Making Fidget Quilts for Dementia Patients
- Carole Carter
Have you ever heard of a Fidget Quilt? They are lap quilts, the size of oversized placemats, with different textures to feel, and things to open and close to keep hands busy. The idea is to provide things for the Alzheimer's or dementia patient to fiddle with, and give them something to do with their hands. This is a great place to use small bits of crochet, or damaged pieces like torn doilies, odd color items like a muddy brown zipper, extra patches gathering dust, or anything with texture, color or interesting to feel. Thrift stores are full of things like this on their 25-cent bins, the subject of the patch or color of the cording is not important, in fact, the more color the better.
Begin by selecting fabrics, you’ll want ones with reasonably solid colors as a background. Tone on tone is fine, but busy prints will make the details hard to see for older eyes. These are perfect.
Cut two pieces approximately 18 x 20 inches, an oversize placemat size, perfect to hold on a lap. It is fine to piece the back if needed, but try not to do that on the front as busy hands may pick at a seam. The front should be a single piece where the items sewn on will stand out. Place fabrics right side together with a layer of batting, and sew around the edge leaving a space for turning.
Turn right side out through the opening and press.
Topstich all the way around near the edge, enclosing the opening as you go. If you like, you can lightly quilt the base, but it isn’t necessary.
Now to add the items for hands to play with and keep busy. Anything will do, as long as it will hold up to abuse. I had some cording, so I cut short pieces, tied knots in the ends and treated with a fray blocking solution.
These patients love hook and loop tape for the noise and the texture, opening and closing a velcro piece keeps them busy for a bit. For this one, the loop side is sewn to a larger white ribbon with a turned end for gripping. The other side of the hook tape is sewn to an even wider bit of yellow ribbon.
Putting the tape together, the end is folded under and pressed so there isn’t a raw edge on the quilt.
Now you need to decide how your elements will go on the quilt. Arrange them, and rearrange until you are happy with the design. Begin sewing the elements down.
Dementia patients will do repetitive things with their hands, so zippers become a great way to provide an activity. Zipping and unzipping is tactile, and provides a bit of sound too. I added ribbons to the zipper pulls to give a better gripping area, plus another texture to the quilt.
These little satin angel wings were a great thrift store find, in their original package. By sewing them down only on one edge, the wings can be fiddled with as a dimensional element.
I made a ribbon bow from a pretty ribbon trim and added it to the button left corner.
With Fidget Quilts, anything goes. You can use damaged doilies and crochet pieces by cutting off the damaged part and sewing them down with the edge folded under. Something unusable becomes a focal piece for a fidget quilt. Look around for those items that have been sitting in your sewing room forever, too nice to throw out but not really practical for your current sewing needs. Odd color ribbons and zippers, old patches and leftover appliques, whatever you have can be used. Textures in rough and smooth, silky and nubby, whatever you can find is good.
Be sure you ask the facility where you intend to donate before you make these lap quilts, to be sure you provide what they need. Our guild donates these to two facilities in our town, both with very different rules. At some facilities buttons are allowed, but not in others. In some, each resident will be given the fidget quilt for their use alone, so they wouldn't get washed that often. In others, all fidget quilts might be washed frequently, and the recipients receive different ones each time they are brought out. Just check first, so there are no misunderstandings. I am happy to support this worthy cause, and find a way to use some things that would otherwise get donated or thrown away. I hope you enjoyed seeing how some interesting items can be recycled into something very useful.
For more small projects, see my travel set series here on Madam Sew - click on Lingerie Case / Book Cover, Jewelry Roll, Curling Iron Case, Cosmetic Bag, and Shoe Case. I have even more fun projects on the Madam Sew Blog, check out my Wool Pressing Mat Carrier, Through the Window Wall Hanging, Crazy Quilted Christmas Stocking, and Creative Pincushions. Put your embroidery machine to work with my Embroidered Wall Hanging project.
I’ll be doing more articles to advance your quilting skills on Madam Sew. Subscribe to the Madam Sew blog so you don’t miss a thing!
Stop by my blog for more easy projects, too!