The Maternity Sewing Podcast Episode 5: Sewing for Dementia with Chuleenan Svetvilas of CSews

Sewing for Dementia with Chuleenan: Podcast Episode 5

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In Episode 5 of the Maternity Sewing Podcast, Erin talks with Chuleenan of CSews about sewing for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and the simple but important things to consider when sewing for someone with dementia that can help both them and their caregiver.

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Show Notes:

You can find Maternity Sewing at Keep in touch with us by following our blog (follow by RSS or followin Bloglovin), following us on Instagram, or liking our Facebook Page. Find friendship and community with other sewists going through pregnancy, nursing, and postpartum life in our Facebook Group.

You can make sure you don’t miss any Maternity Sewing Podcast episodes by following our blog (follow by RSS or follow in Bloglovin) as each episode will have it’s own blog post with show notes and a media player so you can listen directly in the blog post. You can also subscribe to the podcast in whatever way you normally listen to podcasts: in iTunes, Google Play Music, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and Spotify.

You can find Erin Weisbart at Tuesday Stitches is on Instagram and Facebook.

You can find Chuleenan Svetvilas at and on Instagram. Chuleenan has written about sewing for Alzheimer’s on her own blog. She sewed and recommended the Limoncello Cardigan from SBCC for her mother.

Limoncello Cardigan by SBCC

We actually carry a variety of patterns on that would work well for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, following Chuleenan’s suggested criteria of simple openings, simple closures, familiar silhouettes, and comfortable fabrics. Here’s a selection of the patterns:

Do you have an idea for a podcast episode – something or someone you’ve always wanted to know more about? Do you have expertise or an experience you want to share? Email us!


[0:11] Welcome to episode 5 of the maternity sewing podcast. is your source for maternity nursing and postpartum friendly sewing patterns. The maternity sewing podcast is we we have frank conversations, share stories and offer help and inspiration on things like sewing and body positivity, especially during pregnancy and postpartum. Hi I’m Erin Weisbart, also known as Tuesday Stitches. Today I’m going to be talking with Chuleenan of CSews about sewing for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We talk about simple but important things to consider when sewing for someone with dementia to help both them and their caregiver.

[0:58] Hi Chuleenan. Thank you for coming on a podcast. I appreciate having you here. Do you mind starting by just introducing yourself? Thanks for having me. My name is Chuleenan Svetvilas and I have a sewing blog – – and I blog about clothes that I make and often
wearing hats that I collect. I have a lot of vintage hats and other hats. And I’m also the organizer for the Bay Area Sewists Meetup Group.
It is an actual Meetup Group in the Bay Area where people from all over the Bay Area get together once a month and do a bunch of
different things, everything from fabric swaps and pattern swaps to learning about other sewing techniques and things like that.

[1:46] Awesome. So I wanted to have you on the podcast today to talk about one aspect of sewing in particular. You’ve written about sewing for people who have Alzheimer’s so I was wondering if you don’t mind first sharing a little bit about why do you know about this topic? Yeah well it started basically because my mother has dementia. And one of the things that comes up when you’re when someone has dementia is getting dressed actually can become a challenge because their cognitive abilities have sort of

[2:27] changed so things like buttons and zippers, closures can be difficult for them to manage because they just can’t figure it out anymore. Their dexterity you know doesn’t allow them to manage those things anymore so they need clothing that will help them get dressed more easily.
So that means clothes without buttons or without zippers and so obviously with someone who sews you can custom make something or adjust existing clothing to make it easier for them to get dressed.

[3:04] Oh yeah that makes a lot of sense. Both that the great thing about sewing both that you can adjust something that exists already either a pattern you know to take out the closures that might be too complicated or you know pick a pattern that specifically is already lacking those things if you don’t have the comfort level you know sewing comfort level to make those adjustments yourself. That makes a lot of sense and so.

[3:33] You have also talked about how Alzheimer’s and other dementias can kind of be progressive and that the needs might change over time.

[3:48] I was wondering if you could say a word or two about that? Like what you know what that might cause in changes to the wardrobe over time to look out for. Sure it’s like in the earlier stages when people can still dress by themselves then they probably don’t need too much adjustment in their clothing. It’s just once things start to decline then you have to make it easier and make sure the clothes are more simple. My example that I like to use is say the cold shoulder look you’ve got extra openings right at the shoulders and someone with dementia may put their hand through the cold shoulder opening instead of the sleeve opening because you know they’re just putting their hand their an opening

[4:40]and they can’t figure it out anymore. Or if there’s a design for a top that has an opening the back. They’ll put their head they might put their head through that opening instead of the neck opening so having a top that’s very simple with just the openings just the three openings at the arms and at the head makes it easier for them to get dressed. And then for someone who’s helping them get dressed they don’t have to try to manage you know making sure they put a body part through the right opening.

[5:19] As their cognitive ability start to decline even further then it becomes more matter of how do you make sure you have something that’s easy for the caregiver to put on the person so that would mean something that opens in the back so you can just slide their arms through it and then the caregiver will attach it in the back. So like a sewing pattern for top you could just you know

[5:49] make a cut through the center back and then overlap you know the pieces there and put snaps there or a button if the caregiver doesn’t mind buttoning but snaps are probably faster or even velcro for someone to put it on somebody.

[6:13] Yeah that makes a lot of sense and not something that I’ve certainly ever thought about before you know this is being a new topic to me too. What you say

[6:22] you know it’s almost very obvious once you say it but could probably be a bit challenging if you ask me to sit down and come up with those thoughts on my own with somebody that’s not familiar with that it’s great to have to have you share your expertise in that. So you talked you also talked about some sort of general principles, different things to consider when selecting or sewing clothing for someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
And so here you already addressed you kind of mentioned openings – you want to make sure to minimize the openings. And closures so you know velcro being something that would be easy you know for example of something you might want to choose to do velcro instead of buttons or snaps.

[7:14] I think that I’m just I would say I’m just focusing on the people who have sort of like earlier stage and middle stage dementia not someone because there are a later stages which I don’t really know that much about but I know that for some people they have an issue where they might just like actually take off their clothes in public so that mean. So that means that you have to make clothing that it’s hard to get out of that’s a whole other thing which I don’t I can’t really speak to. So again you talked about this is a progressive thing and so the challenges that a person and their caregiver would be facing you know certainly change as the stages of the disease change. And there’s different types of dementia too so that example I was giving is a different type of not necessarily a stage that.

[8:12] everyone goes through. But anyways for someone who does have dementia people just have to keep in mind that they still have feelings and opinions you know just because they have dementia doesn’t mean that they don’t have any feelings.

[8:34] Making something that is familiar to them is something that would give people comfort like if they have favorite colors or designs that they like, make something that’s similar to what they’ve had the before you know as close as you can to some favorite garment. Because that will be something that’s familiar to them and makes them feel happy. And the type of fabric that you use too so softer fabrics are better probably because they feel good on the skin and some things that are like knit fabrics would be good so they’re they’re comfortable because a lot of times you know they spend a lot of time sitting cuz they may not be able to walk very well so you want them to be wearing something that feels good and is very comfortable and has enough ease in it so that nothing’s ver tight fitting so that it’s easy for them to wear and manage.

[9:39] If in terms of talking about familiarity and sewing you know sewing things that are familiar, I know sewists have different opinions. Sometimes some kinds of sewist only want to make things from scratch and never want to touch mending or alterations and other people really thrive on altering things that already exist as a fun challenge and if you’re that kind of person it seems like it’d be a great chance to maybe even take clothing that a person already has and alter them so they’re more

[10:15] that it’s more wearable now that they have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Or they can you know copy existing garments that are favorites and try to make them as close as possible to like what what their favorite’s were. Yeah. Because they still will be their favorites. In some ways I guess it makes it easier because you’re just kind of making the same thing over and over it’s maybe a little boring but it’s it just makes it easier for the person to get dressed in the morning too cuz they’re seeing something that’s familiar. Yeah totally. You know again some sewists hate sewing the same thing twice some people really thrive you know it’s exciting to be able to kind of crank out something that’s familiar and fun. You feel productive. So you know that’s that’s great. So you have sewn for your mother. Can you do you mind sharing about something that you have sewn for your mother? I have sewn a couple things for her since she’s had dementia and one was a cardigan that I used. My mom’s petite she’s lots shorter than I am so I used sbcc’s pattern for a cardigan – the limoncello cardigan.

[11:29] And it’s because it doesn’t have any buttons and it’s kind of flattering cuz it’s kind of drapy and it’s for knits. I thought that was
the ideal pattern because before honestly I didn’t really have time to make anything. When I would be running around like at the department store the petite department trying to find something that would be suitable and it’s like all these things had buttons or they just had things where they weren’t going to work and it was a challenge. So then yeah I was like okay well I got to make sure I set aside some time and you know see if I can make something. So I did make her that cardigan. Great well thank you so much for coming on the maternity sewing podcast to talk about your experiences and share share your stories. We really appreciate having you here. Thanks for having me. That’s it for today’s episode of the maternity sewing podcast you can find maternity sewing at maternity you’ll find a curated pattern shop of maternity nursing and postpartum friendly sewing patterns, our blog where we have sewing tutorials, and inspiration for pregnant nursing and postpartum sewists.

[12:49] and the show notes from all our podcasts at maternity where we link to everything we talked about today
you can also stay in touch with maternity sewing through Facebook page Facebook group and an Instagram as maternity sewing. I’m Erin Weisbart your host today and co-owner of maternity sewing. You can find me at Tuesday and on Instagram as Tuesday stitches. Today I talked with chuleenan of Csews. You can find her at Csew that’s the letter c and on Instagram as csews.

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