Calming, quirky quilts for Alzheimers patients

How to Make Touch Quilts


A. Selecting Fabric


  1. Select the fabric with your fingers, not your eyes. It is the textures of fabric that make a touch quilt.
  2. Fibreglass, leather and real fur are not acceptable. Flimsy fabric can be used only as an overlay. Flocked fabric may not survive the pre-wash, but if it does it is ok. Plastic 'leathers' may not survive washing and drying: test them first. Everything else can be used, including wool. The pre-wash and regular dyer (not permanent press) will pre-shrink fabrics before cutting.
  3. Every square should have a different texture: smooth, rough, raise stripes or circles, nap, bumps, plush, shag, satiny, burlap-like, homespun, lacy tweedy, terry cloth, soft, hard, etc, etc, etc.
  4. You should be able to distinguish each of your squares from all the rest by touch alone. When you think you have done this, see if someone else can also do so.
  5. Every touch quilt should have at least one square of fake fur.
  6. When laying out squares to design the quilt, think about the pattern(s) of textures. You may, for example, alternate smoother squares with rough (as you might light and dark colour). Try to think about texture as you normally would about colour: do you want strong texture next to gentle? do you want a progression of smooth to rough, soft to harsh around the quilt? After you have arranged squares, close your eyes and just feel what you have done.
  7. After you have a design of texture, look at the colours. Is the quilt too bland? too jarring? Are squares swearing at one another? If you want to change a fabric because of colour, look for the same texture in another colour.
  8. If you feel your quilt is too dull, you might want to add colour by using bright regular quilt fabric to make one or more toys or added textures. Do not add too many toys (four or less) or other embellishments as a too busy quilt detracts from the calming effect.



B. Making the Quilt


Directions are for 16-block quilts [with directions for 25-block or 36-block quilts in brackets].

  1. Wash all fabrics and embellishments for top, back and, if using, middle (not batting, 0f course). Use hot water and regular dryer settings.
  2. Cut 16 [25; 36] pieces each 8.5 [7.5; 6.5] inches by 8.5 [7.5;6.5] inches. Each square should be a different texture. Accurate cutting is important.
  3. Lay the squares out in 4 [5; 6] rows of 4 [5; 6] each to make a square quilt.
  4. Sew each row together. Seams should be sewn 1/4 inch from edge of the fabric. [If you have allowed a larger seam allowance when cutting, seam width must also be adjusted.]
  5. Press each row so seam allowances go in the same direction. Press odd rows to the right and even rows to the left (or vice versa). Use pressing cloth if needed to protect heat-sensitive fabric.
  6. Pin rows 1 and 2 together, matching the seams exactly. Sew together with the same seam allowance you used before. Repeat, joining rows in pairs.
  7. Press these seams. The seam allowances can go either up or down.
  8. Join row pairs [and odd row] in the same way. Press seams. Press the entire quilt top flat and true.
  9. Trim outside edges to make top square and edges even.
  10. Cut a back about two inches larger than the top [gives an extra inch all around]. If you are using a middle cut it about an inch larger than the back.
  11. If you are using a middle lay it on a table and smooth it out. Lay out the back right side up on middle if using or table if not and smooth both layers out flat and true.
  12. Optional: If using a label, pin and sew it to the back at this point. Place it about three inches in from the edges of the lower left-hand corner of the back. Sew it to both back and middle.
  13. Optional: If you want to add noise to the quilt, sew an 8 to 10 inch square piece of a crinkly potato chip bag somewhere onto the centre of the middle or the wrong side of the back -- it should be inside the quilt, where it will be unseen.
  14. Repeat step 11 if you have disturbed back or middle in steps 12 or 13.
  15. Lay top right side down on the back. Centre it. Smooth all layers carefully and pin from the centre outwards at the juncture of each four blocks. Then pin around the edges of the top.
  16. Sew 3/8 inch from edge of the top leaving an 8-inch opening for turning. The opening should be on firm fabric. Trim corners.
  17. Turn right side out. Make sure outside edges are fully turned, first from inside and then along outside. Try to get the corners fully square. Press edge. Pin opening closed and pin all over to stabilize.
  18. Starting with the centre seams, machine quilt in the ditch along all seams in the top.
  19. Sew around the quilt 1/4 inch from edge. Make sure this sewing has closed the opening you left in step 16. If it has not, then whipstitch the opening closed.
  20. Quilt inside the blocks as you like. Use the quilting to emphasize the texture where possible. Quilting enhances the touch quality of the quilt: don't skimp. The absolute minimum is an X across each square: quilt diagonally from corner to corner each way. This results in skimpy quilting, okay only if fabric is thickish.



Copyright 2012 © Grace MacNab