In 2003, quilter Sherri Lynn Wood embarked on a collaborative project to remember Afghan, Iraqi, and American lives lost to war in the Middle East. To date, more than 1,200 people have participated by spending about a half hour each sewing one coffin. Each coffin represents one name of a life lost. As Wood says, “The act of stitching a name is a meditative act, bringing the participant into a relationship of resonance and compassion with the families of the dead.”
Inspired by the famous Graveyard Quilt made in 1843 by Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell, Wood’s quilt is a modern, collaborative, and activist take on one of the most famous quilts of mourning. While the Graveyard Quilt focuses on memorializing one family, Wood’s quilt expands the graveyard concept to memorialize members of hundreds of families.
As Linda Otto Lipsett wrote in her book Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell’s Graveyard Quilt: An American Pioneer Saga, “Because of Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell’s Graveyard Quilt, her family’s pioneer story can be told. Truly, her quilt was not a quilt of death but a quilt preserving the memory of loved ones who once lived.” And as Wood wrote about her Prayer Banners, “Each coffin stitched bears witness to a single life (Iraqi citizens as well as allied forces) lost to war with 30+ minutes of handwork devoted to stitching a coffin in acknowledgment of each sacrifice.”
Both quilts, 160 years apart, act as memorials to loved ones lost, using the act of stitching to heal and remember.
Additional Quilt Information:
Materials Social practice, blankets, clothing scraps, wood, string, safety pins
Technique Hand stitched