On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about improvisational quilting with my guest, Sherri Lynn Wood. For Sherri improvisation is a life practice that can help us embrace uncertainty, get in touch with our true selves, heal, and find joy.

25 years ago Sherri made her first quilt. She used a traditional block pattern, a type of quilt making she now terms “fixed pattern” quilts, and sold it at a farmer’s market. After seeing an exhibit of quilts made by African American quiltmakers Sherri was inspired to try improvisational quilting and a class with Nancy Crow helped her realize that she could cut fabrics for quilts without a ruler. Sherri calls improvisation “flexible pattern” quilting. It’s freedom, within limits.


Her book, The Improv Handbook For Modern Quilters – A Guide to Creating, Quilting and Living Courageously, was recently released by STC Craft/Abrams. In it, she provides a series of “scores” (similar to musical scores) that set parameters to improvise within. Sherri’s approach is incredibly inspiring and her book has been a smash hit, selling more than 6000 copies since its release in May.

sherri lynn wood

In our conversation Sherri talks about her first offer to write a book in 2010 and why she decided to pass on that offer, opting to start a blog instead. She explains how The Improv Handbook came about and why it was the right book at the right time.

sherri lynn wood

Sherri has two master’s degrees, one in theological studies and the other in sculpture. We talk about how, in some ways, these two areas of studies have intersected in her life and work.

We refer to:

  • making art with a community and quilting as social practice
  • passage quilts Sherri makes to help people through bereavement
  • Sherri’s book agent, Joy Tutela
  • the Joan Mitchell Foundation $25,000 grant that helped to make the year it took Sherri to write her book financially possible
  • Sherri’s part-time day job as Parish Administrator at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco which provides her with health care benefits and great flexibility to travel and teach
  • the paper collage by Virginia Echeverria Whipple that inspired Sherri to invent a new quilting technique: strip piecing on the curve
  • the “quilt police” and why Sherri isn’t afraid of them
  • Sherri’s impression of the keynote speech and class given by the quilters of Gee’s Bend at QuiltCon in February
  • folklorist Eli Leon

And, of course, I asked Sherri to recommend great stuff she’s enjoying right now. Sherri recommends:


Tune in to the show by clicking on the arrow below or subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher and listen on the go. If you enjoy the show, tell a friend about it. Thank you!

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