Moms are notorious for doing whatever they have to do to put their children first. When this local mom couldn’t find an affordable weighted blanket to try out, she made one herself, and created a business that works for her family.
Sleeplessness and a diagnosis
Most people expect that a new mom getting very little sleep each night is usually a part of the deal. Local mom Lisa Pope knew that feeling all too well, though her child wasn’t exactly a newborn anymore. At 18 months, her daughter stopped napping during the day and only slept about four hours each night. Lisa’s day would begin at 1:00 a.m. when her daughter woke, as she traded off shifts with her husband.
Many moms sympathized with Lisa and told tales of their own children waking throughout the night. She tried their recommendations of lavender oils, melatonin, and even raw honey. Though none of it worked, Lisa eventually got some clarification when doctors diagnosed her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Therapy schedules put dent in business plans
At the time, Lisa had run an in-home daycare in Des Moines where she lived with her husband and three children. She had also been an avid crafter loom-knitting since 2011, noting, “You can clean the kitchen over and over and two hours later it would be a disaster again. Crafting gave me a sense of accomplishment, like ‘look, I finished a hat today”.
Shortly after her daughters diagnosis, Lisa and her husband decided to move from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids to take a new job. The plan was for Lisa to open another daycare in Cedar Rapids, but once they received the therapy schedule for her daughter (sensory therapy 5x per week and speech therapy 2x per week) they knew there was no way for that to be possible.
Looking for additional ways to make more income on her limited schedule, Lisa dabbled in direct sales and continued with her craft business. However, it was the suggestion from her daughters therapists that would eventually lead to Lisa’s new business, Just Pulling Strings.
Therapists recommended a weighted blanket
Therapists recommended that Lisa try using a weighted blanket to help her daughter sleep. A weighted blanket is a blanket with extra weight inside it. The weight of the blanket provides proprioceptive input (awareness of one’s body position in space) to the brain. This has a calming and organizing effect on the central nervous system helping one to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Lisa somewhat scoffed at the idea, as she wasn’t sure that 5 pounds would magically help her daughter sleep through the night. As she researched weighted blankets she was taken aback by the prices. “There was no way on our limited income that I could afford $200 for a weighted blanket,” Lisa said. Even though she found a few other blankets that were a bit more reasonable, they still had at least $30 for shipping. When she looked into the raw costs to make a blanket herself, she noticed the beads were $50 alone + the cost of fabric.
DIY weighted blanket
Lisa was not ready to spend such a large amount of money on something that she wasn’t sure would even help. “Every mom has spent so much money on stuff that doesn’t work,” Lisa said. Instead, she decided to DIY a blanket using materials she already had in her house, and old curtain and five pounds of rice. She sewed her first weighted blanket and used it on her daughter that same day. “It was the first time she slept through the night.” Lisa remarked.
Because of how helpful the blanket was to her own family, in 2015 Just Pulling Strings was officially born. Her goal was to make weighted blankets and age-appropriate sensory items, “putting the fun in functional”.
“At the time, there was no one local (or at least that I knew of) making weighted blankets,” Lisa said. Even if she can’t make weighted blankets any more affordable than elsewhere online, she felt that being able to provide them locally would still help. “I know the feeling of not being able to afford to provide something for your child” she added.
The making of a weighted blanket
The process for making a weighted blanket is very labor and time intensive. It starts with picking the right fabric. Lisa knows that many of her clients have sensory issues, and that the fabric itself can be a problem if not just right. She has even gone to the fabric store with some of her clients, letting the children touch and feel each fabric to make sure it is right for them.
Next, measuring our the poly fiber beads to get the right weight for the client and blanket size takes almost an hour. To make sure each square is the same weight, she weighs out each section in to individual plastic bags.
Sewing the blanket together is the last and most time-intensive process of the blanket. It involves measuring and cutting the blanket, measuring each individual square, and pouring/sewing the pre-measured beads into each square as she goes. The entire process for one blanket takes approximately eight hours.
Because she knows that many of her customers have certain sensitivities, she keeps all her blankets locked away in her home office. She washes the fabric and only works on blankets when she and her family are not sick to ensure the best product for her customers.
Other products by Just Pulling Strings
Lisa’s goal is to make a line of items that can be used by families with sensory processing disorders or special needs. She currently makes Weighted Lap Blankets, Fidget Lap Blankets, Cherry Pit Packs, Icy Popsicle Holders, and more.
What you should know about Lisa & Just Pulling Strings
“I would like people to know that if it weren’t for my business, I would not be able to put my kids first,” Lisa says. “I can go with them to appointments in Iowa City and my work can flex my work around their schedule. Because of my customers I have been able to create a business, and a life, that works for us.”
Lisa is planning her business out for 2018 and adding new products to her shop. She notes that using the pre-made blankets she has listed on the Cedar Rapids Marketplace is the cheapest/easiest way to get a blanket. These blankets are constructed ahead of time and just have to be filled with the appropriate amount of weight for the customer.
Lastly, Lisa is always looking for ways that she can help out other families in need. If you would like to help sponsor a weighted blanket or lap pad for a child, please contact Lisa.
To shop all of Just Pulling Strings’ blankets and related products, visit her shop here.