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Help people living with dementia with your craft skills

Date: 26 April 2022

Do you enjoy knitting or sewing? Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust’s (SCFT's) Dementia Team is asking for help from staff, their families and friends, and members of the public to create sensory lap quilts and twiddle muffs for patients living with dementia.

Sometimes people living with dementia can become restless, agitated, or anxious. Lap quilts and twiddle muffs can provide a source of visual, tactile, and sensory stimulation which can help reduce anxiety and increase wellbeing and relaxation.

Fran Hamilton, Deputy Dementia Lead at SCFT, says:

“People living with dementia use strategies to cope with their environment and when they come into a new setting, either as an inpatient in one of our Intermediate Care Units (ICUs) or as an outpatient, these strategies may be more difficult to use.

“Fidgeting with tactile items such as lap quilts or twiddle muffs can help people living with dementia to focus their thoughts and feel calmer in unfamiliar settings.

“Each lap quilt or hand muff will be given as a gift to a patient who can take it home when leaving our ICUs.

“The designs can be so unique and imaginative, and we really look forward to seeing what people create!”

Photo: Fran Hamilton, Deputy Dementia Lead at SCFT, demonstrating an example of a handmade ‘twiddle muff’ that can help people living with dementia feel relaxed and calm.

See the simple instructions for creating lap quilts and twiddle muffs below, as well as details for how to send them in.

How to make a twiddle muff

A twiddle muff is a knitted hand warmer with sensory items attached. It contains strands of textured ribbons, beads and various fabrics which may be on both the inside and outside. If some of the bits and bobs – such as buttons, beads, tassels, and ribbons – are on the inside of the twiddle muff, hands can be kept active and warm at the same time.

Download this printable PDF guide on how to make a twiddle muff.

How to make a lap quilt

Lap quilts are sewn quilts with sensory items attached. The pattern is very simple, so you do not need to be an expert sewer.

Patchwork or piecing techniques are optional, and fleece can be used as the wadding if you are not using backing fabric.

The fabric on the bottom of the quilt should not be too slippery. Fleece is ideal.

The quilt needs to be machine washable at 40 degrees and ideally sized around 60cm by 40cm.

Download this printable PDF guide on how to make a lap quilt.

Some helpful guidelines

Here are some additional guidelines for making both the twiddle muff and a lap quilt:

  • Bits and bobs need to be securely attached and there can be no sharp edges.
  • Contrasting colours and soft yarns are always popular.
  • Use your imagination and get as creative as you like. Look on Pinterest for inspiration for lap quilts and twiddle muffs.
  • To avoid the spread of viruses, please adopt good hand hygiene when making your creations. Each creation will be given to a specific patient and not shared with others.

Share your sensory creations

Post lap quilts and twiddle muffs to:

The Dementia Team
Room GU52, The Richard Hotham Unit,
Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital,
Shripney Road,
Bognor Regis,
PO22 9PP

Please include your contact details so that the team can say thank you.

Share photos on social media

Tag Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust using @nhs_scft and the Dementia Team using @SCFT_Dementia in your photos on Twitter.

If you have any questions, please contact the Dementia Team at: sc-tr.dementia@nhs.net.

The Dementia Team look forward to seeing what you create!