Focus Friend: Textured Lap Weight for Sensory Soothing

on February 24 | in Books, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 55 Comments

This giveaway is now closed. Thank you!

Melissa Haworth and Kristin Cockrell are the authors of Super Toys: DIY Projects to Support Sensory Processing: A Maker’s Guide to Creating Personalized Sensory Tools and Toys for Children.

More About the Book:

    Is your child sensitive to or overwhelmed by sensory input such as certain kinds of touch, motion or sounds? Has a therapist or other professional suggested your child would benefit from fidgets, weighted clothing, or other sensory soothing tools? If you want to use your creativity to make the toys and tools most often recommended by therapists, this book is for you! Super Toys: DIY Projects to Support Sensory Processing includes more than 30 projects ranging from simple tools that can be assembled in minutes, to weekend endeavors where you can invest your time and love. Step-by-step directions with color photographs help you create projects such as a: weighted blanket, weighted shirt, rocker board, fidget bag with DIY fidgets, lap weight, body “sock,” tactile blanket, t-stool, I-spy bag, sensory garden and more. The instructions are complemented by information about each sensory system and ways to modify the projects to meet individual needs.

The book is a great resource for parents, teachers and for sewists eager to gift their skills to therapy programs and schools! Melissa and Kristin created this Focus Friend tutorial exclusively for Sew Mama Sew readers, combining elements from several popular projects in the book. This is a small lap mat perfect for sensory soothing; it has a calming weight, a variety of textures, plus fidgets to occupy busy hands and aid with attention.

Melissa and Kristin are also offering a chance to win a signed copy of the book! Comment for a chance to win Super Toys: DIY Projects to Support Sensory Processing. (U.S. + Canada addresses this time, please.)

The Focus Friend was designed by an occupational therapist to help provide tactile and proprioceptive input to sensory seeking children. The “fidgets” help keep little hands occupied while attention is focused on listening or other tasks. For children with Sensory Processing Disorder and related issues/conditions, consult with your doctor, therapist or other professional to determine if this project is right for your child.

Focus Friend is based on a log cabin design and constructed to “quilt as you go.” Instead of traditional batting, it’s filled with plastic pellets to add a deep pressure input when in use. As written, the pattern has everything, however makers are encouraged to have fun including as many (or few) elements as you’d like and to change the project to meet your child’s needs. It’s endlessly adaptable. Feel free to use whatever fabrics you have on hand and customize the textures, colors and fidgets to meet your child’s needs. Buttons should only be included for older children where they will not pose a choking hazard.

Finally, if you have a kid who could benefit from this project you likely know how rough they can be on their fidgets, so don’t be surprised when favorite elements wear out quickly. It’ll just be an excuse to create an even more perfect Focus Friend.


  • 4-5 cups of plastic “poly” pellets (we’ve bought online at Quality Plastic Pellets)
  • Piece woven fabric at least 18″ x 13″ for backing (flannel, quilting cotton, lightweight corduroy or similar)
  • Scraps of up to nine different textured fabrics

We Used:

  • Pajama foot fabric (found in the utility fabric section of big box fabric stores)
  • Minky
  • Fleece
  • Lycra
  • Faux fur
  • Corduroy
  • Textured upholstery fabric
  • Microfiber dusting cloth (This has highly textured nubs of synthetic fabric, see image. We found it at the dollar store.)

Other Good Choices Include:

  • Chenille
  • Denim
  • Rip stop nylon

Basically, choose a selection of soft, smooth and rough washable fabrics. Soft and smooth fabrics are especially nice along the longer, outside edges of the lap mat so the children can stroke them.

You can also add fidgets to keep little hands busy.

We Used:

  • Wide elastic
  • Satin ribbons
  • Yarn
  • Zipper (approximately 5″ long, but can be trimmed to fit)
  • Buttons strung on sturdy cord

Other options include:

  • Velcro, both soft + rough sides
  • Coiled plastic

Additional Supplies:

  • Coordinating thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter + plastic ruler (not required but helpful)
  • Pins

We wrote this pattern as precisely as possible but because of the way log cabin blocks are constructed, perfect seam allowances are not critical. It’s no problem if your lap mat ends up a bit smaller or bigger or even a bit crooked. Embrace the wonky on this project and simply trim pieces to fit as needed.

1. Cut backing fabric to 13″ x 18″.

Cut textured fabrics to the following dimensions:
– A: 3″ x 4″, pajama footing
– B: 2.5″ x 4″, orange minky
– C: 3.5″ x 5″, blue fleece
– D: 2.5″ x 7″, corduroy
– E: 3.5″ x 7.5″, textured upholstery fabric
– F: 2.5″ x 10″, shiny, blue Lycra
– G: 3.5″ x 9.5″, green, nubby microfiber cloth
– H: 2.5″ x 13.5″, orange minky
– I: 3.5″ x 11.5″, faux fur

Lay out the fabrics as shown and keep them in place as a guide as you sew the lap mat.

Note: When cutting the microfiber, use scissors and cut from the back between rows of nubbies. Trim a single row from the edge to provide a seam allowance.

2. Attach fidgets. Sew the zipper to the surface of Fabric E so it can be zipped and unzipped without actually opening anything. Baste the elastic to Fabric C, securing at each of the short ends. If using, sew velcro pieces to the top of any fabric. Thread buttons onto sturdy cord.

3. Pin Fabric A right side up in the center of the wrong side of the backing fabric.

4. Place Fabric B good side down on top of Fabric A and lined up along a four-inch edge. Sew with a ¼” seam allowance through the backing. Fold back Fabric B, pin and sew down along the other 4″ edge with a narrower-than-quarter-inch seam. You do not need to sew along a short end but this second seam creates a channel that will be filled with poly pellets in a future step. This is the series of steps you will repeat for each fabric as you create the entire block.

5. Place Fabric C with elastic face down along the narrow edges of Fabrics A and B. Sew then fold back and sew opposite side.

6. Add Fabric D in the same manner using the image above to guide the fabric placement. Fold back Fabric D.

Before sewing down the opposite side of Fabric D, fold the ribbons or yarns in half and pin in place along the raw edge. Secure the ribbons with the same seam that stitches down the outside edge of Fabric D.

7. Add poly pellets! Fill the pockets created behind Fabrics A and B about half full of poly pellets. Then pin Fabric E in place and sew securing the poly pellets in place. Fold back and sew the other side of Fabric E.

8. Add poly pellets to pocket behind Fabric C. Pin and sew on Fabric F as with other fabrics sewing cautiously over the zipper.

9. Add poly pellets to pocket D, add Fabric G. As always, you are sewing with good sides together to cover existing seams, then folding back and sewing down the opposite long edge.

10. Add poly pellets to Fabric E, add Fabric H being very cautious sewing over the zipper.

11. Add poly pellets to Fabric F filling a bit more than half full but leaving plenty of room to sew. Add Fabric I.

12. Now three fabrics (G, H and I) should all have a single open end. Fill each fabric pocket about half full with poly pellets and topstitch closed.

13. If necessary, trim the backing fabric so it is about one inch larger than the quilt square all the way around. Fold the raw edge in half then fold in half again over the seam allowance at the edge of the block. Pin in place. At the corners, simply fold in one direction and then the other.

14. If you are using buttons, tie knots at the ends of the cording where it will meet the edge of the quilt. Pin the cording into the fold-over binding with knots inside binding for extra security.

15. Very slowly topstitch around entire lap quilt to secure binding. This is made easier with a narrow (or zipper) foot.

16. Trim threads and your lap mat is done.

All of the big projects in our Super Toys book include ideas to make the project easier, fancier or cheaper. Here are a few ideas for this project…

Make It Easy:

  • Leave out the poly pellets. Without the poly pellets this is a quick sew and still a great fidget for kids. Each strip can be attached, folded back and pinned in place. The second row of stitching to create a channel is not required.
  • Leave out the fidgets. The weight and textures are often enough even without the ribbons and other fidgets.
  • Create the front piece alone as a traditional quilt square made of different textures. Use the quilt square to make a simple pillow and fill with poly pellets.

Make It Fancy:

  • Add a satin binding. Cut the backing fabric two inches larger in each direction (15″ x 20″). Add a third round to the log cabin using plain fabric and no poly pellets. Cover the third row with packaged satin blanket binding as used on baby quilts. See our video tutorial for tips.

Make It Cheaper:

  • As long as your child is unlikely to chew on the mat and you don’t plan to machine wash the project, rice can be substituted for poly pellets.
  • Recycled fabrics are perfect for this project; stained or outgrown clothing can be used for many of the layers (corduroy or denim from pants, pajama feet fabric from outgrown pajamas, cotton or flannel from shirts or sheets, etc.). The thrift store often has assorted zippers and other notions as well.

Want more DIY projects to support sensory processing? Check out our website and buy our book! We wrote this book in the hopes it will be a resource for parents and teachers of kids with sensory challenges. In addition to the instructions for more than 30 DIY projects, the book includes an overview of each sensory system and many ideas to support sensory processing.

Kristin Cockrell, MOT, OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with 15 years of experience working with children in both clinical and school settings. In addition to raising three children, one of whom has sensory processing disorder, she is an owner and director at Color, Construct, Create Studios, a therapeutic art program for children based in San Diego, California. Find Kristin online at Color, Construct, Create.

Melissa Haworth started sewing weighted blankets for a friend’s therapy practice and realized there wasn’t a comprehensive book of instructions to make tools and toys to support sensory processing. She teaches a variety of sewing classes around Sacramento, California and, in addition to maintaining a personal crafting blog, she contributes to books and magazines. Find Melissa online at Under Construction.

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55 Responses to Focus Friend: Textured Lap Weight for Sensory Soothing

  1. Hope W. says:

    I work in a special education school where many students have sensory processing difficulties. I would love to be able to sew some tools for them! It would be a win-win. I would have a reason to sew, and the students would have tools to help regulate themselves.

  2. Vickie in Olympia says:

    These would be helpful for elderly with memory loss issues. I’m anxious to read your book.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Wow !! So helpful! I have a daughter who is 12 – She has Down Syndrome and has been fidgeting in school and sometimes at home by making holes in her clothes. Jeans,sweatshirts you named it she can make a hole and then rip it so that I can no longer repair. As a mom you want your child to look nice and have stylish clothes but some weeks most of her clothes get destroyed- leggings , tights and knit pants are a sure bet for being ruined. She does not do it to be mean or ugly but her Down syndrome anxiety – I think that log cabin lap fidget would be perfect for her and I can customize just for her! I am hopeful it works!! Thank you so much for sharing the pattern !

  4. Elise says:

    Wahoo! Thank you for sharing this! It is exactly what I was just looking for. 🙂

  5. Sharon says:

    This is wonderful. I would love to make some of these for my students as my school has no money to spend on resources.

  6. Karen K says:

    This is a great idea to share with the many families we see in our therapy setting. Thanks!

  7. Karen K says:

    This is a great resource for me to share with multiple families in our therapy setting. Thanks!!!!

  8. Charlotte Lunsford says:

    What a great idea. Ive made some fidget quilts for elderly with Alzheimers. Neat Idea for kids too

  9. Rebecca says:

    We’ve been working with my son for over a month now with an OT, but this is another great resource

  10. Joy says:

    Wow! What a great idea! I plan on making this for sure and will be checking out the book!

  11. stephanie says:

    What an awesome project! I work in a special education class and we definitely have kids who would benefit from this!

  12. Joelle says:

    As an occupational therapist myself I would love a copy of this book to share with my patients families!!

  13. JenS says:

    What a fantastic idea for a book. As a preschool teacher I see students who communicate, learn and self sooth in various ways. Those with sensory or developmental challenges would greatly benefit from using sensory specific items. My director whips up items (weight blankets, capes, mats, etc) and this book could be a great resource for all of us at our childcare development center.

  14. Audrey says:

    Thank you soo much for sharing!

  15. Jayme L. says:

    I’m an elementary special education teacher so this would be a great resource. Thank you!

  16. Amy MacKay says:

    I am a teacher, this would be perfect for some of my students, and to donate to other teachers for their classrooms

  17. Sue says:

    My grand-daughter would benefit from this project. I am grateful for this information and the chance to win a book with more ideas.

  18. Peg says:

    As a member of a group who are dedicated to sewing textured lap sized blankets for Demntia units in our area, I am thrilled to find that these kinds of projects are benefiting other ages as well.
    Good Luck to all. Maybe a connection can be made at some point.

  19. Pattij says:

    My 5 year old granddaughter has SPD with mild autism and will really benefit from this! I can’t wait to start on this project!

  20. Carmen N says:

    These remind me a lot of the twiddle mitts I’ve seen people making in the knit/crochet communities for dementia patients. Same concept but slightly different application

  21. darlene macdonald says:

    This is such a wonderful book! My niece has TBI and would appreciate this cushion thank you for sharing!!

  22. Andrea Truax says:

    I would love a copy of this book. I’m a child life volunteer at our local children’s hospital and am always looking for useful sewing projects to donate

  23. Jen says:

    This book would be amazing! There are so many great projects that with a bit of creativity can be fun and easy for your kids! Thanks for the chance to win!

  24. Valorie says:

    Excellent idea and I agree it would be good for dementia patients too! I was just talking about how soothing even a blanket feels, because of the weight….now I see this. Is it a sign?

  25. Jennifer says:

    I LOVE this! I was just looking into making a weighted blanket the other day and this lap pad looks AWESOME for school. Thank you for sharing this pattern!

  26. Karen says:

    I think this would also be a great idea for older persons with dementia. I’ve been working in that field for the past 10 years, and gentle sensory stimulation is great for this group.

  27. Roxanne says:

    This has intrigued me lately especially after making quiet books for my grandson. I can see the benefit of these toys for those with special needs.

  28. Debbie Owens says:

    There are great ideas here – thank you! I’ve been trying to construct just a weighted lap pad to assist during eating. My grandson is on the autism spectrum and his OT uses one with him. This is very helpful The poly beads that you use – will the pad be washable? I looked at some in JoAnns and it said they were not to be washed, so I was thinking of using pony beads. I figured when they were done with the pad they could string some jewelry…

  29. Kathy h says:

    Looks like a great resource. I love log cabin blocks so it is especially nice.

  30. Cindy S. says:

    I have a crafty friend with a grandson that uses a lap blanket like above. It is a helpful tool for him. If I were to win this book, I would pass it on to her.

  31. kim t. says:

    oh, I really like this project!

  32. Marilyn says:

    What a great book!

  33. E Fane says:

    I’m thinking this could be a great tool for anxious adults as well.

  34. Linda L. says:

    This would be great to make for schools or group homes that serve special needs children.

  35. carol fun says:

    What a fantastic project! As the mother of an adult child with Sensory Integration Disorder I wish a book like this would have been available when he was younger. That said I think he would still benefit from some of these items and I think my daughter in law would find them helpful in her therapy practice. I would love to make some items for her. Thanks for the giveaway!

  36. Wendy says:

    What a fantastic project on so many levels! Can’t wait to check out the book!

  37. steph says:

    this looks awesome! I know some teachers who would love to use these! Thanks for putting this together!

  38. Sarah P says:

    I think this is a genius idea for a book. I cannot wait to look into it more and read the websites.

  39. Delia says:

    What a great book! I am sharing this tutorial for my friend’s young man.

  40. Love this! So glad I saw the FB post–shared with all my teacher friends.

  41. linda says:

    What a fascinating idea! I probably could have used something like this when I was a child.

    🙂 Linda

  42. Patti says:

    As a school bus driver I have seen first hand how sensory soothing can help a child. This looks like a wonderful book!

  43. Marjory W says:

    This looks like a great book for creating gifts for little ones!

  44. Lindsay in Iowa says:

    This is such a fun idea! My son has down syndrome and would love it (but so would my neurotypical kid!)

  45. Kate says:

    My dear friend is a kindergarten teacher and she would love so many of these projects!

  46. Sarah J. says:

    I love this! I would love to make some of these projects to donate- I used to work in pediatric Emergency Department and these would have been very helpful for the many patients with sensory processing issues. Thank you!

  47. Ramona says:

    This is an awesome project. Being a retired pediatric P.T., I’d love to make these projects to gift to my local schools.

  48. Sally says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I made a similar mat two years ago for the memory care unit where my Mother-in-law lives, and now have ideas for a new design.

  49. Rachel Trindle says:

    What a great project and book. I’ve made similar items for my son who has CP and uses a wheelchair. I love seeing your ideas in print.

  50. Lesley says:

    These look great. Could really have used this when child was younger!

  51. Kim Suits says:

    I am so excited to create some of these sensory blocks for my Pre-Kindergarten classroom! What a wonderfully creative idea! Thanks for sharing with us!

  52. Tonia Jeffery says:

    I have an OT friend, whom I’m sure would love this book.

  53. Krista says:

    What a great reason for putting together this book–it’s wonderful to see how therapy and crafting can join hand-in-hand. It’s an honor to be part of your giveaway.

  54. Karin says:

    This is great! My son has SPD and we are always looking for tools that help him focus and manage himself. I look forward to checking out your book!

  55. Jessie Hansen says:

    This is great. I homeschool for a reason and I think making a couple of these would benefit our school greatly.

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