Peace Like A River

May 3, 2015 § 14 Comments


A year and a half ago, Sherri Lynn Wood of Dainty Time sent out a call for folks to test out her improv quilting methods for a future book. Thinking that I might learn something, I signed up. As her book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters hits the shelves this week. I thought I might share my experience in making a test quilt.


The improv methods or techniques that Sherri uses to get you started are called “scores.” Something akin to a musical rhythm or classification like polka or waltz.  Each of the test quilters filled out a questionnaire that included what they felt their current skill level was in terms of improvisational quilt making.  I felt like a beginner, so I was assigned a score that was suitable for beginners.


At the same time that the instructions were being sent for our particular scores, my mother passed away.  And my assignment quickly became a therapeutic outlet for processing my grief.  I’m a little self-conscious about sharing my process because of this.  But, then again, it’s a part of my quilting journey.  While my quilt wasn’t chosen to be included in the book, I would really like to try this score again as well as develop my own version of some of the other scores in Sherri’s book.  Her techniques for creating  improvisational quilts are both directive and freeing.  You’ll have to try one for yourself to experience just what I am talking about.

Below are a few photos that I took as I was making this quilt.  I started with a limited color palette and it quickly morphed into so much more. Maybe too much for this simple score?  My assigned score was called Floating Squares.  Our rules included cutting fabric without rulers. That in itself was hard for me at the beginning. But it got easier as time went on.  You can see more examples of Floating Squares from other test quilters in Sherri’s Floating Squares Flickr gallery.




As I went along cutting and sewing and remembering my mom, the old hymn It Is Well With My Soul kept running through my head.  The first line of the song starts with “when peace, like a river, attendeth my way,”  hence the name of this quilt.  My sewing became more water-like as I went on.  When I shared what I was doing with my dear friend, Letty, she shared a photo that she had taken of rippling water that was so much like the vision for this quilt that it was uncanny.

Lettys River

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

§ 14 Responses to Peace Like A River

  • Beautiful quilt and I love your improve work!

  • Lettyb says:

    We’re twins. I love this quilt, and your description sounds really interesting. I may indeed try this. It’s good to push ourselves to do different things. So love that my water picture was the right thing. Love you and your work!

  • Kelly says:

    What happiness this brought to my heart this morning. We’re going through a rough patch and the pieces I’m working on right now are bringing me peace and a place to focus my attention so as not to get rug down too far in all the happenings around me. I love your quilt. It’s beautiful. 🙂

  • Janice says:

    So sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. That same hymn was sung at my father’s memorial service. It is beautiful.

  • Wanda Dotson says:

    It is amazing how squares can move like a river. I like how your process of grieving found its way through this quilt. When I saw the title I thought, “piece like a river” and that is what I feel improv is: piecing like a river.

  • Viv says:

    Absolutely stunning. I had a look at the other floating squares quilts, some of them really are amazing, yours included. Thanks for sharing it and the story along with it.

  • Neame says:

    Thank you for sharing. So glad to know that quilting provided some solace during a hard time. I have wondered for years where the phrase “peace like a river” came from – thanks for that – as it is the title of a truly marvelous novel. Also appreciate the tip about the Buy Nothing folks. I’m at the point in life where simplifying is necessary and desirable so this is very helpful to me. Love your blog. Again thanks.

  • Beautiful Anita, both your quilt and your reflections. It is well with my soul is one of my very favorite hymns…I sing it often to remind myself that, though life may toss me this way and that, it is still well with my soul. There is great power in speaking (or singing) truth to ourselves.

  • Pam says:

    After so many years, I am still so amazed at the therapeutic power of quilt-making. Your quilt is beautiful as is your writing. I also participated in this project with the same score. It was a fascinating process. Thanks for sharing all of this.

  • Anita,
    I agree, this truly is uncanny…your beautiful quilt as compared with Letty’s so serene photograph, how perfectly connected. Hard to believe that wasn’t your inspiration as you created this quilt. Isn’t it amazing how things work in our lives! The loss of your mother is still so fresh, and I believe writing this post, just as creating the quilt, is another step toward healing. As I read your post, I’m listening to one of my favorite hymns “Peace is Flowing Like a River.” Thank you for sharing.

  • I hope this quilt was therapeutic. Singing and remembering your mom, especially with Mother’s Day approaching, I hope was healing for you.
    Thinking of you…

  • Janie Kemp says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. This song is the first one I learned by heart as a Christian; a beautiful song to remember your mom. Your quilt is enchanting. How lovely that your friend’s photo is so similar to your work, an echo of His creation.

  • Susan K. says:

    I love your quilt and the story with it. I’m so sorry about your mom passing. And so glad you could lose yourself in your project as you processed your grief. I took a class with Sherri Lynn and it’s very so freeing to do improv piecing and she’s a wonderful teacher.

  • Mollie says:

    Out of all the test quilts, this is one of my favourites. The story behind it only enhances my appreciation, so I thank you for sharing it, as well as photos of how this quilt was assembled. Christ’s blessings to you this day!

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