About the Holiday
Today’s holiday got its start in 1989 when the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society held a “Quilters Day Out” on the third Saturday of March to honor the history of quilting in that state. The event was such a success that in 1991 the National Quilting Association decided to make it a country-wide event. Since then the idea has spread across the globe. Whether you celebrate National Quilting Day or Worldwide Quilting Day, you may want to take in an event that highlights these “stories in cloth” or even consider becoming a quilter yourself!
The Quilt Story
Written by Tony Johnston | Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Long ago while the snow fell and the log cabin was filled with candlelight, a little girl’s mother sewed her a quilt “to keep her warm.” While “she stitched the tails of falling stars” and Abigail’s, the mother hummed with happiness. Abigail loved to wrap herself in the quilt as she gazed out at the winter night. “Sometimes she saw a falling star” like the ones on her blanket.
The quilt went with Abigail into the woods, where she had tea parties with her dolls. “She had tea. Her dolls had tea. And the quilt had tea all over it.” Inside, her quilt became an elegant gown that she wore on trips into town on her hobby horse—until it tore. Then her mother stitched it up again. The quilt was a secret hiding place for games of hide-and-seek, even though her sisters always knew where to find her. When Abigail was sick, she snuggled under the quilt until she was better.
The time came when Abigail’s family had to move. They packed their Conestoga wagon and headed west, taking the quilt with them in front where “it kept the little girls warm from the wild winds. Warm from the rain. Warm from the sparkling nights.” On new land, in a new place, Abigail’s father built a new home “with his hatchet, chop, chop, chop.” He built Abigail a comfortable bed and even a new rocking horse, but Abigail still felt sad.
Among all the newness, only the quilt had its old, comforting smell. Abigail’s mother “rocked her as mothers do. Then tucked her in. And Abigail felt at home again under the quilt.” Many years passed. The quilt became old and faded, and Abigail packed it away in the attic. There a gray mouse found it. It’s soft warmth provided a bed for baby mice. “When they got hungry, they ate a falling star.” A curious raccoon also found the quilt. She scratched a hole in the quilt and hid her apple in the corner. A cat exploring the attic discovered the quilt. As it rolled on the fragile material, “stuffing spilled out like snow. Then the cat curled up in the snow and purred.”
One day another little girl was looking for her cat and “found the quilt, splashed with patterns of sun.” She immediately loved the quilt and took it to her mother. Her mother filled it with new stuffing and patched the holes. “She stitched long tails on the stars to swish across the quilt again.” The time came for this little girl’s family to move far away. Their new house was clean and fresh and empty. After the long trip everyone was happy to be in their new home—everyone but the little girl.
She wrapped herself in the familiar quilt, and “her mother rocked her as mothers do. Then tucked her in. She felt at home again under the quilt.”
This classic story by Tony Johnston was one of my daughter’s favorites when she was young. She loved the comfort the quilt represented and the texture of the illustrations—both aspects of the story that children will still respond to today. Following the antique quilt from its creation to its rediscovery and new life with a different family is a wonderful way to introduce children to the value of history, family stories, and interconnectedness. The soothing cadence of Johnston’s multigenerational tale is perfect for bedtime or quiet story times.
Tomie dePaola’s folk-style illustrations in warm muted colors depict the close relationships among the members of two families who both take comfort in a homemade quilt. Under dePaola’s brush the cozy quilt is a canvas of hearts, doves, and shooting stars, symbols of peace, love, and dreams that transcend generations. DePaola’s similar images of two mothers stitching the quilt, two daughters snuggling under the quilt, and two families traveling far from one home to another reinforce the idea that while homes, hairstyles, and clothing may change, hearts do not.
The Quilt Story would be an often-read addition to any child’s home library!
Ages 4 – 8
Puffin Books, Penguin, 2002 (reissue edition) | ISBN 978-0698113688
You can discover the world of Tomie dePaola‘s art and books as well as his thoughts on being an artist on his website!
National Quilting Day Activity
Snuggle In Coloring Page
There’s nothing cozier than cuddling under a warm quilt. What would your quilt look like? Print out this Snuggle In Coloring Page and decorate the quilt. Then have fun coloring the rest of the page!