Mattress pads don’t last forever. They wear out, the sides tear or the elastic edging loses its stretch. It’s cheaper to buy a new one than it is to replace the elastic. Old pads that are no longer suitable for the bed can be used to make other useful projects.
Veteran’s hospitals, nursing homes, and in-home nursing programs often need bed pads for use with bed ridden patients. Head Start* programs use small nap pads, which are given to the child at the beginning of the year, to take daily naps on. Pads that have fabric on both sides, instead of a plastic material, can also be used for batting in pot holders. Miniature quilts can be used for wall art, similar to the works of Faith Ringhold.
All of these projects are an easy way to try your hand at quilting without taking on a huge project. Youth groups for older girls can make these items for a sewing badge or service project.
If the items are being made for a service project or charity, contact the St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store, 2200 W. Desoto St., 434-6615. They believe that one charity should help another charity. They throw away clothing items that are too stained or worn to resell. Clothing that is made of broadcloth can be cut apart and used to make the quilted top and bottom of these items. Explain your project to them, and they may be willing to donate suitable fabric to your charity or youth group.
If the project is to make bed pads for a nursing home or hospital, you’ll need to contact a facility to find out what size the pads should be. Cut the mattress pad to this size. Cut around the bad spots as much as you can, and trim off the side edging.
Next, make the front and back fabric pieces for each pad. You can piece remnants together, try your hand at appliqué, draw with fabric pens, or just use up scraps in a crazy quilt pattern for the front. The front should be the same size as the pad.
The back should be three to four inches wider and longer than the pad. It’s best to use one piece of fabric, but if you must piece scraps together to make a piece long enough, try to have as few seams along the edges as possible. You may want to piece the center, and then sew long, single piece strips along the edges so that you will only have four seams to contend with.
Lay the back piece face down on a smooth surface. Tape it to the table as tightly as possible. Center the pad on top. Lay the front piece, face up, on top of the pad, matching the edges.
Pin through all three layers with safety pins every four to six inches. A manicure tool or teaspoon can be used to pry up the pin points and guide them into their safety latch.
Machine quilt, starting at the center, and working to the edges. The easiest way to machine quilt is to drop the feed dog on the sewing machine and remove the presser foot. Some machines have a quilting foot. Make sure the presser foot lever is in the down position, or the thread tension will not engage.
Roll up the pad from each long edge towards the center. Pin the roll together with safety pins. Rolling up the quilt will make it easier to feed through the machine without letting the fabric pieces shift.
When you’ve finished quilting, fold the extra back fabric around the edge of the pad. Fold the cut edge under ½ inch and then pin the folded edge over the cut edge of the top. Pin from the center to the corners, trying to match the grain and keep the fabric square. Miter the corners by folding the corners in at a 45 degree angle, the same way that you wrap a flat present in wrapping paper. Pin all four edges, and sew the edge in place.
You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get those old mattress pads out of your linen closet and back into service. The recipients of your pads will be delighted too.
* Paula’s mother, Arleen Knoderer, made nap pads for the Head Start Program in Gravette, Arkansas, and has won several first-place ribbons in the local machine quilting contests.