Mom is doll collector fanatic. Two rooms of her home have been taken over by this hobby and it has overflowed to other rooms as well. She used to make beautiful, intricate dresses from a slew of sample wedding gowns she purchased (over 300). Then stopped about 10 years ago. Now this is all she talks about.....making dresses once again. She still has all the supplies she needs (a basement packed and we run up and down trying to find the "right material") and an accessible sewing machine. Problem is she just can't do it any longer.....frustrations run high trying to thread the machine (she forgets how) and then misplaces the patterns she's using and can never find her pin cushion. It's a disaster. My suggestion is to remove everything that reminds her of sewing, but that would be the dolls would have to go because they are a constant reminder. And that would just never fly. Any suggestions would be helpful....we've tried diversion tactics, but nothing seems to interest her. She refuses to go to any of the senior centers for activities. She's driving my dad and us crazy. Did I mention she is very strong willed and stubborn beyond measure? Help!!

P.S. We are still working on the AL.....which I know would just put a stop to all this.

Find Care & Housing
Is there something different she could do with the dolls? Tell each doll's story, written or recorded? Photograph them too? At the end of making the clothes, now might be the time to archive the achievement.
Helpful Answer (17)
Reply to ArtistDaughter
mek1951 Aug 16, 2019
See 2 more replies
Abby, your mom has dementia, yes? Trying to explain, rationally, something to a person with dementia is well nigh impossible.

I have two thoughts. One is to disappear the gowns, sewing machine and maybe the dolls. She'll be angry, but she may be less frustrated. Tell her that they were discovered to have bedbugs or something.

The other thing you might try is, if she's having a rational spell ( they DO happen) is to show her an article about poor brides in need of wedding gowns. Does she have some charitable instincts? Would she be happy to make others happy?
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to BarbBrooklyn

I sew, I know the peace and contentment that she is searching for. The creating of beautiful or useful items, the rhythm of the sewing machine, the mindless concentration that allows you the ability to think, the purpose, these are what sewing means for me, judging from responses I am not the only one that finds sewing beyond therapeutic.

What about you helping her with keeping track of items and threading the machine? Then encourage her to make lap throws or baby blankets that can be delivered to the neonatal ICU or to the AL you are hoping to get her in. She can do them as simple 2 sided throws or use scraps and sew them together randomly, which is pretty simple. Or make blankets for the local animal shelter? Lots of simple items that have a tremendous need and impact. Directing her to be helpful might be the change needed for her to switch gears. Just an idea.

Another thought, would she be willing to part with any dolls? If yes she could adopt a woman and children crisis home and make small throws and gift a doll and blanket for the little girls in the shelter, and make larger ones for the older girls who are oft times forgotten in these places.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to Isthisrealyreal
my2cents Aug 16, 2019
Good idea on the baby blankets - easy straight lines and bigger items without intricate detail and can convince her it is to help someone else.
What a dilemma.I love to sew. I love to make Kimonos. And I can just FEEL what this would be like. Because you would WANT to do it and be unable. I wish I could advise. I hate like heck to think of taking it from her. But I hate the frustration of it for her. Is there anything like handstitching that might work, something else in really simple needlework, like rugbwork that you poke through the holes and tie?
My heart aches for her.
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to AlvaDeer
MaryKathleen Aug 19, 2019
My heart aches for her too. I don't have dementia and at 85 I can't sew like I used to. It is so frustrating.
I have always LONGED to be able to sew, but I was so inept that MY FATHER had to make my dainty apron or I would still be in 7th grade today!

There are really delightful projects available in our local Walmart, that through the magic of Velcro, super glue, self stick fabric tape, iron-on appliqué and other such materials, can produce a finished product that even I am incapable of ruining, and look REALLY GOOD.

I haven’t seen any doll dresses specifically but you might find a substitute that can satisfy her creative heart without creating frustration.

I’d also try the local craft stores and dollar stores. Maybe she’d be willing to try to “help” YOU make an autumn wreath for your front door or Christmas ornaments for the Church Bazaar or how about making doll furniture (kits available) ??

If she’s willing to TRY something different, of course she’d be praised outlandishly for her project. Hopefully you can find something FUN for her!!
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to AnnReid
tacy022 Aug 16, 2019
Lol, about the apron. My grandma tried to teach me to fix a shirt button, that didnt work out so well. I found a seamstress that does it for $5 a button 👍.
See 2 more replies
Oh Abby, how awful for you and your poor mother. Can you imagine the frustration for her?!

I don't know if this would be worth trying, but what about undressing the dolls and talking to her about how their costumes were made? If you can divert her onto dressing and undressing rather than making new models, and tactfully remove triggers like the sewing machine bit by bit, perhaps it would help to wean her off.

She doesn't like petit point or anything like that? Far fewer steps to tax her functional memory, and there are some beautiful materials to work with.

Or... this is a long shot... if you have a college or school near you that offers a related course, what about seeing if you can recruit an "apprentice"? Your mother could pass on some of her fund of knowledge, and the student being on hand could keep the pin cushion and pattern and notions in order. (This might also be a handy way of finding a "good home" for some of the surplus stash).

We have an acronym in knitting circles: SABLE, which stands for Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy - and we're all guilty!
Helpful Answer (11)
Reply to Countrymouse

I'm not a sewer but I am a knitter, and I feel bad for your mom. I also feel bad for you and your dad. Does your mom remember making all those dresses for her dolls? Would she let you take off one of the dresses, turn it inside out, and examine it? Might that be enough to keep her interested and away from the patterns?
Helpful Answer (10)
Reply to NYDaughterInLaw

I began sewing when I was 13, progressing into making suits.  There's an inherent peace and sense of accomplishment in sewing.  

What I'd try is something simple, like the "fidget blankets".  Let her select the fabric, cut it, select the thread too.  You can baste it for her, and if she can't follow that using the machine (which you could also thread for her), just let her do whatever she can.   Hand sewing might be easier, especially if her vision isn't that strong.   (As I aged I had to remove my glasses more frequently to get a good look at what I was doing!)

It's going to be hard to balance the frustration of noncomprehension with the past benefit of accomplishment, but sometimes just handling the fabric and caressing it creates satisfaction.   

Help her by putting the patterns in a place you can find, if she can't, by threading the machine needle, and by creating several different pincushions, some of which you'll keep handy for her when others can't be located.

But I do think that fidget blankets might work; there's no set pattern, stitching can be done by hand, and it doesn't matter what the finished product looks like.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to GardenArtist
MaryKathleen Aug 19, 2019
I was thinking crazy quilts, but since she isn't a quilter probably wouldn't work.
Thank you everyone for great suggestions.....sometimes we just get so bogged down with the day to day that seemingly clear alternatives are blurred with our own frustrations as well. Hopefully mom will expand her horizons and find enjoyment once again in her long lost hobby.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Abby2018

You can try giving her a project that requires shoe laces to 'sew' with rather than a sewing machine. Or an activity such as Lacing cards & Sewing cards:
The first photo on this link shows a lacing project from Melissa & Doug puzzles. They make fantastic products which you can check out online or at Wal Mart.

Also, check out this Pinterest link for sewing ideas for those with dementia:

When I go into work tonight at the Memory Care community where I work, I will ask if the activity director knows of any special ideas for people such as your mom.

Best of luck!
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to lealonnie1

See All Answers

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter