Today was a day of learning how to do something I’ve never had to before, but think the skills will come in handy. I’m glad I have a sewing machine, but still prefer to make quilts as opposed to what I did today.

My uncle is in a Long Term Care facility, and is confined to either bed or a Broda Chair. His mobility has deteriorated along with his health, and he no longer has the ability to even dress himself. It is quite sad to see him that way, but he doesn’t appear to be bitter about it, at least not that I have seen.

The staff is great with him and the other residents, and they want them to feel as at-home as possible. That means getting them out of bed and dressed each day, and involving them in recreational activities. Due to my uncle’s mobility issues, the staff requested modified clothing for him. Sure, adaptive clothing can be purchased, but around here it’s not available. It can be ordered online, but there is no way to know what one is getting until it arrives. Plus, it is expensive. 

After spending some time on Pinterest yesterday (such a wonderful place for ideas), I found a couple of blogs that actually explained how to modify a person’s existing wardrobe. I had to improvise somewhat, because I can’t just go down the street if I need a certain type of fastener or different colour of thread. Thankfully I have a good supply of notions and material, and the ability to operate a sewing machine. 

For the shirts, I cut them up the middle of the back, then hemmed the raw edges and attached ties. I used Velcro for one, but the adhesive backing made it difficult to sew through. I do have to give credit to my daughter for suggesting ties. I hadn’t thought of something that simple. I had tried to use snaps, but the hem was too thick and they wouldn’t work. 

I did take a screenshot of a design where part of the back is actually cut away to eliminate the bulk of fabric. If my first method doesn’t work, I will modify again. The staff will let me know whether or not my seamstress abilities are satisfactory.

The shirts can then be slipped on from the front, and he doesn’t have to raise his arms or put them behind him to get dressed. These are movements we often take for granted, but as a person who has had a shoulder injury, I can empathize to a degree.

For the pants, I made a cut through the waistband about three inches from the side seam, then down the seat several inches. I then cut across the seat about to the same distance from the other side seam. I made a small rolled hem (wishing I had an attachment for doing so), then attached ties. The back opens up wide to make it easier to put them on, and the ties are fastened so the pants don’t fall forward while he’s seated. 

From the front, it looks like he is wearing regular clothing, which will make him feel better. He was a farmer who was always busy doing something, and dressed in his work pants and shirts. Being in a hospital gown or pyjamas has had to have a negative effect on him.

If my sewing skills are as good as I like to think, then the staff will be pleased. If not, then I will have to think outside the box and try again.

Needless to say, it has been a life changing day for me as well. I had a lot of time to think about the process when I wasn’t swearing at my machine. (I broke a needle and had to re-thread the machine several times . These aging eyes don’t make that an easy task in itself.) I can only hope my mobility isn’t limited like that when I get to be his age (80 next month), but there are no guarantees. Life ends quickly for some (my dad passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest over two years ago) and it drags on for others to the point of becoming completely dependent on others (as it is for my uncle). It’s amazing how brothers can have such different endings, although they were always together in life.

The photo is of the first pair of pants before I did any hemming. They look absolutely huge, but we bought a size up to allow for some leeway in the modification process.

Have you had to modify clothing for special needs? If so, did you find the process easy or challenging?