36" White Shoe Lace
(6) - D-Rings (1-1/4" wide)
6" - Brown Ornate Fringe (2" wide)
6" - Brown Ruffled Trim (1-1/2" wide)
6" - Blue Hook-n-Loop Sew-able Tape
4 - Assorted Buttons
6" - Crochet Trim (1-1/2" wide)
1 - Silver Belt Buckle (2-1/2")
1 - Blue Duster with removable chenille fabric
3" x 5" Clear Vinyl
1/2 Yard - White Rick Rack
7 - Assorted Beads
6" - Pink Ribbon (1/16" wide)
6" - Ornate Ribbon (1-1/4" wide)
Optional: 1 Blue Tassel, 1 Orange Pompom for the zipper pulls
Let's Get Started!
Start your Poly-Pellet® Busy Blanket by cutting fabric for the top of the mat 17" x 22".
Cut 7 squares of coordinating fabric for the busy squares 6" x 6".
"Peek-A-Boo" - Busy Square #1
The pompoms keep their fingers busy and this square has an iron-on applique hidden behind the zipper to play peek-a-boo which is sure to surprise you every time!
Here's what you need for the "Peek-A-Boo" busy square; pompom trim, 2 squares of fabric (orange and purple), 1 iron-on applique, and a zipper. (see supply list above for specifics)
Step #1 - "Peek-A-Boo"
Iron the applique to one of the squares. This will be inside the square, so I used a bright orange to make it bright and playful to match the sun. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to iron the applique to the center of the square.
Step #2 -"Peek-A-Boo"
Cut second square in half and sew the zipper into the opening. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to sew the zipper.
Step #3 - "Peek-A-Boo"
Sew pompom trim to both sides of the zipper.
Step #4 - "Peek-A-Boo"
Sew top square with zipper to the bottom square on all 4 sides.
You're finished with your first square!
"Tie My Shoe" - Busy Square #2
One of the basic cognitive skills we all learned was to tie our shoes, and this busy square brings back that memory and gives the fingers plenty to fidget with!
Here's what you need to make the "Tie My Shoe" busy square; 1 square of fabric (Pink), a shoe lace, ribbon and D-Rings. (see supply list above for specifics)
Step #1 - "Tie My Shoe"
Cut 6 pieces of fuchsia ribbon into 3" lengths. Loop D-Rings through ribbons and sew to each side of the fuchsia square of fabric.
Step #2 - "Tie My Shoe"
Thread shoe lace through the D-Rings and tie in a bow. Sew the shoe lace to the top edge of the square to keep the shoe lace attached to the mat.
"Lift & Press" - Busy Square #3
The action of lifting and pressing the hook-n-loop tape on this square will keep their fingers busy for a long time, and the fringe with buttons are fun to fiddle with!
Here's what you need to make the "Lift & Press" busy square; 1 square of fabric (blue) hook-n-loop tape, fringe, ruffled trim and some buttons. (see supply list above for specifics)
Step #1 - "Lift & Press"
Sew fringe to the left side of the square.
Step #2 - "Lift & Press"
Sew the hard side of the hook-n-loop tape to the right side of the square.
Sew the soft side of the hook-n-loop tape to the wrong side of the ruffled trim.
Step #3 - Lift & Press"
Press hook-n-loop tapes together and sew one end of the ruffled trim to the top of the square to keep it attached to the mat.
Step #4 - Lift & Press
Sew buttons on the fringe and to the end open end of the ruffled trim for lifting and pressing.
"Pretty Pocket" - Busy Square #4
Keep some coins, a key, a photo or a memento in this pretty pocket and play with the buckle as it slides back and forth on a crocheted trim, just for fun!
Here's what you need to make the "Pretty Pocket" busy square; 1 square of fabric (orange), a zipper, crocheted trim, and a buckle with the prong removed. (see supply list above for specifics)
Step #1 - "Pretty Pocket"
Cut square across the right side and sew in zipper. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to sew in the zipper.
Step #2 - "Pretty Pocket"
Thread trim through the buckle and sew the trim to the left side of the square at the top and bottom.
"Pic Pocket" - Busy Square #5
Put a cute pic in the clear pocket of this square and play all day with the fuzzy chenille loops that are taken from a duster you can find at the dollar store!
Here's what you need to make the "PIC Pocket" busy square; 1 square of fabric (blue), clear vinyl, rick rack, and a dollar store duster. (see supply list above for specifics)
Step #1 - "Pic Pocket"
Pull the chenille fabric cover off the plastic handle of the duster.
Step #2 - "Pic Pocket"
Cut a piece of the chenille fabric 2" x 6".
Step #3 - "Pic Pocket"
Sew the chenille fabric piece to the top of the square.
Step #4 - "Pic Pocket"
Cut clear vinyl into 3" x 5" rectangle.
Step #5 - "Pic Pocket"
Sew rick rack on top of the vinyl to attach to the bottom of the square on 3 sides to create a clear pocket to place pics.
"Bead-It" - Busy Square #6
Here's what you need to make the "Bead-It" busy square; 1 square of fabric (pink), ribbon, a buckle, and some beads. (see supply list above for specifics)
Step #1 - "Bead-It"
Thread wide ribbon through the buckle and sew at both ends to the bottom square.
Step #2 - "Bead-It"
Thread beads onto skinny ribbon and knot both ends, then sew the knotted ends to the top of the square.
Attach squares to the top mat -
Iron the edges of all the squares under, 1/2" on all sides. Place all 6 busy squares evenly on the top of the mat and pin into place. Top-stitch a 1/8" from the edge to sew all 6 squares to the top of the mat fabric. Set aside to make the bottom of the mat.
Make the bottom mat -
Start the bottom of the mat by cutting fabric 17" x 21".
Cut gold satin fabric for the pocket lining 8" x 15".
Cut fabric for the top of the pocket 8" x 15".
Hem one long edge of the pocket top, and one long edge of the satin lining.
With the wrong side of pocket top on top of the smooth side of the satin, sew the 3 raw edges together to join the top to the lining.
Turn the edges under 1/4" and press with iron.
Pin and sew pocket(s) to the center of the mat fabric with a double top-stitch. Sew down the center of the pocket to form 2 pockets. Pockets will have 2 layers; the top and a layer of satin for the user to run their finger onto for a calming effect.
Pin 65" length of ribbon around the pocket, leaving 18" loops on each end to create handles. Sew ribbon on both sides, to the mat fabric above and below the pockets.
(Join the top mat to the bottom mat -
Now it's time to join the top mat (with the squares), to the bottom mat (with the calming pockets) to form a case with a zipper.
Sew a 12" zipper to join the ends of the bottom mat and the top mat.
Open the zipper, with right sides facing, sew the other 3 edges together with a 1/2" seam.
Turn the case right side out to reveal the finished Busy Blanket.
Make the weighted blanket insert -
The next step is to make the weighted blanket insert. I used muslin for mine, but you can use any non-stretchy fabric for your insert.
Cut 2 pieces of fabric for the insert 16" x 26".
Sew 2 short sides and 1 long side of the fabric pieces together.
Mark rows 2-1/2" apart and sew from top to bottom to create pockets for the Poly-Pellets®.
Fill each of the pockets with 1-1/2 cups of Poly-Pellets® and pin each pocket closed as you go.
When filled, sew all the pockets closed to complete your weighted blanket insert.
Put it all together -
Place the weighted Poly-Pellets® insert into the Busy Blanket and zip the end closed to complete.
Option: Add a matching pompom and a tassel to the zippers to create cute little pulls to play with.
Roll up your Poly-Pellets® Busy Blanket, grab the handles and.....
....You're ready to GO!