A Waldoboro seamstress uses her business to help children succeed in the classroom, sewing weighted “lap pads” – small blankets with weighted beads that help with anxiety and fidgeting – and giving them to schools.
Erica St. Peter owns St. Peter’s Sew Sweet Creations. She lives in Waldoboro with her husband and their two children, and works as a commercial loan assistant at First National Bank in Damariscotta.
“I’ve always been of the artistic type,” she said. She taught herself to knit at 9 years old and started sewing around five years ago.
She said her inspiration for sewing weighted blankets came from her mother, who fostered children for 20 years and adopted six, two of whom have special needs.
“I was always eager to do something good for children and I never knew what that would be, if it would be foster care or something like my mom did. Once I realized that I could make these and people needed them, it was kind of my thing, my way of helping kids,” she said.
St. Peter created the sewing business, which she runs out of her home, in November 2017.
“(The blankets) provide that pressure of being held or lying with somebody, and the weight helps keep you more still at night. So if you tend to toss and turn a lot and wake up all the time, or kids who thrash around in their sleep, this really helps them to get more of that deep, sound sleep,” she said.
“The amount of relief that it gives the entire family, with something so simple as a blanket, is so amazing. It’s really what drives me,” she said.
St. Peter said her goal is to make the blankets affordable and individualized.
“A lot of kids suffer with sensory issues, so I wanted to make sure that I could do a fabric that they would like the texture of,” she said.
The weight of the blanket can be customized based on the age and size of the child.
The blankets are sewn in a quilted pattern, with weighted recycled plastic beads distributed evenly throughout. The blankets can be washed and hang-dried.
St. Peter also uses the beads to make ice packs and offers other services and items, such as embroidering and rice packs.
She said the blankets usually take her between four and 12 hours to create, depending on size and weight.
While it is a time-consuming process, she said “the benefits that it’s giving people is so worth it.”
St. Peter charges $10 per pound for the blankets and has gone through around 400 pounds of beads in the past year due to the high demand for the blankets.
One of St. Peter’s visions is to have every classroom stocked with smaller versions of her blankets – weighted lap pads.
She sews a lap-sized weighted blanket for every order she receives and donates to a classroom once she has 20 pads made.
“When kids are sitting at their desks, they can lay them over their laps, and it helps with the leg jitters and the fidgeting around. It helps keep them more calm, hopefully so that they can just benefit more from their day in school,” she said.
If a child needs something to fidget with, the blankets can be a quiet outlet for that energy, St. Peter said.
In 2018 she donated 56 pounds of weighted lap pads to classrooms in Dedham and Brewer.
“My mission is to fill all the classrooms in Maine with the weighted blankets,” she said.
The next classroom to receive the blankets will be Jamie White’s prekindergarten class at Miller School in Waldoboro.
St. Peter said she plans to donate the 20 lap pads within the next couple of weeks.
Julie Nickerson, who teaches first grade at the Dedham School in Dedham, said St. Peter’s donation of lap pads to her classroom has made a difference for her students.
“The light proprioceptive pressure helps calm and ground them,” she said.
“In today’s day and age, younger kids are in such need of weighted blankets because of high rates of ADD and ADHD,” Nickerson said. “I’ve had (the blankets) since the beginning of the school year and I keep them in a basket. The kids get them when they feel they need them. I do feel they help tremendously.”
The lap blankets feature fun patterns and characters, such as Minions and mermaids, she said.
St. Peter said she hopes to one day make sewing her full-time career.
Her husband, Benjamin St. Peter, and mother-in-law, Patty St. Peter, currently help her with the projects.
She also has two children, ages 5 and 2. She said she has seen firsthand how the weighted blankets can help children, as her 5-year-old son has anxiety.
“I’m looking to see how we could help more people and get more blankets to donate,” she said.
For more information, contact St. Peter through her Facebook page, St. Peter’s Creations.