In a little room just off the main lobby at Sunset Manor, six sewing machines have been humming once a week for seven weeks as young girls worked away on special, very practical gifts for people they had never met.
Jan Sparling, a retired nurse and volunteer at Sunset Manor led the class, teaching girls from eight to 11 years old the basics of sewing. They each made a fidget blanket, a polar fleece lap-sized blanket covered in items like patches, pockets, zippers, buttons and small toys. Their intended recipients were residents of the Sunset Manor dementia ward.
“Fidgeting is common with dementia,” said Sunset Manor activationist Katie Goodine. “I think they forget purposeful movement, and they lose some of their dexterity. To have something tangible to hold and touch is a sensory piece that is huge for someone with dementia.”
Sparling taught a teen sewing class at the library recently called Sew Good, which helped youth learn how to sew personal items. As a volunteer at Sunset Manor, she saw another need and started the Sewing For Ages program at Sunset Manor. She borrowed sewing machines from a few friends, and, through word-of-mouth, there were six girls enrolled in the pilot project.
“They were so eager,” said Sparling.
Kayla MacNeil, 8, Kaylan Hogg, 10, Charlotte Rodgers, 11, Tessa Cheek, 11, Maddison Lougheed, 10 and Hermoine Clarke, 11, each presented their hand-crafted fidget blankets to residents on Tuesday evening, June 12. They picked the names of the residents from a list but weren’t given any information about them. Instead, the girls made a card to go with the blanket and included details about themselves for the residents.
Kaylan Hogg said this was the first time she learned about sewing, and she found it both “difficult” and “easy at times.”
Charlotte Rodgers said it was easier “once you catch on.”
The girls lined up to present their blankets one at a time to the residents.
“I’m excited and also a little bit nervous,” said Rodgers. Later she said the best part of making the blanket was seeing how happy it made the residents to receive them.
When Joyce received a blanket from Hogg, she exclaimed it was “just like Christmas.”
According to a news release from Sunset Manor, word about the Sewing for Ages program has already spread and residents have donated sewing machines and fabric for future classes.
“This program has been a wonderful way to bring both generations together and we encourage everyone to find out how they can get involved,” stated the news release.