Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Remarkable Project

      I have a friend, Margaret Loomis, in my art group, ArtsEtc,  who has come up with an amazing idea and has put it into action. She saw that Alzheimer’s patients were lined up in their wheelchairs in the hallways of their nursing home and they sat with their heads down with no stimulation for several hours. To provide some interaction for them, she decided to make covers for their wheelchairs that had three dimensional art so that they could reach out and touch the cover on the chair in front of theirs. She made sure that there were no embellishments on the covers that could be removed by the patients and put in their mouths like buttons, sequins, beads, etc. She also found out that patients with dementia and Alzheimer's can be disturbed by shiny things so no glitter, foils, or shiny fabrics. She also made sure that the covers were comfortable on the side facing the back of the patient and that they are machine-washable. Here are five of the many she has made so far.
African Iris
I'm Still Me



And here's the artist!


     Even more amazing, a nurse got wind of her idea and has applied for a grant to do a study at one of our local rehab homes with an Alzheimer’s wing to see the effects of the covers on the patients and the staff. So our art group is busy making the wheelchair covers for the study. 
     I’m sharing this with you because I’m hoping you will pass this on to many others. They don’t take long to make and really brighten up someone’s world. I could see many guilds and other groups taking this project on. Even if the staff of a retirement home or hospital is cheered up by wheelchair art, it will have a positive effect on their patients.
     Here's a diagram of how to make them. It has the size for a wheelchair for the average adult. I cut batting and backing fabric the length and width of the whole thing and spray basted them together. Then I spray basted the part that would go against the person's back. Then I assembled the artwork and attached that last by fusing and finally quilted the whole thing. I attached bias tape to the edges with a zig zag stitch to all the edges and it was finished.

     My personal goal is to make wheel chair covers on a regular basis for a retirement home in the long term ward with the understanding that the staff will put them on the wheel chairs in the morning when the patients are using the chairs, and then velcro or pin them onto the curtains that divide the patient’s beds from each other in their rooms in the afternoons when they are in bed so that they can see the art on the cover when they are in bed. I’m going to sew velcro onto the cover and onto the dividing curtain if the staff will allow it. If the retirement home doesn’t like the idea, then I’ll make the covers for children at the local hospital or find a place that will want them on a regular basis. Nov. 14:  I recently found out that they cannot be put onto the curtains because the curtains are fire retardant and the fabrics of the wheelchair covers would have to be fire retardant, also. Makes sense.

     Wheelchair art doesn’t have to be as elaborate as Margaret’s. One of our group made several covers that are blocks of traditional log cabins and her covers are gorgeous. Mine is a bouquet of flowers that I made by fusing fabrics that I fussy cut and fused onto a background and then zig-zagged stitched to make sure they stayed on after machine washed. Anything that is cheerful would be appreciated. But Margaret has truly inspired us at ArtsEtc with her beautiful art and her clever and witty take on these wheelchair covers!
I'm linking this to Off The Wall Friday  where you can visit other art quilt blogs. Please make comments to let the artists know you visited.

28 comments:

  1. This is a fabulous idea and the artwork is ah-mazing! Just wonderful! Thank you for inspiring me to create some chair backs as well.

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    1. I used the basic pattern to cover some chairs with round backs. If you click studio in the list of labels on the sidebar and scroll down the postings to a heading of Making the Studio Nice, you'll see how I did it.

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  2. Wonderful idea! I've been heavily involved with AAQI, and now after raising more than 1 million dollars, the project has concluded. I'll be looking into this concept now!

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  3. Such a great idea. And now I am even looking at my own Dining Room chairs.

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    1. Take a look at the reply to Queenopearls above, Judy.

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  4. What a wonderful idea! All of the ones that you showed are beautiful, each worthy to hang in an art show.

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    1. I agree. They are so incredible. You should see all her others, too. She just keeps going and going.

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  5. This is a fantastic idea! I am going to share this on twitter and with a couple of podcasters (quilty) thank you for doing all that you do for these people, just wonderful :-)

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    1. Thanks for sharing. The more people that know, the more will benefit.

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  6. Really great idea. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. We think it has the potential to be something fantastic.

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  7. grand project! I'm passing it on to my local sewing group
    LeeAnna Paylor
    lapaylor.blogspot.com

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  8. Ohmygosh what a fabulous undertaking.....this is truly a wonderful idea!!!!

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  9. So colorful and bright, we are in talks with a local hospital to have one of our groups exhibits in the main hallway, to add color and something to talk about, what a wonderful idea!

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    1. Can't you just imagine the wheelchairs covered in art as the patients are being transferred around?

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  10. Great idea, I'll bring it up to the group I belong to that does quilts for children in the hospitals cancer center.

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    1. She just did a cover that has a doll with removable dresses (attached with velcro) and the fabric box that holds the dresses is part of the wheelchair cover. How great is that for a little girl!

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  11. How awful that nursing homes would line people up in the hall for hours behind one another's wheelchairs. It makes me sick to think of it. Although this project is well-intentioned and well-executed, it still makes me think of placing art in front of the faces of people who are lying on the street bleeding after a car crash. Perhaps we should be thinking of ways to encourage nursing homes to treat their inmates with greater respect, even though they suffer from dementia.

    Kathy Loomis (no relation to Margaret)

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    1. The patients that are lined up in the hallways are there while they are waiting for the beds to be cleaned and to be taken to appointments or to the dining rooms, etc. Unfortunately, it's impossible to have a staff member with each patient all the time so they do have to be left alone (in their heads) while such transitions are taking place. But there are staff walking around making sure everyone is OK. It's actually a very good facility.

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