A weighted vest is a useful occupational therapy tool. Weight can provide valuable sensory input and may be used to help children with sensory integration issues or autism spectrum disorders. These items are often quite expensive, but can be made at home with relative ease. Making your own weighted vests also allows you to customize fabrics, styles and the amount of weight to meet individual needs. The strategies used to make a child-sized weighted vest can easily be modified for an adult who would benefit from a similar option.
Things You'll Need
Zippered vest pattern
Fabric for lining, as called for in pattern
Fabric for pockets and weight bags
Sew-in-Velcro for inner pockets.
Choose a vest pattern. Look for one with a zip front or modify a basic pattern to include a zipper. A casual style vest is ideal. Sportswear pattern companies offer suitable fleece patterns for a weighted vest of this sort. Purchase appropriate fabrics. Natural fibers are best for the lining, while the exterior should be appropriate for your climate.
Cut pattern pieces out of both exterior and lining fabric. Set aside your exterior pieces for now. Using your lining pieces as a basic template, cut suitably sized pockets from your pocket fabric. Depending upon the vest size, you should have several shallow, broad pockets on the back and two to three small pockets on the fronts.
Press hems into place on each pocket piece. Hem the top edges. Stitch into place on the vest lining. Sew Velcro closures onto pockets by hand.
Finish constructing the vest as directed by your pattern, installing the zipper when appropriate. Be sure to press as you go and topstitch all seams as you sew a weighted vest for a neat, professional look.
Make small weight pouches sized to match your weighted vest pockets by sewing squares or rectangles right sides together on three sides. Turn, fill and top stitch closed. You can use sand, plastic pellets, rice, buckwheat or flaxseed to fill your pouches. Consult your occupational therapist or use trial and error to determine the appropriate amount of weight for your weighted vests.
Offer a weighted vest to ease transitions, help with stress or as suggested by your occupational therapist. If a child or adult is especially reliant on weighted vests, be sure to make more than one to allow for washing. Use the pocket and weighted pouch strategy to make a weighted blanket.
Only plastic pellets are washable. Be sure to remove weight pouches from vest before laundering if you have used other weight options.