For Gloria Bass, the needle and the thread always seemed to be a part of her life.
“I have been sewing since I was a little girl,” said the 67-year-old Bass. “My mother made all of my clothing — nothing came from the store. She started me on sewing.”
Bass focused her career on education, first as a nursery school teacher and later as the director of the special — needs program at the YMCA in Wilton. But 19 years ago, her sewing talents were called upon when she and her husband found themselves raising his grandsons, both of whom had behavioral issues.
“We had weighted vests on them, which helped to calm them,” she recalled. “I had read that weighted blankets worked very well. When I grew up, my grandmother crocheted blankets. They were heavy, but the houses then were not as warm as they are now. Today, everything is lightweight and the houses are warmer, so maybe those heavier blankets always worked but we didn’t realize it.”
Bass took it upon herself to create special weighted blankets for the boys, and the results were positive. Over the years, she would occasionally make weighted blankets when she became aware of other special — needs children that would benefit from this therapeutic approach.
But when Bass retired two years ago from the Wilton Y, she found herself at a late-life crossroads. “I was wondering what to do,” she said. “My daughter said to me, ‘You have something good here (with the weighted blankets). I don’t see anyone on the East Coast doing this.”
At her daughter’s insistence, Bass became an entrepreneur and set up Sensory Snuggles, based in her home in Georgetown. Relying solely on a Facebook page for marketing outreach, Bass quickly found her handiwork in national demand.
“People started ordering from California, Oregon, Maine, Florida,” she said. “I was contacted by a school in Brooklyn and got several orders from them.”
In terms of production, Bass is the sole manufacturing component of the business. “I do it all at my house,” she said. “It takes a good 10 hours of steady working to complete a blanket. Each blanket includes little pouches with poly-pellet weight, and each pouch has the same level of weight which creates equal pressure on the body.”
Bass also refuses to turn out a one-size-fits-all product, noting that the blankets are custom-tailored for the child’s physical needs. “When a parent calls and says the child weighs 60 pounds, I sell them a 71-pound blanket: 10 percent over the body weight plus one additional pound,” she said.
Bass’ blankets sell between $67 and $200, depending on the size and if there are special customized design requests. At the moment, Sensory Snuggles Weighted Blanket is still Facebook-based. The company’s website is offline pending a redesign, but Bass added that she gets “a lot of likes” on Facebook and finds new fans when people do searches related to sensory-based products and subjects.
“My sales have been busy,” she said. “I just shipped some out to California.”
Regarding new product lines, “I am looking into weighted vests. I have been approached by some people to make weighted products for their dogs to calm them when there is a thunderstorm. I have also been making lap pads as well.”
Turning out four to five blankets per week, Bass acknowledged that her work is labor-intensive. Still, she is in no hurry move her work out of her home and into a to larger operation.
“I would like to go into retail channels but I have not taken the jump yet,” she said. “I put a lot of effort into those blankets and I’m fussy about having the blanket being manufactured correctly.”