“My aunt has Parkinson’s disease, a complex condition that affects different people in different ways. The symptoms most often associated with Parkinson’s affect movement. My aunt often needs to do something with her hands and so I decided to make a Fidget and sensory cushion for her. When my children were very young I designed an activity cushion complete with buttons, laces, Velcro for them, so this is a similar idea but for an elderly person.”
I’ve invited Juliet Bawden from https://creativecolour.org/ to write about her fidget and sensory cushion, and share step-by-step instructions how she made this brilliant gift for her aunt on my blog. This fidget cushion has proved to be a simple and well designed item for her aunt, and it would be good for anyone with Parkinsons. Juliet’s Fidget Cushion can also be personalised to make a sensory cushion for reducing anxiety and agitation for someone living with Alzheimers, it can be adapted to be an activity cushion, an aid to stimulate communication between family, carers and a person living with dementia, Alzheimers or even Autism.
When Juliet was developing and then making this Fidget Cushion I would look forward to catching up with her. I learnt so much about how she was addressing her aunt’s needs with the design and how Juliet worked to improved the cushion’s functionality. I was as delighted as she was when it was finished…it proved to be a big hit not only with her aunt but with her aunts’ friends too.
Fidget Cushion by Juliet Bawden from creativecolour.org
“This is my prototype, and as I write it is about to be road tested by my aunt. I became so excited by all the materials that I gathered together that this cushion has a back and a front to it. This maybe overkill so I suggest you only make a front to the cushion so that there is a flat surface to lay on the recipient’s lap.
My aunt’s symptoms include memory loss, so I felt that as well as giving her something to do with her hands It was important to engage all the senses. Sounds, smell, touch, sounds all help to plug in to their memories.
I read a report by someone on the internet, who makes these cushions for different clients. Her wise advice is to use textured fabrics and embellishments to occupy restless hands plus a clear pocket to add a photo, memo or reminiscence item.
The cushion is made from recycled materials so hopefully the planet, the charity shops, my bank account and my aunt will all benefit – not forgetting me, who enjoyed making it.
I bought a cushion that did up at the front with buttons. I chose garments and haberdashery made from contrasting fabrics and materials. The instructions given below are to make the Fidget Cushion shown here, however yours will be different from mine depending on what materials you can find.
You will need
Cushion with a cushion pad
Some or all of the below :
Shirt with pockets and placket
Garments or old cushions with applique or other decorative details
Pieces of ribbons and lace
Long silky scarf
2 x Small square silky scarves
Small furry teddy or letter or number
These instructions are specific to the cushion I made and yours will be different depending on the bits and pieces you find.
- Step 1 Cut two pockets from a shirt leaving a 1 cm seam allowance so you can sew the pockets into place. Cut down the side seams of the cushion so that the front is separate from the back and you don’t inadvertently sew through two layers at once. Sew the pockets into place on the front as in the photograph.
- Step 2 Remove a zip from a dress. Insert it between two pieces of contrast cloth to make a zipped pocket. Sew this on the back of the cushion.
- Step 3 Remove flowers from a child’s dress and sew these onto the cushion front.
- Step 4 Cut away flat flowers from a child’s dress sew these onto the cushion back.
- Step 5 Adding a 1cm seam allowance, cut the placket from the front of the shirt and neaten. Cut 10 cm pieces of ribbon and fold in half, pin them onto the cushion front with the base of the placket on top. Sew the placket and ribbon loops onto the cushion front and popper on the other piece.
- Step 6 Applique hearts cut from a different cushion, onto your cushion.
- Step 7 Make a small lavender bag and sew that onto one of the pieces of ribbon and place it in a pocket. Attach other items, like the soft number 8 in our picture, by pieces of ribbon so that they can be taken out but not lost.
- Step 8 We attached 2 scarves in the side seams. So that they could be knotted together or tied in a bow.
- Step 9 Turn the cushion cover inside out and sew the side seams together catching the edges of the placket and the scarves in the seams. As the cushion has a flap turn it through this to the right side out.
Since writing this. The fiddle or fidget cushion has been road tested by my aunt and many others in her care home and it is very popular.
Juliet Bawden is a designer, maker, author and journalist has written over 70 craft books either exploring and making the things herself.
Recently designing, making and writing for magazines including : Coast, Simply Sewing and Reloved as well as for the web site of both Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley. Juliet has run workshops at the Fashion and Textile Museum for Heals, King makers of Candy Crush and many others.
Juliet is also a colour consultant and explores and writes about colour and craft on her blog: Creative Colour a UK design, craft and interiors blog.
Some of the techniques and others can be found in Juliet’s latest book, read my review here.