How to Sew a Fidget Sensory Quilt

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I finally finished my fidget quilt for my grandpa! It's the perfect lap blanket to keep him warm, full of sensory activities to keep his hands busy while he's in his chair, and has pictures and reminders for him to enjoy familiar things. Keep reading for more details about how to make one!

***Update: After seeing the popularity of this post and several requests, I'm now offering handmade fidget quilts in my Etsy Shop! Thank you for all of your support and I hope your loved ones benefit from this tutorial and my creations 💝

***This post contains affiliate links.  Any purchases made from clicking on these links will help support this blog by providing a tiny commission for every purchase (at no extra cost to you). I always recommend products that I have personally tried or plan to try. All opinions remain my own. Thank you!

Above is his finished quilt! I'm so happy with how it turned out, and I really hope he likes it! My grandmother has been quilting and sewing all her life. Currently, with her church's quilting circle, and her own quilts she's made all 42 grandchildren, she's probably in the hundreds when all counted together!

This past summer, when my kids and I were visiting them, she was letting me go through some of her sewing stash, saying she didn't have all that much time any longer, and wanted it to go to someone who'd use it. Score on lots of goodies!

One thing she handed me as a second thought, was an old, soft pearl snap shirt, asking if it would fit my husband. I knew his lengthy arms would be too long immediately, but having been contemplating making fidget quilts as a community project, I decided to save it, absentmindedly talking aloud about them.

She paused, confused, never having heard of fidget quilts before this. I explained that they are really good for Alzheimer and dementia patients, especially those who live in group homes and care facilities, since they help keep their hands busy, keep them warm, and serve as a grounding object.

Excited, she said she wanted to make one for my grandfather, but wasn't sure when she'd be able to have the time, as he gets nervous if she goes upstairs for even short periods of time (hence why she was giving me a lot of her stuff).

I filed that tidbit away, and decided I'd make him one for Christmas this year.

Honestly, this was one of the most fun projects to make, not only because it's going to someone I love, but also assembling all of the sensory bits, and figuring out how and where to place everything is an exciting challenge!

Below, I'll walk you through each section of the quilt and explain the best I can. It would have taken FOREVER to take photos at every stage, so I'll just explain chronologically while walking you through the photos of the finished fidget quilt.

The sewing bits aren't the most complicated instructions, honestly, just making sure the weight of all the gadgets doesn't pull on your sewing machine and making sure not to sew over those bits, is the hardest part!

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I didn't make it very thick. It's a layer of regular cotton fabric with all of the sensory toys, and then a layer of fleece on the bottom. To begin, I measured out four 12 inch squares of farm-type fabric I'd had forever from Mary Jane's Farm. I got it on sale, and was saving it for something like this! Just keep in mind when creating one of these, keep the person's hobbies (even if they can't do them anymore), fond memories, and favorite colors or textures in mind. 

These quilts end up being important in grounding patients in reality when they are sundowning or having other memory episodes. The more familiar and the more emotional attachment, the more likely it will help them.

My grandpa loved gardening and farming his entire life. They used to grow over an acre-large garden, and both of them worked on farms when they were younger, so I went with something familiar and loved in the theme.

After cutting those squares, set them out with all of your sensory ideas and play with the design. Make sure the dangling bits won't get tangled, zippers won't cross, and other pieces are accessible. 

Once you've made your decisions, remove your sensory bits, and sew two sets of the fabric right sides together on one end. I used things I already had in my craft room, but if you are looking for things like zippers, minky fabric, ribbons, Wonder Under, or other little bits, Amazon is a good place to get everything in one place without leaving for the craft store (this link will get you a 30-day free trial of Prime with free 2-day shipping and other perks)!

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 If you have sleeves with snaps or something similar, make sure to include that in your first line of stitching, between the blanket fabrics.

After that, begin adding any pieces that need a sewing machine (zippers, elastic bands, fabric patches like the ribbon threading sensory section.

To make one of those, iron on a bit of Wonder Under to a fabric patch. Trim the edges and cut some small strips of ribbon. Fold them under, and gently iron over the patch onto the quilt fabric. This will set it, then add pins if any ribbons don't want to stay (be careful ironing satin, they could melt, use pins if you're worried). Then sew around the edges of the patch to secure it.

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 The last big thing I added before proceeding, was the elastic band with wooden beads on it. I stitched those by hand with a lot of back stitches, then secured it with big buttons (which are prettier and will help hold the elastic band in place).

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 At this point, I sewed the two large quilt pieces together(right-sides facing each other)  to make the entire big square of the blanket, and started adding the rest of the bits. The strawberry patch with the key was attached the same way as the threading section with Wonder Under, trimming, ironing, sewing, then I added the key ring to the ribbon when I was finished adding the patch and ribbon.

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 Next, I cut out some clear vinyl plastic from an old pencil zipper pouch, and used that as the windowpane pouch to hold my kids' photos. Pin it in place, sew around the edge (it sticks to the presser foot on your machine, so go slowly, and sew while slightly holding the pressure up a bit, if it's too sticky). Then, sew a line down the middle and use a sharp knife or embroidery scissors to cut slits in the top of the two sections to slip your photos between the fabric and the plastic.

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For the ribbon tag/threading section, I added one long ribbon to thread through the ribbon loops and secured it with a button. All hand sewn.

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These beads spell out his first and last name and have John Deere Tractor colors (another subtle favorite) for him to spin and move along two ribbons. I used a machine stitch for extra security on the ends of the ribbons, then sewed buttons onto all of the ends.

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The little green square is minky fabric with stuffing and jingle bells in it (just a few) that acts as an auditory sensory gadget and stress ball. I made it from a simple rectangle of minky, folded in half (right sides together), then turned right-side-out, filled with materials, and sewed it shut with a ribbon loop to hang it from the quilt. Ribbon was attached the same way as described with the beads before.

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Finally, after all of the other small pieces were added, I layered the second pearl snap sleeve, with the edge sticking out, over the quilt's top section, then cut a matching square of fleece to act as the bottom of the blanket. Pinned all the way around (make sure your sensory bits and metal pieces are well within the sewing field), and sewed all around the edge, leave a 6 inch opening in the middle of one of the sides.

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Turn the quilt right-side out, turn the fabric edges under where it's still raw, and pin it shut. Sew all the way around the edge, staying as close as possible to the edge, then sew a single line down the middle of your quilt (you can follow the other bisecting seam too, but I had a zipper in the way, so I didn't).

And voilà! Your fidget quilt is finished! I hope this helps give you some ideas for making your own! If you need some awesome sensory and fidget section ideas, my Quilts to Sew Pinterest Board is full of ideas for both male and female fidget quilts 😊

Our Christmas party got pushed back to this weekend with that side of the family, so he still hasn't gotten it quite yet, I'm so nervous! I hope he likes it 💖 Until next time, my pretties!


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