Fidget Quilts





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.



Fidget Quilt Supplies Needed:


1. A selection of fabrics, especially those with a variety of textures for sensory/tactile appeal. Includes bits and bobs of orphan quilts blocks for easy design and assembly! 



I like to create 'kits' of ideas of things that might go together and place them into zip lock bags. Really helps get me going and makes it easier to bring to group fidgeting!


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. (The trims above are from my prayer flags..use similar ideas but larger of course!)









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


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





4.  Ideas and inspiration..and I have lots and lots of those provided here !


 








5. Care and consideration plus with usable and washable trims and stitches!

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!








6. Ideas and Inspiration!




Fidget Quilts, Bags, Aprons: Ideas and Inspiration


However, 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!

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


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




Each new month, each new trip to my childhood home in Alaska was a time of transition as well as fresh starts. But for me, each and every one was always been a month for reconnecting with the past and going forward into the future at the same time.

And so it has been with my own fidget quilting journey! I began from where my mother left off. Unable to barely see or to use her hands to hold bigger items or feed herself, she could still touch, fondle and fidgeting with her fingers or face!

So, I began with simple with simple fidget quilts that showed simple patterns and lots of tags....folded ribbons or pieces of cording, trim etc. that could be physically recognized and protruding from the edges and therefore easily touched and enjoyed.



I spent years watching my own 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.


I realized that there are so many textures, so many activities, so many bits and pieces that catch the eye and hold attention.  Here are more ideas from our fidget quilt making day as quilts are being made:





For myself and my caring for my own mother well into advanced Alzheimer's Disease, I found and 
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.


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.



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 jump starters. Here, I did use vinyl and zippers, but all of the little items inside can be removed if so needed especially for laundry purposes! And tablecloth vinyl is both washable and as long as a towel or other items tossed, can be dried in an automatic dryer. Just check it once in a while if you're worried about it!

Here are many more ideas and inspiration from all over ..some are my own, some my friends or guild members and the rest from the web....free use images.  Most people don't realize that if you store images in public programs they are free use. But I absolutely do not want to share any image of anything that it's maker doesn't want me to share. So, if  I've done that..drop me a line!







And its good to remember that 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 always a great way to start.






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.













Lap quilts, table mats, wheelchair busy quilts..about 18" x 24" may seem small until you place it on a busy table of other fidgeters or on a lap then you see its just perfect!




So many ideas here and farther along in this post!
 

And then there are fidget and tactile books!!! 









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
























































 


How Sensory or Tactile Quilts, Mats, or Blankets are made..making selections and experimenting with bits and baubles, strips and strings..similar to my own process below!


Getting Started Tips:


 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....there they are!
These are my supplies for a Fidget Quilt Workshop day..ready to go at any time! Machine in the rolling duffel, 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 '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!



Here's a photo I took in the middle of my experimentation!

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!!!



5. 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!

6. 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!!!!  

Tons of ideas at the bottom of this blog post! Tons and I update it constantly, so come back as we all get more creative and find new ways to make them 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.



*The little tags as they are often called can be touched, stroked, grabbed, and fiddled and fidgeted with. There's no problem with confusing them with the addition of strange items or toys as so many others seem to think a quilt for this cause might need. My mother would have been very confused, for example, to a teddy bear sewn onto a quilt or hanging from a string and indeed, would have fought to get it off.















*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.


NOW! Lots and lots of fun ideas, many quilts are still in progress as we all learn by seeing as well as by doing!










Here, I've made an art quilt version.  It removable small objects, and dangling bells that can be tucked inside the clear vinyl zippered pocket.

Many  memory centers refuse fidget quilts with items that are hanging by cords etc. You may see teddy bears etc. if you google this type of quilt, but really and truly they only create problems for both the patient and the care giver doing laundry.


But I've also made other styles and am currently make artsy fidget quilts as samples for art quilters as a way of bringing in both worlds into this new one where our focus is on helping others and not just satisfying our own creative needs whether artistic and liberated or traditional with simple ideas and designs. Here, both of these incorporates small panels that add visual interest and allow for story telling ideas.











Benita just learned to quilt from her friend Kate while still up in Alaska,  and Benita created this wonderful fidget quilt and best of all said about our Salem Oregon group fidget quilt making day...
 "I had an absolute blast!!"

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

Tips on making a fidget quilt:

  • 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. 














  











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


***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...All from the Internet thanks Google free use images!! 























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 Quil


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:





Lots of decorative ideas for Fidget Quilts, Aprons, Pillows, etc! 

 

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



More wonderful ideas for fidget quilts!















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

Updated February 2016
**mb  http://www.with-heart-and-hands.com/2015/08/making-fidget-quilts-for-alzheimers.html

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.

Note: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!


Fidget Quilts, Bags, Aprons: Ideas and Inspiration

Here's two from some great facebook friends created. Different fabrics and/or tags and buttons. Love them, both..friends and quilts!



From a great facebook and blogging friend "Pollyanna" ! Isn't it so cute..minkee and other fabrics and tags, of course! Darling!


And check this one out! From a member of my Mid Valley Quilt Guild..cute, cute!!!


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.




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


3 comments:

  1. I think this is one of the most inspiring blogs I have ever read! I am going to teach others about this! Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. So many ideas and thoughtful comments to remember when making a fidget quilt. I would like to share your blog with my quilt guild as well. We are making fidget quilts and adult bib for Alzheimer's patients.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So many ideas and suggestions for making Alzheimer's fidget quilt. The gentle reminders of what to include are very useful. I would like to share your blog with my quilt guild.

    ReplyDelete

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