Crutches provide support when one or both legs are injured or weak. Crutches widen the stance for the user, creating more stability while keeping the user upright. They transfer the vertical force from the legs to the arms. So, the crutch pads must be strong, but also cushion the hands as they support the person.
Types of Crutches
There are three major types of crutches. The axillary crutch is the most familiar model. This crutch has a stable top with an adjustable crosspiece midway down the unit. The weight of the user is supported by the hands grasping the cross piece. The top of the crutch should fit two inches below the armpit of the user. One or two crutches can be used. Another common crutch is the forearm crutch. As its name implies, the top of forearm crutches fits around the forearm. The user grasps a handle on a shaft that reaches the ground to support his weight. The third type of crutch, called the tricep or platform crutch, supports the entire weight of the user when needed. This crutch fits around the upper arm while the lower arm rests on a padded platform. The platform rests on top of a single shaft that is fit to the height of the user. The user grasps a small handle located at the front of the platform.
When designing crutch covers, safety must be the first concern. Any fabric or plastic cover must be fixed tightly to the crutch to prevent slippage. At no time should the base, or toe, of the crutch be covered with anything other than a medically recommended material. There are a wide variety of crutch toes on the market, including non-skid, ice gripping and even shock absorbing materials. These should not be changed or altered without discussing the option with the physician or physical therapist.
Making a Pad Cover
When sewing a cover for an armpit pad, start by tracing the contours of the pad on a piece of paper. Measure the width of the pad and add half of this amount to the height of the pattern. This allows the user to slip the cover over the pad. Finally, add a quarter-inch seam and hem allowance. Cut out the paper pattern and place it on a folded piece of the desired fabric. This creates two identical fabric pieces. Cut out the fabric and sew the hem on the bottom of both pieces. Pin the two pieces together and stitch around the top contours of the pad cover with right sides together. Turn the cover inside out and slip it over the armpit pad of the crutch. Pin the bottom together under the pad cover with a safety pin.
Making a Handle Cover
The crutch handles support the body and bear all the pressure of the hands. Hands get sweaty and dirty, so covering the handle creates a cleaner, more attractive crutch. Choose soft fabric to add comfort to the handle. A quick way to cover the handle is to measure the circumference of the grip. Cut a strip of fabric that is 1 inch longer than the circumference and wider than the pad. Sew a half-inch hem on either long side of the strip. With right sides together, sew the short ends of the strip together and turn it inside out. Remove the handle from the crutch, and slide the handle into the small tube. Replace the handle at the proper height for the user.
Knit or Crochet Cover
Fabric is not the only material that can cover crutch pads. Use the same pattern to knit or crochet a cover out of soft yarn. Start your knitting project by casting on enough stitches to cover the width of the crutch below the pad. Add an extra stitch on either side, every other row until the piece is wide enough to cover the crutch pad. Knit the piece until it is long enough to cover the pad. Reduce the width by one stitch on either side, every other row until both sides match when the piece is folded in half. Cast off. Stitch the sides of the piece together and slip the kitted cover over the pad. Secure from below with a safety pin.