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Fidget Quilts for Dementia Patients

by Beth Cooper
Some dementia patients benefit greatly from having a fidget
quilt to keep their hands busy.

Hi friends!  It is a beautiful day in my neighborhood, and I hope it is in yours, too!  My sewing room has been a busy place this week.  I have been cranking out fidget quilts left and right.  I love to make those for friends who have a loved one battling dementia or Alzheimer’s.  If I have any left over, I donate them to a local nursing home.  Sadly, dementia is currently affecting almost 10% of older adults in the United States.  Not all Dementia patients benefit from a fidget quilt, but many do.  Interested in making one (or twenty!)? Read on…

What Is a Fidget Quilt?

Fidget quilts are small hand-held quilts with lots of “fidgety” things sewn onto it.  Many Dementia patients have the urge to continually pick at something or some just like to keep their hands busy.  Without something to pick at or mess with, many will pick at their skin, nails, clothing, etc.  Enter in the fun fidget quilt:  now their hands are busy and they are occupied.  Fidget quilts involve lots of textures and motion.  Each “block” has something different to offer – a new texture or something on it to fidget with (like a ribbon or even a key).

This fidget quilt is full of fun things to keep hands busy. All are securely sewn down. It measures 17 1/2″ x 17 1/2″.

What Do I Add to the Fidget Quilt?

All of the fidget quilts I make include at least one zipper and some Velcro (that’s always a favorite!).  I also try to tailor each one to either male or female.  I made the one pictured above last night for my friend’s father.  He’s a retired mechanic.  He worked with his hands all of his life, so I included things that were familiar to him – some washers, nuts, and pvc fittings.  He can screw and unscrew the two pieces of pvc over and over again.  I also included a key ring and a key clip, both with keys on them.  There are also plastic rings, fun textures, and a zipper pocket holding a very cute bendable cow inside of it.

How do I make the quilt?

Here’s how I did it:

  1.  Start by picking your fabric.  I chose a variety of fun bright colors, but I also focused on adding at least 2-3 pieces of fabric that had texture to them. (Example:  fleece, sequin, minky, chenille, etc.)
  2. You will need 9 squares cut to 6 ½” each. I try to only use each fabric one time.
  3. Sew your items onto each square BEFORE sewing your squares together.  The reason for this is that you can catch your ribbons, strings, etc. into your seam allowance.  This makes all of the items more secure.  It also is just flat-out easier to do it this way.  Trust me on this one.
  4. After you have at least one fidget added to each of the 6 1/2″ squares, sew the squares together. (I explain how to add tricky items below.) It will feel heavy and awkward.  That’s okay.  Trust the process.  Sew slowly and make sure to keep the fidget items out from under your needle.
  5. Once you have 9 squares sewn together in rows of three, pick out your backing fabric and batting.  You are going to use the no-binding method to finish this little quilt.  Make sure backing and batting are cut to the same size as your quilt top.
  6. Lay out the batting.  Place your quilt top on top of the batting, face up.  Then, place the backing on top of your quilt top, right sides together.  Pin the three layers together.  (Pin it very well!)  I know this seems backwards.  It always does to me too, but I promise it will work!
  7. Sew ¼” seam nearly all the way around the little quilt sandwich, leaving a section, big enough to fit your hand into, unsewn. 
  8. Trim the corners.  (Just snip off each tiny corner, being careful not to snip the stitches.)
  9. Flip the whole quilt right side out.  Voila!  No binding needed!
  10.  Poke corners out.  You may choose to press the sides and corners at this point with an iron so that they all lay nice and flat.  Sometimes pressing is difficult though, due to the fidgets.
  11. Sew the hole closed.  I just tuck a bit of the backing and a bit of the top down into the quilt and sew closed on my machine. 
  12. Now, it’s time to quilt it.  Being very careful of the fidgets, use your sewing machine to add some quilting to the fidget quilt.  This provides more stability to the whole thing.  I always stitch-in-the-ditch (that means just quilting on the seam lines) on a fidget quilt.  Sometimes, this is all the quilting I do.  Other times, I add just a few straight lines of quilting to each block, being very careful of the fidgets.

And that’s it!  It is very fast and easy to make one. 

This is a close-up of how I used cording to attach
nuts and washers to the fidget quilt.
I have some materials laid out for my next fidget quilt – some sequin fabric, a bendy toy to put into a pocket, a plastic ring, rough burlap ribbon, some velcro and ric rac, and some brightly colored 6 1/2″ squares.

How Do I Add the Fidgets to the Quilt?

The fidgets are easier to attach than you may think.  I use Ric Rac or durable string or cording to attach most of the fidgets.  Anything with a hole through it can be strung across a block.  For the Velcro, I make sure to buy sewable Velcro, as opposed to sticky Velcro.  Use your imagination on what kind of things you would like to include on your quilt.  The next time you’re at a dollar store, craft store, or even hardware store, look around for small inexpensive things to add.

The most important thing to remember about adding the items is to make sure they are very secure.  This is important!  You don’t want something to pop off.  I stitch and backstitch over everything I add multiple times.  I also make sure that it is caught into the seam allowances.  I can be sure that it is secure this way. 

Care Instructions

Have fun with the process and don’t worry if it comes out a big wonky.  The person receiving it is not going to notice or care. My quilts are machine washable, but not necessarily great for the dryer.  Be sure to give care instructions to the caregiver of the quilt recipient. 

Now, I’m off to deliver my fidget quilts…

‘Til next time,


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Linda Powell
Linda Powell
9 months ago

What an inspiring idea! I have a 5 month old great grandson who has discovered how to hang on to things, besides Mom. He will really enjoy one of these too. The L/T care facility in our town will get a few of these also. Thank you so much.

9 months ago

I’m so glad to see your post❣️ I’m making a fidget quilt – mostly done but need some guidance on what is appropriate and safe to add. Perfect timing👏🏻🙏🏻

Susan Mayhew
Susan Mayhew
9 months ago

My sewing buddies pooled our fabric and items for fidget quilts and had a sewing day with potluck lunch to make fidget quilts for a local nursing facility. It was fun for us, and a boon for the nursing home.

Susan Mayhew
Susan Mayhew
9 months ago

I forgot to add to my post, that we included a clear plastic pocket for relatives to insert a photo.

8 months ago

I would like to make some of these. I have friends who would like these. Thank you for sharing this!

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