A few months ago my wonderful sister in law asked us if we'd do her a favour. She works as a for a Cornish care charity and was adding another string to her bow.
She had become a dementia champion, she had volunteered to deliver an information session for The Alzheimer's Society and needed some practice before she stepped out into the big wide world delivering her information to the greater public.
Of course we said yes, so here is where my journey began.
Emma (my sister in law) popped round one evening and spoke to us about dementia, she helped us to better understand what a person with dementia is going through and how we can better support them within our community.
People are so quick to judge, poke fun at and even film complete strangers in the street, making a snap decision that they are just weird and that putting a photo or video of them on social media is the way to deal with their unusual behaviour. They don't stop for one second to consider that the person they are laughing at might need help instead of ridicule.
It makes me sad to think that this has become an acceptable way to behave.
The Dementia friends course that Em delivered is designed to give people an understanding of dementia and the small things that could make a difference to people living in their community.
Emma explained a little bit about what it's like to live with dementia, we then agreed to turn our new found understanding into action by agreeing to become dementia friends and help raise awareness within our community.
At the end of the course we all made a pledge to do just one little thing to help raise awareness.
We have little Dementia Friend pins to show our commitment to being more understanding and proactive.
Anyone of any age can become a Dementia Friend, our youngest son does his bit by wearing his pin to school every day along side his school council badge, he has used his new knowledge to discuss dementia with his friends and school teachers.
I decided that I would use my new found knowledge of dementia, the unrest and anxiety that it can cause to help me design twiddle muffs and blankets to keep restless hands warm and entertained.
I put my thinking cap on, grabbed my crochet hook and dived in to my yarn stash.
This is what I came up with.
My first attempt was made with a garden loving lady in mind.
I created grass and flowers and added raffia and string that could have been used to tie back saplings when pottering about in the garden on a warm spring afternoon. I then added plats, a ruff and a button with its own loop to help keep restless hands busy.
I finished my twiddle muff of with a fleece lining for extra comfort ad to cover up the ends and knots from where I attached the various twiddles.
Each prototype I make is donated to Cornwall Care who pass them on to their residents.
I have photographed each muff and popped the pictures up in my Etsy store as a guide to anyone who would like to place an order for their loved ones.
Here is the basic twiddle muff pattern.
The main body of the twiddle muff is made using a James C Brett, marble chunky yarn and a UK 5mm US H hook.
I found that by using a UK double crochet the material produced was strong and durable and the gaps between stitches were perfect for treading ribbon and yarn through.
To make the main body all you need to do is;
Double (US single) crochet into the second chain from your hook then double crochet along the rest of your chain to the end.
Turn your work and chain 2, miss the first stitch then double crochet to the end.
Repeat row 2 until you have completed 50 rows.
Fasten off leaving a long tail. This tail will be used to sew the two edges together to complete your muff.
That's the main body done, now its time for the fun bit
There is no right of wrong way to make a twiddle muff.
Making a twiddle muff is a the perfect excuse to let yourself go wild and dive into that stash of yarn that is safely hidden away from your other half so that they don't know about your addiction 😉
Here are a few of the twiddles that I've whipped up over the last few months.
To make the grass in the photo above take 2 different shades of green acrylic double knit yard and cut several strands of approximately 15cm in length.
Using a 4mm/G hook to help pull the yarn through the gaps between the stitches so that it is half way through.
Secure each strand with a knot then turn your work over.
Using your hook, pull the strands of yarn back through the material, leaving the knots on the other side. Make sure you pull the yarn through different holes so that it spreads into a nice clump of grass.
Keep going until you are happy with the effect then give your grass a trim.
Ribbons, Bows, Buttons, Beads and String.
I don't know about you but my craft related hoarding is not limited to yarn alone.
Every time I buy something with a lovely tag, piece of ribbon or spare buttons they get squirrelled away for a rainy day craft project that never quite seems to happen.
As a result of this I have a substantial collection of bits and bobs that are perfect for twiddle muffs and twiddle blankets.
Once I have finished the main body of my twiddle muff I raid my stash and see what I can rustle up. As long as they are securely attached anything goes.
I find that it helps to have a theme in order to stay on track.
I love talking to the family members of the alzheimer's patient and hearing all about their loved ones life and loves. I use this precious information to help me create a bespoke item that is just for them.
A Simple Flower
I use acrylic double knit yarn for the majority of my twiddles. It is bright, cheery, hard wearing and machine washable, which makes it perfect for twiddle muffs.
For this flower you will need a 4mm/G hook and a couple of different colours of yarn.
Chain 4 and join the ends with a slip stitch.
Chain 2 , 9 double (US single) crochets into the loop joining with a slip stitch into the second of the ch2. 10 stitches.
Chain 2, double crochet into the same stitch, 2 double crochets into each stitch, join with a slip stitch. 20 stitches. Change colours.
(Chain 3, dtr 2 tog (US tr2tog) over the next 2 stitches, ch 3, slips stitch into the next stitch, slipstitch into the next stitch) repeat 5 times ending with 1 slip stitch into the first stitch.
Fasten off. leaving a long tail so that you have plenty of yarn to attach it to the main body of your twiddle muff with.
I also make twiddle cuffs. They are designed with more active people in mind. Here is a link to my twiddle cuff tutorial.
Here are a few pictures to give you some ideas of other twiddles.
I tend to place all of my twiddles in the middle third on my base material so that they are all on the one side when the edges are sewn together but lots of people place pockets ribbons and other twiddles on the back even inside their twiddle muffs.
Once I am happy with the over all appearance of the twiddle muff I secure the twiddles firmly, keeping all knots on the back of my fabric. I then line the with fleece.
I am no seamstress. Each year I sit down and watch The Great British Sewing Bee and manage to convince myself that somewhere buried deep inside me is an awesome seamstress who is dying to break out but alas, she is yet to make an appearance.
So with massive apologies to my more accomplished friends, here's how I fleece line my twiddle muffs.
Lay the fleece out with the main twiddle muff material on top.
Cut around the muff material leaving an additional 1.5cm on each edge. You should now have a piece of fleece that is 3cm longer and wider than your twiddle muff base.
Fold over the 1.5cm allowance on the top and bottom edges and pin into place.
Using a straight stitch on your sewing machine stitch along the top and bottom hems.
Place your 2 pieces of material back to back, lining up the top and bottom edges and pin them into place.
Being careful not to catch any of your twiddles in your machine, stitch along the top and bottom edges starting 0.5cm in from the edge and finishing 0.5 cm from the end.
Sew the last two edges of the fleece together
Using the long tail that you left when you made your base material sew the two sides together to complete your twiddle muff.
Work in any loose ends and you're done. 🙂
The next time you're stash busting give a twiddle muff a go they're the perfect gifts for people with dementia. If you don't know a alzheimer's patient yourself, make one anyway and donate it to your local hospital or nursing home and brighten someones day.
If you would like to become a dementia friend click the link below the Dementia friends badge and it will take you through to some more information.
All pictures designs and patterns are my personal property. Please ask permission if you would like to feature them.