"Joe's Quilt" Copyright 2001 Marilyn McCord (with Elaine Luther). All rights reserved.

Copyright 2001 Marilyn McCord (with Elaine Luther)

Have you ever been listening to a podcast or a speech and someone says something exactly as you have thought it, only clearer than you ever thought to say it?

Quilter Sherri Lynn Wood did that for me in an interview on the While She Naps podcast. She said,

“I don’t think of it as memorial quilting, although lots of people call it memorial quilts, I think of it as a bereavement process so the actual physical process of making a quilt mirrors the internal process of bereavement. Of letting go of the clothes, cutting them up, tearing them apart, acknowledging the person is gone.”

Yes! That’s exactly it! That was our experience, my mom’s and mine as we made the quilt from my brother’s clothes, after he died suddenly and unexpectedly.

Sherri continues:

“Re-orienting, you know, you’re very disoriented when you lose somebody very important to you, in your life, so having to repurpose this clothing in new ways and without a pre-determined pattern, without a plan in place, because there is no plan when you lose somebody. And those — working that through with a quilt helps people work through it in their life.

They’re like, ‘Oh, look at this beautiful quilt, I had no idea where I was going or what kind of relationships to make with this, but look how it turned out, it’s okay, I can do that in my life as well.’ “

After my experience, I wanted to bring the process of grief quilting to more people. I tried to write a book about how to make a grief quilt but failed.

That’s why I was so thrilled to hear that Sherri Lynn Wood has written a book! Her book is about her improvisational method for quilting, and she also has many helpful posts and tutorials on her website on how to do an improv style grief quilt.

Her process is called Passage Quilting (TM), what a beautiful name, and she works with people to make their quilts, with her there to guide. What a gift to the world, we need more of that.

I was so interested to hear that Sherri keeps the functional aspects of the clothes — snaps, buttons, pockets, that show what kind of clothing the quilt is made of. We mostly did not do that. She also has the people she is working with hand quilt the quilts, because it’s slow, to take more time with the quilt and the process.

Sherri calls this work Passage Quilts (TM) and her training in ministry helps her as she is present with the person through the process. She calls the way they work — without a pattern — flexible patterning as opposed to fixed patterning.

Want to see? Here’s Sherri’s blog and website, specifically, here is a three part tutorial/quilt-a-long on a Passage Quilts (TM).


Here’s the category on her blog about Passage Quilts (TM):


And here’s her book,

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously by Sherri L. Wood

There’s a need in the world. Many people don’t know how to be with a person who is grieving, or what to say to them (it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say.”).

Many people have a strong need to do something with their hands while they are grieving, and make a quilt is a process that was a tremendously important part of grieving for me. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post and spread the word about Sherri Lynn Wood’s important work.

No one wants to think about death, but maybe make a mental note about this idea. Maybe you can help a friend at some point in the future. Tell them about this idea, give your friend Sherri’s book.



The interview I’m referring to in this post is While She Naps Podcast Episode #53.

I wrote about “Why I Use Quilts in My Art” over here, in this blog post.

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