fidget quilt, fidget quilts, Longarm Quilting, Quilting

Helpful Distractions: Fabulous Fidget Quilts

Homeschooling. Parenting. Cooking. Cleaning. Caretaking. Volunteering. Quilting. Blogging. Exercising? Maybe. Shopping. Yoga. Church. Helping. Laundry, laundry, laundry….

Next week, repeat. And again, again, again.

Welcome to Holley-style living. It is a good life. No – a GREAT life. But on some days, it’s a little…overwhelming. I had one of those days earlier this week, and I called my husband at work for support. The phone call went something like this:

“Oh my gosh, I have so much to do, and I can’t get anything done! Every time I sit down to concentrate, something comes up, I get distracted and it’s an hour before I get back to it. I am so overwhelmed,” I said.

“Remember that joke?” Adam said. “Why are people only overwhelmed or underwhelmed, never just whelmed?”

“I’d take whelmed,” I said. “Whelmed is probably restful by comparison. And where does all this laundry come from? Honestly, how many socks do we really need?”

“I just bought some new socks. But I can’t find them.”

“I put them in the laundry where they belong,” I said with a sigh. “If it weren’t for all these distractions, I could get something done.”

“I know how you feel,” he said, “when I’m at the office, I’m always saying ‘If everyone would just leave me alone, I’d get my work done in half the time.’ But you know what? I timed myself. Even when I have no distractions, the work takes the exact same amount of time.”

“So what are you saying? The distractions aren’t holding me back?”

“The distractions aren’t holding you back. In fact, the distractions are helpful. They keep you from getting bored, and make you want to get stuff done. You accomplish more than you think.”

“I think you’ve lost your mind,” I said.

“Nope. Just my socks,” he said. “Gotta go, you’re distracting me.”

After we hung up, I thought about what he said as I tossed the socks into the washing machine. He made a good point, one that I’d noticed myself at a quilting retreat some months ago. At the retreat, when I had unlimited amounts of time to devote to quilting, it didn’t go faster. In fact, I accomplished much less than I’d planned.

It’s the same at home. After about an hour of uninterrupted time alone in my sewing room, I will go in search of distractions – to see what the kids are doing, grab a snack, see what’s in the mail.

So, strange but true. For most of us, distractions aren’t so bad. They’re actually good for you. Our brains are capable of attending to a wide variety of stimuli at once, and when we try to focus on a single task (especially a boring or tedious task), all those little side noises and tasks become impossible to ignore. Sometimes, though, those little side noises and internal thoughts are troublesome, especially for folks diagnosed with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.

For people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, life can be confusing and stressful. Just like the rest of us, when they have anxiety you can see it in their hands. They may wring their hands, pick at their nails, twist their fingers, or pull at their clothes – it is a form of self-soothing. But over time, the repetitive behaviors can cause injury. Caregivers have found that giving patients “Fidget Quilts” or “Fidget Blankets” helps.

Recently, I was contacted by a friend whose father has Alzheimer’s, and she asked me to make her one. I was familiar with Fidget Quilts (one of my quilt guilds make them) but I’d never made one before.

What is a Fidget Quilt? It is a lap quilt (or blanket) that offers a variety of textures and objects that can be handled or fidgeted with. The quilt serves as a kind of sensory therapy. The textures of the quilts and the objects provide calming sensory input via low level distraction. Studies show that it improves concentration and attention to tasks. Fidget Quilts have also been found useful for children with Autism, ADD/ADHD, and sensory integration disorders.

Before I made my quilts, I did a little research. Here are some links to more information about fidget quilts, from general information to some great how-to-make-it blogs and videos:

It is important that you use textures and objects that work for your loved one. All people are different and enjoy different tactile stimuli. My friend requested “soft stuff” like faux fur, and things to tie, buttons and pockets.

I designed the quilts with versatility — and machine-washability — in mind. I put on lots of loops so that objects can be tied on, removed, or switched out if needed. I added faux fur via Velcro strips, so that the fur pieces could be removed for washing. And – thinking that there may be a time when no objects are wanted – I added multiple textures of quilting. That way, the quilt itself is interesting even without additional items.

I made two. Partly because I do everything in twos (side effect of having twins) but also because there is always a washing day! So having a spare seemed sensible.

Here are the finished quilts.



And a few detail shots:



And the backsides, which are flannel, to help prevent them from sliding off someone’s lap.


It was hard to part with them. It seems I like to fidget, too! My hubby knows his stuff. Distractions ARE a good thing. 😊

Wishing you peace and calm,


3 thoughts on “Helpful Distractions: Fabulous Fidget Quilts”

  1. What a phenomenal idea! You are so talented, fun-loving and enjoyable to be with. I am very proud of you and your family. I love you so much and so glad to have you and Anna for the daughters I never had. Maybe you could tea h me how to do the figure quilts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like that you took to fidget quilts to the next level and added the quilting texture as well. I have a quilting friend who made many and wanted to learn but by then the home she was making them for didn’t want any more. I think your husband is right and I’m like you, always on chronic overwhelm. To top it off, I am retired and live alone so there are no excuses. I got a lot more done when I was working, had children and a husband at home. Now, I’m more easily distracted to the kitchen. 😦 Thanks for sharing so many links to look up how to do fidget quilts. Yours are wonderful and I think they are a great idea.


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