A talented Aberdeen-based quilter has been finding ways to combat loneliness and keep busy during lockdown. Anne Ellington, 62, has been making special ‘fidget blankets’ designed to help people living with dementia – and care home residents in Huntly are seeing the benefit.

Anne, known as ‘Terri’ by her friends and family, was forced to stop working due to poor health before the lockdown. After being diagnosed with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, Anne has been unable to work. That, combined with the isolation of lockdown, meant Anne had to find a new focus.

“I like to keep my mind occupied, but more than ever over the last year during lockdown,” said Anne. “I really miss working, so I’ve treated the different projects I’ve found a bit like work.”

When Coronavirus hit, Anne made over 250 scrub bags for nurses to keep their clothes in when on shift. Then, one day she saw a video on YouTube about fidget mitts, quilts and blankets for people living with dementia. Having worked in a care home as cook in the past, Anne remembered the residents and the challenges facing those living with dementia.

Feeling inspired, she did a call-out on Facebook for anyone interested in receiving some fidget blankets. Richard Lake from Balhousie Huntly care home got in touch and was keen to receive some for the residents. The home was “overwhelmed” by Anne’s donation, who made 35 blankets adorned with all sorts of bits and pieces designed to help trigger memories, from soft toys and baby clothes to buttons, ribbons and zips.

Richard said: “I’m so glad that we saw Anne’s Facebook post about her beautiful fidget blankets and we’ve been overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness. It’s been a tremendous collaboration so far and I’ve been so impressed by all of her creations. Our residents have already benefitted from the blankets, which are such a comfort to those living with dementia and a wonderful way to trigger memories.”

This is not the first time Anne has thrown herself into something new. Tragically, Anne lost her son, Bryan, who passed away in 2005 when he was just 22. He was studying fashion and textiles and, to honour his memory, Anne decided to go to college to finish what he started.

“I was 50 years old when I signed up to study fashion and textiles at Aberdeen College,” Anne recalled. “In my first class, the lassies all had pink and purple hair – I must have seemed like an old lady to them.” Far from being out of her depth, Anne won several prizes for ‘Best Student’ and was even offered a place at Aberdeen’s Gray’s School of Art, but university wasn’t for her and she’d finished what Bryan started.

With her focus firmly on helping people with dementia, Anne is planning to make more fidget blankets for residents in other care homes across Scotland. To fund the materials, Anne has been appealing for donations through social media and purchasing items through Facebook Marketplace.

“Up until now, I’ve managed to pull together the materials and all the features, such as the baby items and toys for the fidget blankets, myself or from Facebook Marketplace where people have been very generous. It would be lovely if I could pick up more materials to keep making these. Next, I’m planning to make some blankets suitable for gentlemen with neck ties, laces and leather patches. It’s been lovely to see the residents at Balhousie Huntly getting so much enjoyment out of them.”

If you would like to help Anne make more fidget blankets by making a donation or donating items for the blankets, please contact Anne at anne.ellington@hotmail.co.uk