How to Knit, Crochet, or Weave a Sensory Autism Blanket

My best girl friend has autism. Her superpower has been such a gift to me (she is the best wool bagger, missing color finder, vending partner, and inventory organizer I could ever ask for) and as thanks for everything she's helped me with, I wove her a sensory blanket on my SAORI loom. 

She enjoyed going to yarn shops and finding sensory textures that were pleasing to her fingers. She chose colors that were soothing and strung interesting beads onto thick poly/cotton crochet cord for me to include. We also included strips of fabric from her late father's shirts, as a memorial for her to remember him by. 

Not everyone has access to a loom, so here are my thoughts on how to recreate this same concept in knitting, crochet, or weaving for your loved one with autism. 

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Have your loved one with autism choose yarns in colors and textures that are pleasing to them. Try to keep your yarns in a chunky weight range, if possible. Heavy worsted to bulky works best. 
  • Organize the colors and make a plan for yarns that may need to be knit together so that your rows are fairly even in weight. For example, if your loved one chose two fine yarns, you can knit those together and they will be about a worsted weight. It is okay to have different weights of yarn knit next to each other.
  • Also, ask your loved one if they have a preference with how the colors go together. My friend wanted an ombre look to her blanket, one color fading into the next.
  • If your loved one wants to include things like beads, thread these on a very strong (poly cotton works well) thick thread to carry along with your yarn while you are knitting. 
  • Decide on what size of blanket you plan to make. I recommend starting with a lap blanket, something you can tuck into a bag or carry in the car or to different events.

KNITTING

Cast on the width of the blanket based on the gauge of the average weight of yarn in your pile. For example, if you want to make a blanket that is 36 inches wide, and most of your yarn is 2 stitches an inch (chunky weight) then you will cast on 72 stitches. 

Using a garter stitch (so that the blanket lays flat) knit a few rows. Check with your loved one to see if they like the rows to be narrow (2-3 rows) or wider (5+ rows per texture). The bumps in the garter stitch can really highlight different textures. 

Change out the yarns to create a striped effect that you or your loved one can run your fingers across. Play with different stitches to create other textures. 

When the blanket is as long as you want it to be, bind off loosely. 

CROCHET

Chain a length for the width of the blanket. Then use your favorite stich or combination or stitches to create rows of different colors and textures of yarn. 

Whatever stitch you use, make sure it is one that lays flat. You can also try freeform crochet by making circles and swirls and shapes out of different textures and them seaming them together, if that is something that your loved one might enjoy.

When the blanket is as long as you want it to be, bind off loosely. 

WEAVING

My loom makes a 24" wide cloth, so that is the width of my friend's blanket. I wove stripes of different textures back to back, blending the colors as many of them were self-striping types of yarn. I wove 9 meters of cloth, including rows of beads and leather fringe and horsehair from her favorite horses. 

FINAL TIPS

If you are using chenille or fuzzy yarn, consider crocheting loops into the cloth to dig fingers into. 

For loved ones who like poky textures, try using jute yarn or spiky metal or gemstone beads. Take an afternoon to visit the craft store and touch the beads together. 

To incorporate beads, carry the poly/cotton thread that already has beads strung on it with your yarn and crochet, sliding the beads up the thread and placing them on either both sides or one side based on your loved one's preference. 

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