Guest blogger series: Keepsake quilting

by kath_red on 21/03/2011

in Community + Creativity, Guest Series 2011, Quilting, Whip Up Tutorials

I am so excited to welcome Sherri Lynn Wood from Passage Quilting™ to whipup today. Sherri Lynn is discussing her Keepsake quilting philosophy and will also be hosting on her blog a 3 part series on how to make the quilt that she contributed to Whip Up Mini Quilts book + she is hosting a giveaway of the book.

I combine my knowledge of craft, sculpture, theology, and systems-centered theory to reacquaint people with personal agency, community, love and the basic skills of living. I have been making quilts since 1988 and began blogging in May 2010 at

Quilt Making Heals

In 2001 I was bored with all my materials and tired of consuming in order to create. You should have been at my studio sale as I purged my stash!

I was yearning to work with people in a more meaningful way. So I switched from an object based art practice, where I made decorative quilts for people’s homes, to a service based practice. I began working with people in transition to make improvisational quilts from their memory rich materials, such as the clothing of a loved one who had died. I soon realized the healing power of this hands-on, quilt making approach to bereavement, and named it Passage Quilting™ .

Gerda Renee Blumenthal (1923 – 2004), 74” x 80”, Fragments of Gerda’s housecoats, fancy dresses, sweaters, suits. Made for her nephew Peter Romani.

Gerda Renee Blumenthal (1923 – 2004) 67″ x 78”, Fragments of Gerda’s housecoats, fancy dresses, sweaters, suits. Made for her nephew Michael Brenson.

Gerda Blumenthal’s clothes and the two quilts made from them are pictured above:

Over years of working with people in the midst of change and loss, distinct correlations between Passage Quilting™ and the bereavement process became apparent:
1. The Clothing Left Behind is the gift that holds the story and memories of the person who gathered and wore them over time. In a way working with this clothing is a collaboration with the beloved.
2. Choosing The Clothing is an opportunity to gather together and actively remember, share and tell the stories of a person’s life, relationships and death.
3. Cutting The Clothing Apart is a definitive and symbolic acknowledgment of change and the beginning of transformation. The word bereavement literally means “to tear or rend apart.”
4. Remembering The Body through the architecture of the clothing holds the personal essence of the beloved. It is the starting point for the improvisational piecework.
5. Improvisational Piecework, piecing the quilt top without a predetermined pattern, provides a model for examining life patterns during a time of disorientation.
6. Hand Quilting provides an opportunity for reflection, meditation and prayer. It serves as a safe container for experiencing intense emotions of grief over time.
7. Quilting Together can be an opportunity for sharing emotions and experiences in fellowship with others.
8. The Finished Quilt is functional, providing warmth, comfort and consolation. It serves as a vehicle for remembering and sharing the life of the beloved.

Linda Susan Wood (1943 – 2003), 2006, A passage quilt I made for myself from my mother’s clothing.

The process outlined above can apply to just about any life transition including divorce, empty nest, menopause, career changes, marriage, birth and more. When Kathreen asked me to submit a project for her book, Whip-up Mini-Quilts. I presented the idea of a Keepsake quilt based on the Passage Quilting™ process (see the first image above).

To create the sample for Kathreen’s book, I asked a friend of mine, who at the time had a three year old, if I could make the mini-quilt in celebration of her maternity experience and the birth of her first child. She gave me a favorite sailor suit worn by her son when he was an infant along with one of her favorite maternity tops.

Interested in exploring an important life passage by making a quilt? Join me on and enter a giveaway to win a copy of Kathreen’s Whip-up Mini-Quilt book. Then gather your materials and stay tuned for a three part Keepsake Mini-Quilt / Passage Quilting™ How-to on daintytime in March.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nancy March 21, 2011 at 8:46 am

Wonderful Idea and beautiful work. Recently I turned my father in-law’s logo’d T-Shirts and Sweatshirts in to throw pillows for his sons and grandchildren. The process of selecting the items and gifting the results was similarly satisfying, These memory quilts are a very nice interpretation. I love your work. What lovely heirlooms they will make for the families!


2 Heather March 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Thanks so much Shari! I really like how you identify the physical steps of the process and connect them to the therapeutic.


3 Trina March 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

This is a wonderful idea!


4 Siobhan March 21, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Great Info/story and I agree completely


5 Prettydog Vineyard/Kazz March 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Recycling at its best…when you can’t throw something away for whatever reason, turn it into something useful, brilliant!!… ….would love this


6 blandina March 22, 2011 at 2:39 am

Thank you for explaining the process. I tend to shut the doors on the past but maybe it is not the best of solutions, I have memories anyway.
It is a good topic for thought, thank you Shari.


7 Gwen Putnam March 22, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Your work shows great love.


8 Lisa March 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm

My father in law passed away 2 yrs ago, and I asked for his checked dress shirts. I knew I would want to do something with them one day. Well the day came when my sister in law had her first child, a baby who she doesn’t get to introduce to her Dad. I found a perfect quilt with simple bunting flags going across it. The hardest part was cutting his shirts – it meant he would never be wearing them again. So I thought hard, and got out a great picture of my father in law; then I found the shirt he was wearing in the picture. It honestly made cutting his shirts that much easier, and I made the rest of the quilt with his picture propped on the shelf over my sewing machine. He isn’t here anymore but my nephew gets to be wrapped up in his shirts and I do know it will always promp my sister in law to tell her son stories about her Dad.


9 kath_red March 27, 2011 at 12:15 am

Thank you all for sharing your stories. I hope you join in with the Keepsake quilt along in a weeks time.


10 Bev Schwedes March 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm

For my memory quilt I would use clothes my grandchildren had grown out of ,print photos of them in them on to fabric .I would then log cabin around the photo with fabric of those clothes.Making a 12inch block . I would keep doing this until I had enough for a quilt to give them for their 21st birthday.


11 Barbara March 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

What a wonderful idea for a beautiful gift! My little ones are a not tiny anymore but it’s never to late to start, I think.


12 Kathy Raabe March 28, 2011 at 8:21 am

I’ve done this for some people and it’s very theraputic for the survivors. Great idea, makes a purpose for their belongings left, good memories.


13 Julia Davis-Coombs March 28, 2011 at 9:07 am

Fantastic. I’ve mostly made bespoke projects for widowed friends using their late husbands’ neckties. The joy they find in an everyday useful object made from ‘useless’ things they’d kept (one for 25 years!) is priceless.


14 Jmbmommy March 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

I love hearing about your process. This way of dealing with life’s transitions is so useful and wonderful. Thank you


15 Angi Healy March 28, 2011 at 9:31 am

Love the quilts. What a warm and comforting item. I do something similar. I make pillows mostly out of “Dad’s” neckties, but also out of sweaters, shirts, blouses, any favorite old clothing of a deceased love one. I call them “Hugs from Heaven ®” (my registered trade mark). I take orders for them at craft shows and will soon be adding them to my blog spot.
: ) ♥ ^j^


16 Elizabeth Grundstrom March 28, 2011 at 9:42 am

A friend of mine lost her husband tragically last year and she has 3 young daughters. I made 3 stuffed elephants from an old shirt, bathrobe, and new Easter shirt worn once. It was hard to cut into the bathrobe because I thought if it were my huband I would want to curl up in it. So I cut carefully along the hem so she could use the bathrobe. Another friend made quilts for each of the girls with those shirts and others from him. The girls can snuggle with dad now.


17 vicki March 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

I recently lost a dear lady I used to work for, she gave me loads of
beautiful hand crocheted doylies that I am going to use on a crazy quilt one day.
lovely touching sentiments in the above.


18 Judy Forehand March 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

My husband always wore cotton/polyester shirts from Haband or Blair with four pockets and tucks and embroidery down the front and back. We even buried him wearing one of them. I’ve saved the shirts and plan to make each of his six children quilts using them. Anyone with suggestions, please advise. I hope to use the pockets and the embroidered area in the blocks. I’m a symetrical person which means I will want uniform blocks, but still tell his story. I have a Bernina embroidery machine that I like to use in quilting, too.


19 Mandy March 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I found this very inspiring. I really wish I had some of my Grans clothes to make a quilt, but unfortunatley I wasn’t quilting when she died and never thought of it. But what a lovely way to remember; I can remember some of her dresses, aprons, etc and it would be so nice to be able to bring out a little quilt made from them now. I can really understand the therapeutic benefit of this process following bereavement. Thank you.


20 Diane March 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

I lost a son in a construction accident and made teddy bears and have started a quilt out of his jeans. It really helped me through my sadness.


21 Jeani March 29, 2011 at 3:05 am

This is such a wonderful idea. Wish I would of been quilting when my Grandparents passed away would of loved to have done this. But while cleaning out my grand-mother house found 20 block that she had made out of some of her cloths. This compelled to finish these block into a quilt. Never had quilted but got me a quilting book and have been quilting ever since.24 years now.


22 Shannon ButtonMad May 6, 2011 at 5:03 am

very touching post. and same goes for the replies too. seems its true what they say ; quilting is therapy


23 kath_red May 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm

wonderful replies from everyone


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