Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Making Fidget Quilts for Alzheimer's Patients: Free Tutorials and Ideas



A "Fidget, Fiddle, or Busy" Quilt or Activity Blanket  is a small lap quilt, mat or blanket that provides sensory and tactile stimulation for the restless or "fidgety" hands of someone with Alzheimer's or related Dementias. 

If you are not a a quilter, these can easily be made with a variety of scrap fabrics simply sewn together in any random pattern and simply quilted with tied crochet cotton, or machine sewn straight line stitching around the blocks. But they can also be made as lap sized blankets using fleece or other fabrics not needing to be quilted down with tactile elements attached on top.

Fidget Quilts or Blankets provide sensory or tactile stimulation through the use of fabric choices, colors, value of colors next to one another, textures, and the use of accents or simple accessories such as pockets, laces, trims,  appliques, buttons, secured beads, ribbons, braids etc.


Here's my work in progress...six at once, though I selected three to work on, finish, then the other three by the end ;-)

Ideas and suggestions are shared through a variety of photos of all kinds of fidget quilts, blankets, mats, aprons, or even bags that I or others have made.



Fidget Quilt Supplies Needed:


1. A selection of fabrics, especially those with a variety of textures for sensory/tactile appeal.

 




 2. Trims such as bobbles, braid, rick rack, lace, buttons, large beads, pockets, belt rings, zippers (patients wear zippered clothing and I've never known any of them to get hurt by their zippers, contrary to some quilters strange fear of them!), pompoms, ribbons, etc.


 3. Sewing machine, thread, scissors and other basic sewing supplies.


Fidget, Tactile, Sensory or Busy Quilts are utilitarian as well as attractive to look at and use and seams need to be secure.






Hand stitching, quilting is lovely for Fidget Art Quilts as long as well knotted for repeated laundering. The same for the added touch of hand embroidery.





Many or our patients today sewed, quilted or did handiwork when they were younger so they love seeing these elements. Use hand worked linens for a lovely touch, or hankies, or even pockets saved from used blue jeans as additional fun elements!




No pattern is required to create a fidget quilt or blanket,but for those wanting simple layout and ideas, small quilt patterns are the closest to ideas that will easily transpose as they are by nature smaller as art small format art quilts, lap quilts or even placemats!


  How to Make a Fidget Quilt



1. I get out all of my scraps and embellishments and trims. I collect them into categories. Things that go with an orphan red and blue block for example, things that go with an applique, etc.



2. I put each category that could easily turn into a simple 18" x 24" fidget lap mat/quilt into an extra large zip lock bag. The colors show through as do the trims you want to show up front! No need to even label as then your bags can be reused!


 3. Put all of your bags into a large fabric bag, a box, a bin...whatever works for you. Then, anytime you want to 'fidget' it's all right there!! See my Michele's Scrap Bag, way in the back right....there they are!

These are my supplies for a Fidget Quilt Workshop day..ready to go at any time! Machine in the rolling duffle, vision board on flannel covered cardboard, a couple of examples, a print out of this blog post for me or others, my big bag of ziplocks I want to work on, and my own home made vinyl 'Bird Bag' for my extra supplies or trims!



4. Time to make a fidget lap or table mat or fidget quilt! First lay your design elements out and just start experimenting with a layout!



 5. Experiment, experiment, experiment! When you're happy with it, begin by laying it out, pinning bits and pieces down and deciding which elements will need to be sewn together first..just like making a quilt and piecing it! Sometimes, you'll goof and things on top should have gone into a seam...make a tiny opening, fit it through, resew that section of the seam. Liberated quilting making at its best!!!

6. Bit by bit, sew each and every 'blocked' area together, strips of this to strips of that! Now, attach even more fiddly bits on top if you want...zippers with covered up ends..wrap them in a piece of fabric or a ribbon and stitch them to the ends...bows, strings of ribbons, yarn etc....buttons tied firmly on with crochet cotton, or sewn down firmly with strong thread..even string!  I'm a dyslexic quilter and one of mine ended up reversed side to side from what I originally intended! It doesn't matter to me, and it won't to the person who loves it. Let it go and have more fun!!!!   


7. Once it's all sewn down, you just add a piece of thin batting or a piece of flannel and do some simple stitching down kind of quilting, or free motion, or anything you want! Then add a backing and stitch as a simple quilt..wrong sides together..seam around, leaving an opening, turn and hand stitched closed or a quilt with a binding...rights sides facing out, add a 1.5 to 2.5" binding strip... I find wider is easier for machine stitching down which I recommend due to frequent laundering!

And its done! Add  a label if you want, hug it goodbye and donate or give it to someone you care about!!!!

TIPS:


*They can be very simple! For a person who just needs warmth and fun and loving, these are perfect! By advanced Alzheimer's many can no longer use their hands, so I made lots of these knowing they would be treasured as simple as they are..wool flannel and wool, simple scrap piece blocks and some fun tags and ribbons on the edges!



*And contrary to an old wives tale..red and orange are the BEST not the worst colors to include in a Dementia quilt...they are in fact the colors that we are able to see as our vision dims or colors, edges, and patterns begin to blur into one another! So use red, orange, bright fuchsia mixed in with your calming colors!!!
see:Vision Problems Associated with Alzheimer's Disease



*So, incredibly effective ..didn't you notice them right off?...yet so very simple. Colors and tags..that's all it takes to make this little quilt...one of many I have just created..stand out and be noticed. And do I care if someone else s seams and edges are a little off? No..because all of ours are..inside or out!   Now, don't you get the urge..right this minute..to touch them, check out the fabric?



*And no, contrary to other beliefs, not every one wants or needs bright quilts. I know many seniors who scoff at pinks and purples and oranges and limes. Give them the old fashioned colors ..soft pinks and blues, browns and rusts and blues.




*We forget that a large percentage of those in care homes are men. And actually a larger percentage in many cases, than women because the wives and daughters cannot physically life, carry, or do the personal hygiene required where many, many husbands give up their own lives to care for their wives to the very end.

 

 


Fidget Quilts, Mats, Blankets, Bags, Aprons and Pouches:







And from friends:



 






I have been working with a wonderful group of quilters from my local Mid-Valley Quilt Guild (MVQG) as part of our charity quilting and education focus.

I am delighted to share some of the quilts and the works in progress as I also share my own journey with both Alzheimer's Disease and the making of projects for easing the fidgeting restlessness that often begins this disease process.





http://www.with-heart-and-hands.com/2015/01/making-fidget-quilts-for-alzheimers.html




 My Own Journey with Alzheimer's and Dementia...


My blog has been filled with countless posts as I, myself, have journeyed through that process of learning about its effects on my loved ones and what it does to families, as well as educating others about this horrific disease.

Each new. month is a time of transition as well as fresh starts. But for me, this  has always been a month for reconnecting with the past and going forward into the future at the same time.

I spent years watching my own beloved mother progress through the stages of Alzheimer's Disease as I traveled back and forth between my current home in Oregon and my childhood home on Douglas Island, Alaska.

I saw the increasing distractions, the fidgeting, the inability to stay calm and centered and always sought a multitude of ways to keep her engaged, happy, content, and even busy.

We folded simple towels and pieces of clothing together, we did little art projects, we played 'beauty shop' and 'I remember when' and all kinds of games that I created that would make her laugh (mostly at me!) and keep her entertained and having fun while still engaging her mind, her hands, and help to make her smile.


First I began to create small format art quilts for donation to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. From 2006-2013, while taking care of my parents in Alaska and my own family in Oregon, I still managed to fit in 75 small format art quilts and raised almost $4,500 from the sale of my little quilts the size of a piece of paper! Now, my separate web page no longer promotes our bidding and sales but has been converted to a link to fidget quilt making!



My online quilting group "Liberated Quilters" for AAQI made over 450 quilts total...including my own 75 but there was no way for me to know how much we made for them. I do know that some of the quilts went for as much as $500...tiny quilts as big as a piece of paper. But then those were the more talented, elite among my online friends. And one of them lived in the Himalayan Mountains as a Buddhist nun! Her quilts were so exceptional, I can only wish I had been able to bid on and win one of hers!

Alzheimer's Illustrated:From Heartbreak to Hope

Thank you to all who went to the online auction and purchased those with all profits going to Alzheimer's research funding through AAQI! 2006 through 2013. An amazing, amazing experience!As our traveling show toured the United States and our online auction and sales did so much good towards earning researching funding for this terrible disease.

Blessings to Ami Simms for founding and running this wonderful charitable group!!!


But there are so many ideas besides quilts and blankets and mats...I realized that there are so many textures, so many activities, so many bits and pieces that catch the eye and hold attention. For myself and my caring for my own mother well into advanced Alzheimer's Disease, I made many books, pillows, and quilts with various textures for her to fondle and admire with the tiny bit of vision that she still maintained. Oh how she loved wallets and purses, fiddling with her sister's purse as we laughed at her sisters who also had Alzheimer's would keep losing her purse! My mom loved the stories, knew she had Alzheimer's initially, and told me 'Tell them, Michele!" Tell your father and your brothers." and later "Tell everybody, Michele." Tell them how this is for me." I didn't intrude by sharing the personal, hard parts but I lovingly remember all of the fun we had..no matter what..as we journeyed long and hard until I finally need my brother's help and eventually taking over her care.

God Bless the Care Givers!!!
And Bless all of you now on this path!

Strip Piecing a Heart Strings Prayer Pocket Pillow

More inspiration for things that I have created and shared tutorials for making...things that can also served for tactile stimulation! Pocket in the back of a little Heart Strings Blessings Pocket Pillow!


 

Origami 'Petal Bag' Tutorial   

And a little fun bag that treasures can go into and sit upon a lap for fidgety hands!




Even bright fleece blankets with knots or fringe are wonderful gifts!Comforting to hands or face and tags to fiddle with.




Photo quilts were one of our favorites, scenes from her wedding, her honeymoon, her connections with family and friends, her time in the cancer care center here in Salem while we battled (and won!) her supposedly end stage inflammatory breast cancer.  And one for my dad about WWII, the era where they finally met after being penpals..he in Alaska, her in Louisiana.

And even with my mother being legally blind..diabetes, glaucoma, and cataracts..she could still make out the images she watched on slide shows and in photo albums over and over, her entire married life. So, she actually remembered them and could say things about them in the beginning.



But when I was gone..returning to my own home in Oregon, to my own family, and loved ones there..I tried to leave behind things and ideas that my father could incorporate into her daily routine.



Soft pillows and blankets and afghans and of course...quilts!  Here is a very simple little lap quilt or even a table square that can be transformed into a small fidget or busy quilt!  I added a pocket, the lace with the ribbon wound through, tightly secured buttons, little tied on and sewn down firmly bows, rickrack and laces. This one came from a donated quilt topper that I added all of the trims to. It was given to an Mid Valley Quilt Guild member and dear friend for her own dear friend of many years who is now facing Alzheimer's Disease.




 So, there are many, many ideas you can select from for Alzheimer's and Dementia quilts, lap quilts, table mat quilts, pillows, aprons, or blankets..and here are ideas from all over the world of fidget quilt making!  Here, I used two small Norman Rockwell quilt panels to create fidget quilts that might bring back memories of family and times and places in memory and history. Often, memories go backwards so old ones are often very endearing and can be used for conversational jumpstarters. Here, I did use vinyl and zippers, but all of the little items inside can be removed if so needed especially for laundry purposes!

Creative Ideas for Fidget Quilts, Mats, Bags, and Aprons from around the world:


Note: Please let me know if you are the creator of these quilts and would like to be listed as such with an embedded link. I prefer not to share 'for sale on etsy' quilts but ones that are given away.

Also, many thanks to the many quilt guild members and other generous fidget quilt creators from here in the United States to Australia who have generously brought their groups to my attention for the sharing of their own ideas!

It never ceases to amaze me at how creative you all are and how much good you do with the making of these awesome little quilts!!







When we want to make a quilt for someone we don't know, a quilt can be almost anything, but the addition of little bits and pieces that catch someone's eye is very frankly, very similar to catching a new baby's attention.

Simple graphic elements, or bright colors, or unusual juxtaposing of either of those, labels and tags that extend out from the edge of the quilt. Anything that's safe to use and to launder.



E
Y














  And then there are fidget and tactile books!!!








 And so many embellishments that can be used on just about anything you want to create.....









































































*And remember! These quilts get washed, often in very hot water, over and over and over. Decorative trims need to be able to withstand this laundering, and any objects that are not part of the quilt, itself, become a problem when washing them.


How to sew an Alzheimer's Activity Mat as seen on Sewing With Nancy Zieman
How to sew an Alzheimer's Activity Mat as seen on Sewing With Nancy Zieman













  





Alzheimer's Activity Mat as seen on Sewing With Nancy



Making Alzheimer's Fidget Quilts With Heart and Hands


Remember:

  • These quilts are comfort quilts but meant to be utilitarian...washed over and over again.
  • They are best when lap sized... less than 30" in both directions, with about 24" being ideal..
  • I have found that patients prefer soft fabrics..especially on the back if not the front somewhere. But there needs to be some stability and the agitated, weight as well.
  • Fabric that is relatable to their memory age group, thing they might love or remember.
  • Brights are good somewhere in the quilt, but peaceful is good, somewhere in the quilt, too.
  • Add on ideas: ribbons, mesh sewed securely, rickrack, prairie points, lace, decorative trims. I like to add a vinyl and zippered pocket and put small but safe items inside.
  • Photos are lovely if they can still see and they don't have to remember who is who. 


***REMEMBER:
If you use clinky clankety items...have them be attached by a ribbon and able to go inside a pocket or similar for laundering! These blankets get washed a lot in care facilities!

ALSO:
Little soft fabric dolls and bears or other animals can be used but please either do the same for them..able to go into a pocket, or totally removable for laundering! 


MORE IDEAS!! 

















More wonderful ideas for fidget quilts!









(For those who have written and asked )


Other links of interest:


I did a Google search on Alzheimer's Fidget Quilts...and up pops a Google featured result and photo..I'm used to having my blog post on them featured high up on the list..just not this large or direct. It actually scared me! The Google robot lady was reading my written words out loud!
http://www.with-heart-and-hands.com/…/making-fidget-quilts-…
Below etsy but before Pinterest..nice!  Thanks Google Search!


 And more from others, because sharing and giving credit is what I do!

Sew an Alzheimer's Activity Mat/Sewing With Nancy Zieman ... Sew an Alzheimer’s Activity Mat with free sewing instructions as seen on Sewing With Nancy! Marcia Engquist, who designs Alzheimer’s Activity Aids, designed these activity mats after watching residents at a care center restlessly fidget. These easy-to-sew activity mats help sooth the agitated fidgeting of people with dementia or autism. Plus, the mats help focus their attention, stimulate senses, exercise hand muscles, and entertain users.

One of the most popular items that we make at Sunshine Linus is the Touchy Feely Quilt (Tactile) for dementia patients.  It's a great way to use up all that habby stuff you've got stuffed in your cupboards, and that fabric you bought to make yourself a skirt 25 years ago!
Here's the link: Touchy Feely Quilt Instructions for Dementia and Autistic patients

Other ideas:

Lap Weighted Blanket Free Pattern.  This pattern has been devised by Claire Taylforth for Sunshine Linus Inc.  Lap Weighted Blanket Instructions

Wheel Chair Quilt - Free Instructions Wheel Chair Quilt Free Instructions

 Crochet Butterfly Pattern for Touchy Feely Quilts.   Crochet Butterfly Pattern from Sunshine Linus.



And if you were looking for, or wanted to sew a simple child or infant's fidget quilt, read my post:

Letting in the Light: With a Baby Quilt


Adult Bibs, Clothing, Quilts, Blankets: (add some visually interesting fabric and trims! We kept my home sewn adult bibs on my mom for almost all of her 8 year battle with this disease! And how she loved fidgeting just with the collars and bows and quilted surfaces I put into different ones!

Making an Adult Bib

 

Making a fidget apron for Alzheimer's or Dementia!


http://www.fishsticksdesigns.com/blog/the-busy-hands-fidget-apron-pattern/

I have lots and lots of free apron patterns that can be used for Dementia aprons! Just add the bibs and baubles and trims just like you might for a quilt!

Cover-Up Apron Tutorial

My nursing apron for feeding infants is perfect for a fidget apron. There are no ties around the sides if you are always seated and the big pocket on the front could hold a beloved item(s) hankies, soft stuffed animals or a little dollar, momentos that a patient cannot be without, etc. Add trims, tactile fabrics etc. just as for a quilt!

Here are some cute ideas!

Ideas for Fidget or Fiddle Aprons for Alzheimer's or Dementia Patients:






 

Love to make bags? How about a Fidget or Fiddle Bag for Alzheimer or Dementia patients???

 


Fiddle Bags for Dementia Patients and Special Needs Children Free Fiddle Bag Instructions

Wheel Chair Bag - Free Instructions Wheel Chair Bag Free Instructions

Hospital Patient Bag - Free Instructions Hospital Patient Bag Free Instructions 

 

Making Alzheimer's or Dementia Fidget and Fiddle Pillows



My Personal Links for Understanding and Coping With Alzheimer's or Dementia:




Coping With Alzheimer's Disease  

Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope 

 LINKS:

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative | Alzheimer's Reading Room
www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/.../Sep 30, 2012 - The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) recently received its 12000th donated quilt. Imagine 12000 quilts. (this group earned over 1 million dollars for research and I was so proud to be a part of it! Now, we have closed the group but many, like myself, continue to do good and help others with this disease!
Alzheimer's Reading Room: What's the Difference Between Alzheimer's and Dementia?.
In a nutshell, dementia is a symptom (once called senility) one of its causes is Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Information and Help
What is the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Test Your Memory for Alzheimer's (5 Best Tests)
10 Things a Person Living with Dementia Would Tell You If They Could
Communicating in Alzheimer's World
10 Symptoms of Early Stage Alzheimer's Disease
The Seven Stages of Alzheimer's
What is Alzheimer's Disease
Additional Sources:
 Healthline
Mayo Clinic

 The Alzheimer's Awareness site

Note:

And thank you to all of the new viewers from Sew Mama Sew where I became part of their "Homemade Holidays" with my sharing of :
  

And thanks to Doris (Dori aka Pollyanna) Werkman for the sharing of her darling little fidget quilt shown above!

Making Fidget Quilts for Alzheimer's Patients: Free Tutorials and Ideas

Please check out all of Sew Mama Sew's Other Handmade Holidays..there are some truly wonderful ideas in multiple posts and pages!

Sew Mama Sew: Handmade Holidays: Gifts for Good/Charity Sewing

 And to the Sew Mama Sew team and especially Deborah Fisher:

 Here's the nice e-mail I received from part of their team.
http://www.with-heart-and-hands.com/2015/08/making-fidget-quilts-for-alzheimers.html


Sew Mama Sew requires permission before reposting any photos out of respect to the artist/designer/blogger. Can we use one photo from your tutorial in the series? We will link to your tutorial with proper attribution, of course.

Thanks so much!
Deborah Fisher>> 


and their reply to my acceptance of their off and their linkup to that section:

Thank you!
Here is the link:
http://www.sewmamasew.com/2015/11/handmade-holidays-nov-7-gifts-for-good-charity-sewing/


Such nice people to work with , that ask first. loved that!
And for a previous article on Craft Gossip: Fidget Quilts


Fidget Quilts for Alzheimer's and Related Dementia 

Making Fidget Quilts ,Blankets, Mats, Aprons, Bags:

 Updated 2016 

Alzheimer's Fidgeting and Mojo Uprising



Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares her creative and healing  journey from Alaska to Oregon. Wildcrafting and the textiles arts... sewing, quilting, and creating prayer flags. Join me as I add my healing energies to changing our world..one little project, one gift of sharing from my heart, at a time.

15 comments:

  1. Your Himalayan cat reminds me of our Tonkinese cat Athena. Athena does check out my quilts but not as much as Mars did. She does think she should sleep on the pile and that they belong to her. Pretty cat Ms, Michele and so lucky that your kitty found such a caring home.

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  2. Thank you for all the information you shared about Alzheimers. I know that others will find it very helpful. I did not know about the vision issues. I did make a fiddle quilt for Bruce's mother and it was quite heavy with lots of different weights of fabric. I think that she enjoyed it very much. Your recipients will enjoy exploring all the different bits on those lovely quilts of yours.
    Warmest regards,
    Anna

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  3. Your fidget quilts are a great idea. I remember when my Mom was in a nursing home, we just gave her stuffed teddy bears and bunnies to play with, not attached to anything else. Actually seemed to work find for her. I can remember her picking lint off of a dark colored sofa by hand for hours too. She probably would have loved one of your beauties!

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  4. I would never have thought of adding tags and things to the edge of a quilt for someone to fiddle with -- great idea!

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  5. they have all been Cat-Scanned are deemed good to go. Bless the work that you do.

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  6. So glad to hear about these Fidget or Tap Quilts! I'm going to make some too! Thanks!

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  7. Michele, these are wonderful. I think I will make some for the home where my mother lives.

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  8. Thank You for a lot of good ideas & instruction links. It takes me a long time to make a quilt, but these smaller ones seem to be do-able to finish for donating.

    I recently read your article: The Healing Art of Sewing & Quilting. It is very moving & inspiring, thank you for that too.

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  9. Thank you for this. A lovely post & such wonderful quilts.

    Cats love anything you're working on! I miss mine, nobody to tangle my wool when I'm knitting or skid along my fabric when I'm cutting out on the floor. One of these days maybe a stray will come into our lives again. all our cats have been unwanted so who knows.

    Thank you Michelle.

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  10. What a great idea! I made little quilts like this when the grands were born, but never thought of using the idea in this way. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

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  11. My mother was an Alz patient who lost her battle five years ago. I've begun making fidget quilts to donate to one of the nursing homes nearby. Mom was a quilter (and taught me) so this seems a beautiful way to honor her memory. I often gave her wash cloths, pillow cases, and other fabric items to fidget with. She loved to roll, fold, pleat...just about anything one could do to a piece of fabric. Her hands HAD to be busy. Fabrics and quilts work so well because they are not overly busy and fabric can't harm the patient. Thanks for sharing such a brilliant idea.

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  12. Michelle, Thank you for featuring my quilts from Restless Remedy on my Etsy sight and Pinterest! I would appreciate it if you would label my photos with my website
    www.restlessremedyquilts.com rather than your website/blog.

    All best,
    Debra McHugh
    www.restlessremedyquilts.com

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  13. Debra, So sorry that I used any of your website quilts currently for sale. Since they were shared on many pinterest sites without a logo, I had no way of knowing you were selling them and not sharing ideas. For anyone interested in buying one of Debra's quilts..you may find a lovely assortment at www.restlessremedy.com All of your pinterest photos will be taken out of my post, so far I have only recongized one but I'll keep checking them against your website now that I know how to find it! Again, my apologies. PS All comments on posts older than 1 week go into comment moderation or spam files so until you personally wrote me your comment was not visible on this blog, it was never removed by me, I would never do that to anything but pure spam. Hope you do well with your business! Best of luck, Michele.

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  14. Michelle, your information and photos are a wonderful inspiration to newcomers to the "fidget" blanket idea. A new group will have our first meeting on June 18 and your site will keep us going for some time. This dreadful disease is robbing us of untold memories and the history of families. Hopefully, a cure will be found sooner rather than later. Thank you for a job well done.

    Diana

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  15. What a wonderful idea. I am going to look into a local home that use these. I have so much fabric and running out of places to utilize it. I am a member of a quilt guild and we donate to the abuse shelter and to another group that donates layettes for new moms and babies. Keep up the great work and hopefully they will have a cure for this dreaded disease soon!

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.