Jan 28, 2015

Making Fidget Quilts

More Ideas at My Primary Post  

"Fidget Quilts, Bags, Aprons: Ideas and Inspiration"


For those who asked: My Healing Hearts and Hands Fidget Quilts that are available for purchase will be listed here:  Healing Hearts and Hands Fidget Quilts for Sale

Always updated with so many new ideas! Latest blog post at link above which is most recently updated.

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.

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.


So, my big project for  this month was the creation of 'Fidget Quilts' for Alzheimer's and Dementia patients. 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 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.

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!

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, and in my case here...labels and tags that extend out from the edge of the quilt.

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!!!
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.

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. 


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

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.
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. 

Newest Additions Reentky Crated and donated and being delivered. These will go to a group of Austic and other Sensory Challenged children to soothe and calm the fidgets.

Many, many thanks the the amazing Fudget Quilter Extraordinaire Paula Hill.of Salem, Or.

Other Ideas!

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.

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!

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 


Custom Design: Just Ask!

For those who asked:

My Healing Hearts and Hands Fidget Quilts and More..Art Quilting pieces featured on my blog plus new requests now for sale at lower prices... that are available for purchase will be listed here:

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 

 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!
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:

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.


pollyanna said...

Wow this is an amazing bits of great information and pictures. I will try some of these, while still wanting to keep them simple :) Thanks Michele!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for all of these wonderful and helpful ideas! I just recently heard about fidget blankets, and wish I had known about them when my mom was living through her Alzheimer's years. We lost her last April, and miss her so much. Now I have a way to honor her and help others who are suffering with dementia. Thanks so much!