Fidget quilts?!!? What the heck is a fidget quilt? Well, for the sewers in the Piece Makers at the Salina Senior Center, it’s a 15”x 25” set of squares with various “fidgety” items sewn on. What are they for? They are to help calm or soothe Alzheimer’s and dementia patients as well as children with ADHD and autism or anyone else who needs to be distracted from their illness. How did we get involved with such a project? Well, it all began like this:
Piece Makers make lap quilts to donate to various local charities like the cancer center or Catholic Charities or Birthright and one day about 18 months ago, one of our sewers accompanied her husband to a doctor’s appointment at the Wichita VA Center. She met with the patient coordinator and asked if they would be interested in receiving some of our lap quilts. He hesitated and said he didn’t think they needed any at that particular time, but they could use some fidget quilts. Our sewer said she didn’t even know what that was, and was he certain he didn’t want any lap quilts? He stated again they had no need for lap quilts, but they were in need of fidget quilts. Our sewer came back and relayed her conversation to the other members of the group who also knew nothing about fidget quilts. However, one member said while her husband was hospitalized, he became disoriented and began to kick his covers on the floor and was trying to pull out his IV tube. A nurse came in with a 12” x 12” square of velvet with zippers and tassels and buttons sewn all over it. She laid it on his chest and he immediately began to “fidget” with the items on the velvet rather than with his IV tube! That lead to some research on YouTube and Pinterest which revealed a wealth of information and video tutorials on how to (and how not to) make fidget quilts!! So, the half dozen ladies who were interested in taking on a new project went home and raided their stash of ribbons, zippers, beads, yarn…even Grandma’s button box, and any other item we thought we could attach to a fidget quilt. Even long forgotten jewelry items, like the match to that earring you lost and didn’t have the heart to discard can be used as a fidget!! We’ve had donations of military uniforms that were deconstructed for the fabric and the patches. A friend of one of our sewers who lives in Connecticut and heard about our project donated colorful souvenir patches from her various vacations. And now we can’t walk through a store without seeing something that would work for a fidget quilt. The first ones we produced were definitely a learning experience and took forever to make but as we progressed, we have become proficient at knowing what should go where and how to attach it.
Since we began back in June of 2021, we have donated over 155 fidget quilts to the VA Hospitals in Wichita and Topeka, to many of the local nursing homes and a few in other cities, to the Martin Luther King Childcare Center, to USD 305 and to private individuals who have loved ones with a need. There is always a place for more sewers and we welcome anyone who cares to join us as this project will be ongoing and has grown significantly in the short time we’ve been at it.
So now, every Thursday morning you can find a handful of women bent over their sewing machines, laughing and grooving to the Beach Boys making fidget quilts for people they will never know, wondering who is more blessed…those who receive the quilts or those who make them!
By Lillian Murphy
Left to Right as pictured, Lilian Murphey, Mary Wright, Pam Scoville, Jeri Johnson, Dorothy Boyle and Ellie Tinkler. Not pictured, Rita Johnson, Edna Richert, Lavonne Farney and Judy Diehl