I know, it’s such an adorable and silly name for a thing, but a crochet twiddlemuff is a fun and easy crochet or knit item you can make to help someone with dementia, Alzheimers or Autism.
But, what is a crochet twiddlemuff? Good question! It’s a hand muff with lots of different textures and embellishments such as ribbons, buttons, beads, zips and pom poms designed to provide sensory therapy for dementia patients. It provides not only warmth, but a focus for often-restless hands, and has been shown to calm and sooth dementia patients. You can also make them as mats, wrist cuffs, lap blankets or quilts, and the mat versions are also known as “fidget mats” or “fidget quilts”.
A news story on the ABC from 2016 described them as:
“Twiddle Muffs are sensory comforts for people who have restless hands,” Bundaberg Regional Council community development officer Bev Devlin said.
“They’re actually called a Twiddle Muff because you put your hands in the muff and then you get to twiddle.
“Inside the muffs there are lots of different objects of all different shapes and sizes, textures and colours.”
Restless hands are a common symptom of anxiety that people with dementia, autism, Asperger’s and mental health issues can suffer from.
“Twiddle Muffs originated in the United Kingdom, where they have been found to lower anxiety because people have something to do with their hands,” Ms Devlin said.
“They lower anxiety, reduce medication and bring people comfort.”
Twiddle Muffs have been found to be useful for many people with special needs in aged care homes, hospitals and schools.”
There’s no set pattern for a twiddlemuff – you can knit, crochet or sew the base, and then embellish as you see fit. Some of the items I’ve seen used include buttons, ribbons, beads, zips, velcro patches, shoe laces, pom poms, squeeze balls, fluffy yarn, crocheted curlicues – basically anything, as long as it provides some sort of sensory stimulation, is securely attached, and is either washable or removable for washing. Small pockets are also great for holding a tissue or similar – I’ve made some small granny squares in matching yarn and sewn them on as pockets.
The crochet twiddlemuffs above are ones I’ve made in the last week, and instructions for these particular ones are as follows:
Scrap yarn – for the base, keep it roughly the same weight of yarn – I used DK acrylic
Crochet hook to suit yarn – I used a 4mm Clover Amour hook
Darning needle and strong thread (embroidery thread, upholstery thread or dental floss are good)
Backing fabric – I used really thick polar fleece for softness and warmth
Chain 60, or enough with your choice of yarn and hook to obtain width of around 27cm (10.5″)
Turn and chain 2 (does not count as stitch here or elsewhere), then Half Double Crochet across. You can, of course, use any stitch you like, but I’ve found HDC provides a nice, dense base, while still being quite flexible. You can mix up your stitches throughout the piece, too – I like to put in a few rows of bobble stitches for texture. I also do a few rows of DC so I can weave ribbon in and out of the stitches. Just use your imagination and have fun!
Repeat rows, changing stitch and colour any time you like, until piece measures around 36cm (14″) and finish off.
You should now have a crocheted rectangle measuring 27cm X 36cm (approximately)
Add embellishments to crochet rectangle, making sure everything is very securely attached for safety.
Next it’s time to sort out the backing fabric. Measure your rectangle carefully, and cut out a rectangle of fleece that is 1cm smaller on all sides.
You’ll also need to embellish the fleece, so that there are sensory objects on the inside of the muff, too. I like to use a bunch of crocheted curlicues, a pom pom, and a few beads or buttons sew on securely.
Put the wrong sides of the crocheted rectangle and the fleece together and stitch together, leaving a space around the edge of roughly 1cm. I hand stitched mine with a basic blanket stitch, but you could easily use a sewing machine, too. As I changed yarn colour in nearly every row with mine, I obviously had a heap of yarn ends, which I just knotted and tucked inside the backing fabric to avoid having to sew them all in, I mean, who wants to do that?
Another option is to leave all the ends sticking out of the seam and trim them evenly into a cute fringe for some extra texture.
Fold your crochet twiddlemuff in half, fleece side up, so that your starting chain and finishing rows are at the sides, and securely sew together to form a tube.
Attach yarn on the side, next to the seam, and crochet 2 rows of HDC around the cuff, and finish with a row of slip stitch to give a nice finish. Repeat for the other side, turn inside out and your twiddlemuff is ready to go!
The Crochet For Charity group I’m a part of are making these to donate to hospitals and nursing homes with dementia care units, where we hope they’ll bring some joy and calmness. You may want to make one for a friend or family member – they’re also popular to help kids with autism, anxiety and many other conditions.
As always, Pins, shares and comments are all much appreciated – if you’ve made a crochet twiddlemuff before, or have seen how they can help, please do drop me a comment below.