The Quiltmaker’s Gift

The Quiltmaker’s Gift will forever and always be one of my top five children’s picture books. The author is Jeff Brumbeau and the illustrator is Gail de Marken.

The Story

Not only are the illustrations absolutely gorgeous, the story is a lesson in contentment and kindness.  It is the story of a elderly quiltmaker who made beautiful quilts to give to the poor…

…and a  king who loved things so much they celebrated his birthday twice a year.

But in spite of all of the beautiful things he owned, he was unhappy.

When he found out about the little old quiltmaker, he demanded one of her quilts. She promptly refused and told him he would need to give away everything he owned, and then she would make him a quilt. A battle of wills began.The king placed the quiltmaker into perilous situations to break her will but her kind, generosity rescued her each time.

Did the king give away all of his possessions and learn the gift of generosity? Did he receive a beautiful quilt from the quiltmaker? Hmmm….

This book is great for older preschoolers and for children in elementary school. The story is lengthy, but if you have younger children who have limited attention span, do feel free to shorten and paraphrase to adjust for their age.

Connect through Art

A simple activity that connects to the story is to make a paper quilt block.

Supplies you need: paper shapes, glue, markers, and paper.

Have your child make a patchwork quilt block by gluing shapes to a piece of paper. They can use markers to make patterns in the ‘fabric.’

Another option: You could also use fabric swatches for the quilt pieces.

Remember it’s not about the final product. It is the process of creating that is important.

Younger preschoolers might have artwork that looks like this:

This activity helps children explore patterns, geometry and colors. Older children might like to research a quilt pattern and recreate it.

The website for this book describes the author and illustrator, plus it has a few activities that extend the story; and book recommendations for adults.

Another  extension for this story is to to discuss with your child how we can help and share with others. Just a few ideas are:

  • Donate unwanted/gently used toys to charity
  • Write a letter to our folks in the military
  • Share artwork with elderly neighbors
  • Use kind words when playing with others
  • Cook and share a great recipe

Think about the people in your life and collaborate together to come with doable ideas for you and your family.

I used The Quiltmaker’s Gift when I was completing an elementary practicum for college. My cooperating teacher had our students write good-bye notes to me on large labels, then she placed them in the front of the book. This is a wonderful gift idea for teachers. I loved it!

Awww…so sweet, they knew just what to say to make this tired grad student feel good!

They are all now driving cars. :)


Another reason why I love this story is because I knew a wonderful quiltmaker who had snowy white hair. She was a dear friend and made this beautiful quilt for me when I was seven. She took care of me when I was sick and lived a life of generosity. Every stitch was completed with a needle and thread by a work worn hand. No machine stitching at all. Amazing.

While Sylvia made many color coordinated quilts, she wanted me to have a quilt like she had when she was a  girl. One with various colors from the clothing she wore and a simple pattern.

Sylvia read every Little House book to me at least twice. I am thankful she called me her friend and let me tag-a-long in her life.

Who is “The Quiltmaker” in your life?

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13 comments to The Quiltmaker’s Gift

  • Beautiful book, and fun idea for an activity. Cloth swatches glued on paper would be fun too!

  • This is truly a touching and inspiring post. I must check this book out and I love the activity that goes along with it. Thanks for sharing! It was lovely to read.
    (Stopping by from the Messy Kids Link Up)

  • This is a really beautiful book. Your craft and label ideas are both wonderful.

    This post counts as an entry in the Summer Reading Challenge on Read.Explore.Learn.

  • What a lovely memory of your dear friend. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Quiltmaker’s Gift and Quiltmaker’s Journey are in my top two :) favorite children’s books. They are NEVER placed in my classroom so children can thumb through, they’re just that special to me. I tear up and my voice gets quavery each year when I read them aloud. I read it in January after the Christmas rush to introduce the idea of Keeping Christmas in your Heart all year, giving and sharing, doing for others. The illustrations are AMAZINGly detailed. I love knowing there’s another fan of these great books!

  • Hi Susanne…thanks for sharing your story too. I love how you share and extend the story with your class. And about getting quivery, I know…I tell myself…”this is a children’s storybook” but it is just so touching!You would probably enjoy “Grandfather’s Journey” by Allen Say. It has a simple story with classic illustrations, but the story is deep and wide, and brings tears to my eyes EVERY time I read it.

  • mardi

    I love this book too, for all the reasons mentioned previously! I am going to use this book for a Daily 5 lesson with my 4th graders focusing on vocabulary. We will also use if for connections. Has anyone tried using wallpaper sample books for their quilt making projects with students?