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Napkin project helps reconnect loved ones

  • Date: 28 August 2014
  • Artform: Visual arts
  • Area: South West
Two women holding napkins and laughing Artist Deirdre Nelson looking at a napkin with one of the Saffron Gardens residents, Jim Wileman

More than 120 embroidered napkins have been presented to Brunelcare's Saffron Gardens dementia care home at the culmination of the Napkin Project.

Arts and health consultancy Willis Newson were awarded £7,000 through our Grants for the arts scheme to run a volunteer craft project with the community.

The aim of the project was to raise awareness of the importance of being creative to support people with dementia. Rather than simply producing a leaflet asking for help, they developed a more original and inspiring way to spread the word.

Working with the community

Artist Deirdre Nelson worked closely with staff and residents at the care home. She realised that a napkin wasn't just functional, it took on a great significance for people with dementia; they related to and interacted with them.

Deirdre and Willis Newson worked with community volunteers to embroider napkins. These were used as a tool to help people with dementia remember and reconnect with loved ones and objects from their past.

Generations of families and work colleagues shared their sewing skills. A series of napkins was produced which celebrate images of what people love and value about home.

The napkins were presented at a celebratory tea party for Saffron Gardens staff and residents.

Lin Feist, Manager of Saffron Gardens dementia care home in Bristol said: 'What appealed to me most about the project is what a fantastic reminiscence tool the napkins are. They help family members engage with their loved ones and have a focused talking point which can become a lot harder when they have dementia.'
One volunteer embroiderer said: 'We have lost one family member to dementia and have another who is also suffering, so we know how little things can help. I haven't embroidered for many years and my daughters have yet to learn so this is a lovely process for all of us.'

The Napkin Project has been so successful at inspiring people with dementia and raising awareness of the importance of creativity that the team have decided to extend the project.

You can discover more about the project on the Napkin Project website.

For more information about Grants for the arts, see

For further advice, phone 0845 300 6200 or email