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What's a Story Quilt?

For the purpose of Quilt Fest, there are two ways a quilt can be a Story Quilt:

  •   It is a one-of-a-kind quilt designed and created with a carefully chosen symbolic purpose beyond the specific quilt pattern and fabric used in it’s construction. The quilt construction techniques and fabric are tools that support an idea bigger that the quilt itself. A great local example of this kind of story quilt is displayed in the Clifton Community Library, Cranberry Lake, NY. Stop by and see it!

  •  It is a quilt that is treasured by an individual, a family or a community for reasons beyond the block pattern and fabrics from which it is made. The role the quilt plays in the lives of those who value it is the story.

We hope the examples below give you an idea of the breadth of possibilities spanned by the "Story Quilt" label. If you have a quilt you are interested in entering in Quilt Fest, but you are not sure if it's a Story Quilt, contact us and will help you decide.


The quilt that inspired the theme for Quilt Fest 2023...

Clifton-Fine Community
A Quilt of Memories

In 1982, a group of Clifton-Fine quilters and their friends came together to create a quilt celebrating the community. This is an example of one-of-a-kind quilt designed and created with a carefully chosen symbolic purpose.

St Lawrence County Historical Association

World War II Rememberance Quilt
Gift of Doreen Radway, in memory of Mildred Leo

This quilt was constructed in 1993 by Carmen W. Patterson of Ogdensburg, NY and quilted by the "Nimble Thimbles" quilt group from 1994-1997. It includes the names and stories of over 180 local people who were alive when WWII began. 

WWII Rememberance Quilt.JPG

Ellis Island

From Skirball Cultural Center Exhibit "Discover the extraordinary stories behind three hundred years of American quilts. Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories features works by more than forty artists. Fabric of a Nation illuminates the unique capacity quilts have to tell stories and convey a sense of humanity. Whether produced as works of art or utilitarian objects, their tactile, intricate mode of creation and traditional use in the home impart deeply personal narratives of their makers and offer an intimate picture of American life."

Debris #1: Tornado by Bill Keller @billkellermaker

This quilt developed from freely cut pieces of black fabric placed on Keller’s design wall. There was no initial concept or idea, just shapes. While working on the quilt Keller realized that it may have been subconsciously influenced by news reports of tornados. Keller says about the tornado reports, “These stories often take place the day after the disaster, the scene is bright and the shattered remains are graphic; vegetation, homes, cars.. pieces of lives. There always seems to be some bright debris among the browns and blacks.” 


Kenya, Africa

Art  story quilts, made by fistula survivors in Kenya.  They are similar to the famous quilts of Gees Bend because ideas and images come from the women’s own lived experiences. The women have never been taught how a tree, chicken, woman, or hut should look--they just stitch what they know.

T-shirt quilts

Grateful Dead example 

This style story quilt uses T-shirts from various special events to tell a story about the person to whom the shirts belong. Each shirt represents a special memory in the quilt owner's life.


A Mother's Love

A story quilt that looks like an everyday quilt

"Quilt I made for my mother when she was ill and I couldn't be near her. I was a brand new quilter with very little quilting skill at the time. I picked two different quilt blocks that represented two things that were very important to my mother--family and a sense of place. Creating this quilt was a way I could be close to my mom even when I was physically distant." 

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