Fidget quilts are used for Alzheimer, dementia, and even little kids who need something to do with their hands. This fidget quilt tutorial will get you started.
What is a fidget quilt?
It really doesn’t have to be a ‘quilt’ but the idea is: giving the fingers and hands something to do. These are great for little kids, or olders who have alzheimers, dementia, or need some help keeping busy. It’s all about texture and one must keep in mind that these articles must be able to withstand hot water as they’ll be washed frequently.
Bonus—-> Precise piecing and stitching isn’t necessary so it makes it a perfect project to practice new stitches, if you are a beginner or just want to sew crazy fast and not worry about perfection.
They feature zippers, ties, ribbon, strings, buttons, snaps, closures, different textures – like minky, stretchy, pom poms, buttons, pockets, braids…you name it!
Anything that can keep the fingers busy and can be washed will work.
They are similar to a quiet book, but are larger- can be an apron even or just a mat that is laid across your lap.
There are a few local organizations that you might find that could use a donation or two. This would be a great project for your quilt guild to do as a group project or focus for the year.
How to make a Fidget Quilt~
Your top will need to be the size of a place mat– or really any size that will fit across your lap. Around a fat quarter or 18″ X 20″. Feel free to customize this to what you need! There is no right answer or size here.
It will need a stabilizer in between the layers. You can use batting, peltex, or multiple layers of flannel. Again keep it simple. You want this to not be floppy, but not crazy firm.
Materials: really anything goes here.
Grab from your ribbon bin
or from your do dad bin
You’ll find that there is are a lot of materials out there that have great textures, colors and things that will keep fingers busy.
- Layer the quilt top and backing fabric – right sides together.
- Lay this on top of the batting or stabilizer
- Sew all the way around the outside, leaving a 3″ opening for turning
- Snip the corners, turn right sides out and stitch 1/8″ from the edge to secure the layers and close the opening
- Grab your supplies and lay them out on top of the fabric.
- Pin in place the items and start stitching them down by hand or machine. Because your stitching will go through all the layers, this will keep them more secure and quilt the layers together, making it wear better through washings and use.
Supplies you may need:
- Rotary cutter or a new sharp blade
- Cutting Mat
- Quilt Ruler
- Sewing Machine this brother is my favorite!
- Iron here or here
- Seam Ripper not my favorite thing to do!
More Busy Fingers, Fidget Fun Mats & Fidget Quilts Tutorials~
Fidget quilt pattern + it rolls up!
These busy blankets are perfect for using your scraps from projects that are finished. Those odd ball supplies that are just hanging around and not doing much in your sewing space but taking up space.
Take a look around– you know what I’m talking about. Start making little quilt kits with your fun dodads and when you have enough….sit down and stitch them up.
* Make sure that everything you use is securely stitched down. You don’t want things to pop off and get lost.
* Don’t overthink this. Keep it simple. They are supposed to be busy, but don’t make it sooo busy it’s overwhelming
* Involve your kids! Have them help decide or layout the mat and stitch things down. Perfect for youth groups!
WANT TO REMEMBER THIS? SAVE THE FIDGET QUILTS TUTORIAL TO YOUR FAVORITE DIY PINTEREST BOARD!
What kind of things do you put on your fidget quilts? Any suggestions for us?
Bernadette Webre says
The “Fidget Quilt” could also be adapted for Alzhemer’s patients. This would have been great for my dad.
yes Bernadette– great idea! I bet he would love it.
The most important part of the quilt is the mix of textures. In all likelihood the recipient will only fidget or “worry” a couple spots that they find calming. More stuff just to fill it up is not better, think simple. I made the first fidget on your examples, it has flannel, denim, cotton, mesh with marbles trapped under it, zipper, buttons that work, snaps, rope and the rubber key chain. This was our manly version because the men were turning down any with flowers or fru-fru stuff. It was a great guild project donated to a division of our hospital who worked with alzheimer dementia patients, they cant get enough.
Debra McHugh says
One great resource for ‘fidgets’ is the local Habitat for Humanity Restore. Finding fidgets for men’s quilts is especially challenging. I buy plastic plumbing parts the can be strung on ribbon and screwed together and unscrewed while attached to the quilt. I also find rubber, plastic and light weight metal rings, washers etc. for sliding activities.
Karan Brown says
Love this! Just a heads up for your Dementia project bright colors are more stimulation and not too small with the activities as vision is often affected. Love the giant braid on the apron! Love that they are so pretty and not toddler-ish! Thank you!
P. Garcia says
Great idea! Only comment I have is that if it is for a baby or toddler, make sure there are no small parts that can cause choking.
Jenny Fish says
A group I know knit or crochet fidget muffs – a loose fitting tubular piece with different yarns, buttons etc. Great for those who are prone to pulling out drip lines etc – can be pulled across the line and connection point so they don’t see them and play with the muff instead.
Jenny Fish says
Here is the direct link to the post. Check out the photos in the comments as well.
you are right on that! thanks for the reminder.
Thank you for this,will have to make some for kids
I wish I had known about these when my beautiful senior relatives were still alive. I had responsibility for three who all had some form of dementia. I too am facing a similar future with Parkinson’s. I have asked God to guide me and to make the best of what I have so far to work with, and I believe this is the answer. I just spoke with one of our associate pastors and we may just take this on as a mission project, not only for us experienced sewers but to help teach sewing to those who want to learn “the basics”, win, win, win!
This is a great article!! I like to try to find things at Goodwill that can be upcycled
Karla Randazzo says
What a wonderful idea.
Mary Ann says
Can you use plastic pellets between the top and bottom layers.
Made some weighted lap pads for autistic children and have some pellets left over
I stitch a piece of extra soft fleece (about 5″ square) down before sewing a pocket from jeans on top of it. It gives the sensation of slipping your hand into a glove. I position the pocket sideways so it is easy to slip a hand inside.
I also drop a marble inside the quilt then stitch a “maze” of a couple of rows along an edge. Similar idea to that of mazes that I have seen.
lyn lewis says
I make waistcoats, cushions and lap quilts for kids with visual or physical impairments much like the fidget quilts.
Our need is generally so the children to learn to use zips, fasten buttons, tie laces, use poppers or hooks and eyes, in the hopes that they can learn to dress themselves, but in a less formal and more entertaining way.
I use different textured fabrics as well to stimulate the senses and conversation.
I’ve made those maze pouches too that Carol above mentions and they are always popular.
Beata Myhill says
I found your website tonight, and thought I’d add my two cents – hope you don’t mind. I started making lap quilts when my mother was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. Now I continue to make them for nursing homes as a free gift (paying it forward). Locally, we call them “touchquilts” but the idea is the same. Here is what I have learned through experience:
Focus on as many different textures as possible. While the other senses fail, touch is often very sensitive.
Every quilt should have some soft plush fake fur – that’s a favourite for almost anyone. Satin is too.
Be wary of furs that look too realistic – especially black. They upset some residents.
Squares should be big enough for a whole hand to rest on.
Use bright colours – vision is often impaired. Ask about favourites if it is being customized.
Not too many prints – they are hard for a dementia sufferer to figure out. That is not the best place to put figit items. Things you find endearing may just be frustrating if it is hard to make out a simple picture.
If objects can possible be worked loose or broken off (some plastics) they will be. These patients are very persistent, and they have an abundance of time. Buttons should be big enough to grasp easily – and firmly sewn on with buttonhole twist – and backed with an extra layer of very firm material to make sure it isn’t ripped out of the material.
NO HARD OBJECTS (like belt buckles, large wooden beads on a ribbon etc.) – anything that can hurt someone if the quilt is whipped. It happens. Watch out for metal zippers.
Fasten an easy to grasp ribbon loop on zipper pulls. (It’s nice if the zipper opens to reveal a surprise fabric.)
No activities to develop fine motor skills for this generation. Forget learning to do laces.What’s gone is gone.
Prewash all materials in the hotest water you have – I add a couple of kettles of boiling water to the washing machine – laundry machines in nursing homes are brutal. The dryers are worse – everything must be sanitized at 160 degrees. (Not sure if foam beads like in beanbag chairs will pass this test.)
Use half-inch seams rather than the standard quarter inch for quilting. These quilts will see some rough use. (I cut my squares to 7″.)
Fleece makes great ruffles – very soft.
Adding a muff to hide hands in is very popular – their hands are often cold. Fun to add something inside it to discover e.g. a pull with a knot at the end, made out of 2″ x 12″ spandex.
Make sure your backing is not slippery. No fun if it continually slides off a lap – and the staff will not love you. Add a velcro tab in one or two places on the edge to attach it to a wheelchair. Make sure the ribbon (I use strong grosgrain) for this is not long enough to fit around a neck and choke someone.
Velcro pulls on a 1″ wide ribbon are great.
Mesh, zippered pencil cases from the dollar store can be sewn down and are great to put things in to be discovered and talked about.
I have been teaching classes on these. Some of the things I use, are zippers, velcro, prairie points, a marble maze, buttons, beads, a large snap, fabric yoyo, a very small pillow with cut up plastic bag that makes a sound, a jingle bell. I also bought beads with #`1 to 5, put it through a ribbon and add 1 wood bead to #1 bead, 2 wood beads to #2, etx. With buttons, I sew them down with upholstery thread and then also glue them. I also add a wooden ring to one side and add a long tie to it soit can be tied to a bed rail, wheel chair, or a chair.
Thank you for sharing things that work for these. Great ideas and the wooden rings is wonderful!
Jeannine eden says
These ideas are wonderful. I have also made some and find that if I put the mesh that you use for lining shelves and drawers on the back, it prevents the pad from falling off their lap or table top. Thank you for sharing these things.
Gail mowbray says
I have just been given this website and find it wonderful.i have knitted many twiddle muffs and now I will try this idea. Thank you all for your ideas.remarkable
dI have been looking for a project such as this one……I noticed it because my husband is a No 1 fidgeter and when we watch tv he is constantly scratching….swishing his feet….and I thought this would be fun to make for him…then after reading your article I have decided (also) I want to make some for the nursing homes here. What a sweet and awesome project you have put out for us who want to do something but don’t know exactly what….also thank you to those giving such good and practical (safe) ideas to go alone with your project. Thank you so very much……you’re getting your stars in your crown.
I am finishing my 1st one. I probably put to many activities on it; but it is for my mom, and I wanted to experiment. I hit clearance at craft stores and household sections at thrift stores. I used half of a $2.50 fleece blanket I got at Walmart for hers and picked up cloth placemats at a thrift store to try “busy mats.” I have soooo many ideas. Little $1 makeup bags from $Tree is an easy add with a small stuff animal on a ribbon leash.
Mary Wood says
I am interested in the inside of the quilts. what could be added to make a crinkly sound? Thank-you
I have used the wrapper from an M and M peanut bag from the dollar store he outside of the mini pkgs. It is stiff enough to make noise and can go through the washer and dryer. At least it did in mine.
Pat Brice says
Iâ€™m just making one of these so thanks for the advice, particularly not using â€˜busyâ€™ fabrics. I was told to avoid things which are noisy, such as bells etc. What one person might find comforting their neighbour might find annoying
Ann M Wilson says
This comment is for Pam..do you have a picture of one of the man fidget quilts you have made? I know two men with Alzheimers and would love to make them one.
Deborah Cain says
I recommend using mylar balloons behind fabric to make the crinkle sound. All my friends save their balloons from special events. These balloons can also be used to make crinkle blankets for babies….they love the sound!!!! Thanks to everyone for great idea…..I’m going to suggest these fidget ideas to my quilt guild……Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!
Jan Tossman says
In answer to those looking for a crinkle sound – You can purchase crinkle paper online. It isn’t expensive and a small square of it is sufficient for each quilt. My friend uses the empty bags from boxes of cereal. All of the suggestions here are so helpful. Thanks, everyone!!!
Pam R Workman says
I’m making a fidget quilt for my mom, and I found an eye mask at the dollar store that is clear and filled with some squishy beads. It’s fun to play with. thought I would share the idea. Thanks everyone for the great ideas here!
Jen Sam says
Wow this article was great but the comments are also SO helpful. Thanks everyone. I was going to buy a fidget blanket for my mother-in-law with dementia but was having such a hard time deciding which one since I had favourite components from each. Looks like I will be making the perfect one for her instead! Thank you all!
Janice Ross says
Thank you Becky for this article. Thank everyone for the helpful advice. I belong to a facebook group that makes items for local hospice agencies. We do bibs, lap blankets, provide wipes, and now we are doing fidget blankets. This has been the most helpful article that I have read. I will start on making fidget blankets tonight.