Sewing Group Provides Therapeutic Tools

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‘Fidget quilts’ help calm those with diseases like Alzheimer’s

With zippers, laces, snaps and buttons — all bordered in lively designs, soft fleecy fabric and dangling fringe — the “fidget quilts” are perfect for people with memory disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

The colorful quilts help calm people who struggle with fidgeting and increased distractions as a result of the disease. Rev. Mary Horan, director of pastoral care for the East Region, saw the need for such quilts for patients at Windham Hospital and knew exactly where she could get some made — the Interfaith Sewing and Service Group which meets weekly at the First Congregational Church in Willimantic.

Coordinated by Olive McCabe and Barbara Leary, whose daughter Cheryl Smith works at Windham and joins the group regularly, the sewers make everything from quilts for the Hole in the Wall Camp to potholders and aprons for soup kitchens, and from walker bags and lap robes for area nursing home patients to baptismal gowns and maternity dresses that are shipped to Haiti.

“Mary asked us if we could make the fidget quilts for patients and we were happy to add it to our list of items,” Leary said, noting that the group dug into its supply of donated fleece to make the quilts, which each represent about five hours of sewing.

At the same time, Erin Lewis, a student working with Horan last summer realized the sewing group could utilize the yards of KimGuard — the blue sterile wrap used for surgical equipment — and brought it to them.

“We can use it in numerous ways, mainly to make changing cloths and pads for Haiti,” Leary said.

“It was nice to be able to find a purpose for material that had previously been thrown away,” Horan said. “And, the fidget quilts are so helpful for our memory disorders patients. We’ve almost distributed all of the quilts in the first batch from the sewers!”

The Interfaith Sewing and Service Group is always looking for donations of clean fabric — they request practical, non-frilly cottons, terry cloth and flannel — and notions. Wool and polyester double-knits are not suitable for the items they make. The group meets every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the church, 199 Valley St., Willimantic.  For more information, call Leary at 860.228.9658.

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