Passage Quilting™ Bereavement Workshop in Cincinnati

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In December I was invited to lead a bereavement, memorial quilt making workshop in Cincinnati. Six people attended, each with the loss of a child, parent, or close friend. Everyone brought clothing of the person they were mourning to use as the material for their quilts.

We began the two day workshop sitting around an alter we made of photographs of the ones we loved and lost. Each person brought one piece of clothing to the alter and shared the story that it contained. Soon we were cutting up the wedding dresses, the jeans, the soft baby toys, the nightgowns, and the work shirts of our beloved.

After lunch the reconstruction began. We didn’t have pre-determined patterns to follow. Each person worked intuitively and with the architecture of the clothing to reorder the fragments into new patterns and transformed relationships.

The next day we sat around the alter again and shared the many insights that came up overnight because of the process. People brought relief, fear, anger, sadness, gratitude, compassion, love, and forgiveness to the table. No one’s feeling or experience was left out. The group was able to hold everyone’s different expressions of grief.

We followed this time of sharing with another full day of cutting and sewing. We learned new patchwork and improvisational skills. We learned how to piece organically without rulers, how to sew knits, hand stitch delicate elements of clothing, and how to pull it all together into a composition. From my perspective it was an abundant time, full of sorrow, joy, friendship, and healing.

If you are interested in finding out more: Passage Quilting™ is a hands-on bereavement process that I developed and began facilitating in the fall of 2001.

This entry was posted in Art and Social Practice, Events and Workshops, Passage Quilting™ and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Passage Quilting™ Bereavement Workshop in Cincinnati

  1. Pauline says:

    My grandma that raised me as a mom past away 7 years ago I started a bereavement quilt right away worked on it about 8 months got a divorce from the father of my children of 13 years now 6 years later I’ve been married 2 years again to a very loving laid back man … I’m finally at peace again so I’d love to work on it again … I loved reading everyone of these messages and imagining the quilt ❤️❤️❤️ Lots and lots of love shared on here !!!!!

  2. Shawny says:

    When my father died, nearly ten years ago, my sister and I took his Western shirts, jeans and some green and yellow uniform shirts from the tractor company he worked for most of his life. We used the “Morning Star” pattern (backed with a soft flannel backing) to make a beautiful quilt for our mother. Now when she is lonely for her husband, she can wrap herself in his love.

  3. Pingback: Passage Quilting™ with Ruth Anne | daintytime ~ Sherri Lynn Wood

  4. Julie Yarnall says:

    We lost our little boy, Tyler, when he was 10 1/2 years. For a long time I could not part with anything of his. Then, someone told me about a bereavement quilt. I gathered all of his clothing and he had lots and gave most to my aunt and mother-in-law who both quilt. They made several quilts for me, 2 we kept (one in Christmas clothing they made a beautiful Christmas quilt, the other were colors that matched my greatroom). The others were made for very special people in his life and the clothing selected meant something to that family/person, ex: anything Disney was made into a Disney quilt and given to my sister who had taken him to Disney twice in his life. The quilts are beautiful and bring each of us such comfort, having a bit of him with us still and as we look at the quilts, we have all those precious memories. I would suggest such a quilt to anyone who has suffered a loss of a loved one in their life.

  5. Annette says:

    When my brother in law passed away in 2004, I took his jeans and made each of his siblings a picnic quilt, using 8″ squares with ants marching on the quilt. For the ants I used material that his mother had of clothes that all the kids would recognize as items that she or their father had worn. No two ants are the same. The quilts turned out great and gives them lots of memories.

  6. Jennie says:

    I read an article in our local paper about a lady who was pregnant with a little boy who had Downs Syndrome and she had lost her job and would not be able to work full time because it would keep her from getting the insurance that she was going to need for her baby when he was born. She seemed to be hammered with hard luck and when I read the article I felt like I HAD to find this lady and be a friend to her. I was pregnant as well and really didn’t have the extra money to send her so I located her online and we became fast friends. I sent her coupons and small gifts and made burp rags for her baby boy. We chatted often online about our pregnancies and childbirth….and the babies as newborns. We continued to chat online when we were able although we never met each other. I felt that God had a purpose for me meeting her. After having a heart surgery, her baby had some complications and passed away at 8 months old. My heart ached for this poor Mother who had lost her only child. Having been pregnant with her….and given birth within a month of each other….I felt a very close bond with her and wanted to do something to help her through the grieving process as well as preserve his memory. I offered to make a quilt for her out of his clothes. She sent me a box of clothes, some of which he had worn, some of which she bought for him to wear but he never had the opportunity. I made her a beautiful Memory Quilt and added special touches to it….like tiny lobster claw hooks with photo charms attached to them and placed them on a tiny hook inside of each pocket (from shirts/pants etc). I also had his name embroidered on one square and his full name embroidered on the bottom of the quilt and the words “Mama’s little cuddle bug” on the top (because that is what she called him) SHe LOVED this quilt. It was the most meaningful quilt that I have ever made. She and I still keep in touch and we vow to meet one day. The quilt was a very hard gift for her to receive but I think that it was also one of the greatest gifts she will ever receive. I think bereavement or memory quilts are so extremely sentimental! I’m working on one now for a lady that I met once…who has just lost her husband to cancer. She has 3 boys that she is now raising alone. She is so very strong and so positive FOR them. I really hope that the quilt that I am making for her will be comfort for HER (as well as her boys).

    • Donnamj says:

      Wow, what an incredible compassionate woman you are and more power to you. More importantly, what a blessing to these hurting people. I truly believe Gods’ purpose for us was to love and care for one another.

      • Sherri Lynn Wood says:

        I do hear the pain of grief in some of these comments, AND also the relief and consolation of transformation, as well as the depth of joy and love. I really appreciate these brave and beautiful comments and the people who have shared their experiences of loss in this forum.

    • Linda says:

      Your story is full of such kindness and giving, and I believe two things: That you glorified God with your love and kindness, and your quilts provide unspoken comfort to those who need it so much. Your story is inspiring to me — as I make quilts for hurting people too (many many of us do I know I am not alone). But the idea of using the person’s clothing for the quilt is truly meaningful. I sew Bible verses of comfort or the chorus of a hymn onto my quilts. I heard of a lady who takes sweaters of those who’ve passed away and makes teddy bears — again a way to comfort and hold the grieving hearts. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Linda says:

      I am working on a grief quilt (well, actually I’ve been thinking about one for 4-years now) for my mother (and one for myself and my brother too)since my father passed. I do not know how to quilt but I love the idea of a greif quilt. My mother is finally comfortable with letting go of some of my dad’s clothes so now I can begin but I don’t know what to do. Might you be able to give me some direction?

  7. Patti says:

    Just over 2 years ago, my husband passed away. I kept all of his clothes with the plan to make bears out of his work shirts (name and company) and quilts from everything else. A little over a year after he died, my co-worker died suddenly – so my other co-workers and I got together after gathering some of her clothes to make bears and quilts for her sons. It served as a time of sharing memories and helping us to heal. I still have leftover material from her clothes, from which I am working on a quilt for her parents.

    • Jennie says:

      Is there any way to find a simple pattern to make the bears? I would love to try that as well. It would be an awesome gift to give to the little boy I know that just lost his father. I’m making several quilts with his father’s clothes but will have more than enough to make a bear as well.

      • Katy says:

        my mother has recently pasted away and two new great grand children boys have been born. I would love to make the bears for them too. So I’m looking for a great pattern also to use.

        • Sherri Lynn Wood says:

          Great idea, I’m sure they will love to cuddle with them. Search free bear patterns and you will find so many choices. A pillow is also a good option if you can’t find a bear pattern that suits you.

  8. Tammy V. says:

    I have made several for friends who have lost a parent. I have intentions of making one for my two kids and mother-in-law from the jeans my husband used to wear. I am adding pictures as well.

  9. Sharon says:

    I didn’t make a bereavement quilt but made one out of old dusters belonging to my Mom and sister and myself. For anyone not familiar with what a duster is .. it is a cotton housecoat worn years ago while dusting. And when it became old and threadbare it was used to actually dust with. I made 2 of them and still have one left .. it is pretty worn out though. I can identify every block in the quilt. I love it and everyone comments on it when they see it. I still have blocks left to make a new one and since my Mom is getting up there and has COPD it will be something to remember her by when she is gone.

  10. Lorraine Bowen says:

    I am delighted to see other folks reach out with this great concept. I started making these quilts for a friend whose mother passed away. I make lap size quilts and patchwork bears to match so they have the best of both worlds. I personally haven’t had to make one of these for myself, but get great pleasure in doing them for family and friends.

  11. Bettina Semprini says:

    I lost my baby sister Toni, at the age of 47 to brain cancer. Two months later I lost my father. I asked my mom if I could have his cotton shirts. I was able to obtain 80 blocks from all the shirts. I was making the quilt to give to my mom. She would tell me as I worked on the quilt, “how nice you re spending time with your dad.” Unfortunally my mom passed only 10 days later and I was never able to show her the completed project. I m sure mom is watching me from heaven and know the labor of love that has gone into every stitch. I miss you all.

    • Linda says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. Every story has a story of love and memories, and relationship, and the loss we experience. Thank God for the clothing that you could stitch together to remember your loved ones. Thank God for the loved ones who taught you to love so well. May God comfort all during times of loss.

  12. Cindy says:

    I took all of my Mom’s nightgowns and robes she wore the last year she was here and quilted wall hangings for my Dad, siblings and the grandkids. It was wonderful therapy for me and they all proudly display them in their homes.

  13. Pam says:

    Our 9 year old son died in March, 2009 from injuries he sustained in a car accident. I saved all the clothes he liked and intend to make a quilt or pillows at some time when it’s not so painful. Right now I have one of his t-shirts on a pillow form (it fits perfectly!) on my bed. I sleep with it every night.

  14. Barb Myers says:

    My cousin’s 20-year-old son was killed in an automobile accident. At the time of his death, I offered to make a quilt for her from his clothing. It took her four years to go through his things, but when she did I had all his jeans, shirts, pjs, favorite shorts, etc. to work with. My cousin asked that I make pillows instead of a quilt because she wanted to give them to his grandparents, girlfriend, and brothers. The back of each 18 x 18 inch pillow was a favorite tee shirt of Luke’s; the front of the pillow was strips of his clothing surrounding a “In Memory Of” patch that was in the center of each pillow. I used everything: labels, buttons, pockets, fabric, patches. The pillows turned out fantastic. In the end, I had anough scraps left over to make my cousin a small lap quilt with his photo on it. She wept when she saw everything. It was an project of lovel. I’d definitely do it again.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I made a bereavement quilt for my boyfriend out of his mothers clothing. he was thrilled, he even picked out the clothing. sadley he killed himself just before it was done. now his brother has the quilt, and wants me to make one from his brothers clothing. I will be making two. one for him and one for me. They really help more than people know.

  16. Sherri Lynn Wood says:

    Having received so many poignant comments and stories about the making of bereavement quilts, I thought people might like to share photos too. I’ve created a photo-sharing group if you would like to post images of your bereavement and memorial quilts on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/passagequilting-bereavementquilts/

  17. Cindie Crull says:

    5 yrs ago my grandson was killed in a tragic car accident at 17…To honor him I asked his parents for pictures to go along with pictures I had. I took the pictures from the time Tommie was born until 17 and had them put on special photo quilting fabric. I then made a quilt using all the photos. The quilt is 109 by 109 and done in burgandy, black and white, school colors, I had a friend to machine quilt stars and around the pictures to frame them which had the pictures to pop out. It took me a year to finish the quilt which I named my Shining Star a long journey that also helped his grandfather to heal watching me put it together. In May of 2007, we made the journey to Millington , Tn to give his parents the quilt which fits on their king size bed…The Millington paper even did an article on the memory quilt..It’s one quilt I’m proud of…

  18. Wanda Palus says:

    These comments touch my heart and bring joyful/healing moistness to my eyes. I have a young friend who lost her Mom to breast cancer a couple of years ago. I will forward this website to her and perhaps she, her sister and I can work together on quilted somethings for the grandchildren. Thank you.

  19. Donna Ingram says:

    My grandfather passed away in 2005 and my grandmother a couple of years later. THey were married for 65 years, their whole lives. She was 18 and he was 21 when they married. A friend of my family took a shirt that belonged to my grandfather and made a teddy bear out of it with a red heart over the heart of the teddy bear. They put the teddy bear in bed with my grandmother every night. This made her very comfortable and she felt like she had a part of him still with her. She slept with him for 65 plus years and she was still able to sleep with him. When I heard this it broke my heart. My grandmother was a lifetime quilter and she passed her trade to me. I am a fourth generation hand piecer and hand quilter, and I am very proud of my legacy and my family. I miss my grandmother terribly. She pulled her last quilt off the frame just before she passed away at the age of 87.

    Donna Ingram

  20. Mimi says:

    Sixteen years ago I lost my sister to ovarian cancer. She was a surrogate grandmother to my small children and very special to them. I made two teddy bears out of some of her clothes and those bears are still in their rooms today. I felt it was a wonderful way to still have something of hers around. If I had been into quilting at that time, maybe I would have made a quilt. Wonderful idea!

  21. Nancy B says:

    I kept many of my mother clothes for this purpose, but have not been able to bring myself to cut them up yet. I saved enough to make a twin size for myself and my 2 brothers. I hope someday soon I will be able to start this project.

    Thank you for sharing a great idea.

  22. Mary says:

    We did pillows and a duvet for my brother, in honor of my sister-in-law. The family could not thank us enough. They were made out of her cloths.

  23. Reading the comments about the passage quilting, was very moving. Here in England we usually only make a quilt for a birth (gr/granchild) anniversary ect. I think it is a wonderful idea . Wish I had thought about this after my father had died – all his clothes went to help others – but! (if only)

  24. Shirley says:

    On December 26, 2004 I lost my best friend, Danny to complicatios of ALS. I decided to make a Memorial Quilt out of my special memories. I don’t have any of his clothes for the quilt….so I designed all the blocks to represent my special memories and things that was special to him.

  25. Melinda says:

    When my Mother passed away 2 years ago my dad was going to give my mothers clothes to good will. My sister N law asked me if I would take the clothes and make something out of them. We found a pattern that my mother had so I took the clothes home and cut them in the pattern.I called my family and announced that we was having a sewing party. We all got together and sewed the pieces. Even my brothers helped in some ways. We took some old blankets and sheets that she had to make the backs. We made the first one for my dad. In all we got 10 full size blankets out of her clothes. I found a box the other day that had a few pieces that never got put together so I am going to make another blanket out of it. Making those blankets was a good family time to remember my mother. We cried, laughed and just remember her. I will do it again when my father passes just to have his memories.

  26. Sally Hart says:

    When my granddaughter was killed 3 1/2 years ago (age 18) I didn’t use her clothes, but I used the fabric we had purchased for me to make her graduation quilt. I also used photos from her early childhood thru her prom 4 months b4 her death, and did photo transfer and incorporated those photo blocks into wall hangings for her parents, her other grandma and myself. It was great therapy for me, and I look at my hanging daily as I come and go up and down the stairs. It’s also easily visible from the front door.

  27. Diane says:

    When my father, who was a very frugal and humble man passed, my mother immediately wanted to throw out his clothing, but I couldn’t bear to let them go. So I took bags of his flannel shirts, and held them, wore them and cried over them for several weeks. One day I started cutting off the buttons, thinking I could let them go, but as I cut, I realized I still needed to have those shirts. I put one on and wore it for days at a time. Suddenly I began to wonder just how many blocks I could cut from them, and I cut till my fingers hurt from holding the scissors. I made hundreds of 3.5 inch blocks, and kept a bag of the collars, pockets, and all of the scraps. I sat my father’s picture next to me on the sewing table, and talked to him every day, as I planned what I would do with those blocks…Eventually I made the squares into nine patch blocks, needing to reinforce many of the worn ones with interfacing in order to hold it all together. I turned those blocks into a queen size quilt for my mother, adding fresh new flannel for the borders… It is a soft and beautiful comforting piece of my dad’s life for my mother to hug at night. For my next project, I turned the remainder of the blocks into wraps for myself and my sisters, using a soft fleece on the back, and pockets from the shirts for decoration(and to dip our hands into, letting him keep us warm) . I used many of the scraps to make crazy quilt wall hangings for my children, nieces and nephews, using some of the buttons as embellishment. I still have a small bag of scraps from the shirts, and kept one that I still wear when I sit down to sew. My dad is still with all of us, and guides us through our days. I have found it to be very cathartic and a beautiful way through my grief.

  28. Laronia says:

    13 years ago after the sudden death of my husband, I took some scraps blocks a friend had given me (which happened to be in my husband’s favorite colors) and began my grieving process. I hand pieced the top and hand quilted the quilt. The only machine work on the quilt is the border strip which I appliqued leaves on and the binding. It took me two full years to complete the quilt and I finished it almost to the date of his death. As I worked on it I would also sleep under it. I think that helped me tremendously. It is now my traveling quilt. I call it the _______quilt, named after my husband.

  29. Debra Wilson says:

    My very first quilt was a quilt I made with my sisters clothes. In 1983, my only sister was killed by a drunk driver. She was 20 years old, I was 25 at the time. My mother gave me some of my sisters clothes and I had them in a closet for four years. I would sit in the closet with her clothes and cry. One day, I came across a book in the library about Texas Traditions. One of the stories was about the Texas trailriders and the quilts the women made for them with the families clothing. I decided to make a lone star quilt with my sisters clothes. It was a journey, very theraputic and rewarding. The hardest part was cutting her clothes into the diamond pieces . But having the quilt in my lap each evening and sewing was very special. I could touch the fabric, remember the memories, shed tears, and be able to move on. Now the clothes are in a quilt that I can lay under, instead of sitting in a closet.

  30. Deena says:

    I have made a few “memorial” quilts for people…a co-worker of mine lost her brother (so young) and she gave me a bag of clothes – shirts, shorts, boxers, t-shirts, etc. I was able to make 2 large quilts with them. IN the middle I put a picture of him and a Memorial saying she asked to include. She kept one and gave her Mom the other one. I made a “row” of pockets (from his shirts) – so that if they wanted to place items inside the pockets, it would make it easier to hold them. I have seen an entire quilt out of “ties” for men, I have yet to do this, but it sounds interesting…it looks like a “crazy quilt” and seems easy enough. Just a thought for anyone looking for inspiration.

    • Carol says:

      I have made the ties from fabric and it is pretty easy… I had to change the pattern I was using the tie blocks are crazy on the eyes! Fun to make though

  31. Kristan says:

    I just lost my father-in-law and have given some thought as to whether or not to do a quilt. I think in the long run that I will do a wall hanging in blue work of his race car but I have not decided yet. Most of his clothes are not suitable for a quilt because he was a mechanic. I do think that making a quilt is a good way to grieve.

  32. Sharon Lookabaugh says:

    I wish I would have thought of this after the loss of my mom, oldest sister and dad. I recently purchased the special material for printing pictures from inkjet printers and I am going to use those pics of loved ones as the basis for the quilt and then include fabric with either favorite colors or prints. I wish there was a group near me that does this.

  33. Heather says:

    Thanks for sharing these photos and story. As an art therapist, I think Passage Quilts are a beautifully conceived healing process, and I would love to take part in one of your workshops someday. So inspiring on many levels.

  34. blandina says:

    I never thought of something like that for the loss of a dear one, but I understand very well that doing something with my hands can help me to elaborate a deep pain.
    I have created an embroidery when I had to come to terms with my daughter’s vitiligo (you can see it on my blog if you are interested) and it is umbelievable the amount of relief that it brought me.
    Thank you for sahring this process of bereavement.

  35. shannon says:

    this sounds absolutely beautiful in so many ways. what a loving healing process. i’ve seen the passage quilts and they just brought such strong emotion to me. while i saved a couple of things from my grandmother, i so wish i had renewed my sewing skills earlier and known about these a few years back so that i saved a bunch of her clothes. there were so many pieces that were so “her” that i wished i kept. i ended up just saving one that reminded me of her the most. i also wish i had saved a dear, dear friend of mines clothes to do the same. i was invited to go through her stuff, but didn’t do it b/c i just didn’t know what i would do with it. aaaah.

    beautiful, beautiful process. hugs to you.

    • Sherri Lynn Wood says:

      Shannon, some day if you feel so moved you can always use some of your clothes, and/or the clothes of other family members, along with the one item you have of your mother’s to make a passage quilt. It’s all about relationships. You only need about 5 pieces of clothing to have enough for a large throw quilt. When my grandmother died we found one dress suit and tie of my grandfather’s hanging in her closet. He had died eight years earlier but she saved his suit and an old chamois cloth that he used to polish their car. I included both of these items in the quilt I made of her clothes for my father.

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