Story Quilt and Faith Ringgold


  • Be able to define story quilt
  • Name one fact about artist Faith Ringgold
  • Participate in a discussion about quilts


  • Quilt - a bed cover made of two layers of cloth with a filling of wool, cotton, or down held together by patterned stitching
  • Story Quilt - A story quilt is a material quilt made with pictures, textures, and quotes that are used to tell a story. The quilt is made to tell a story of a moment, event, or a feeling that is important to you or a friend.
  • Pattern - an artistic form, figure, or design; a set of characteristics that are displayed repeatedly
  • Symbol - a letter, character, or sign used instead of a word or group of words
  • Stitching - to make, mend, or decorate with or as if with stitches
  • Padding - material used to pad something
  • Patchwork - pieces of cloth of various colors and shapes sewn together usually in a pattern
  • Community - a group of people with common interests especially when living together tradition - the handing down of information, beliefs, or customs from one generation to another

What You Need:

  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  • Oil Pastels
  • Dark Blue Construction Paper 6 x 9
  • Patterned Squares 3 x 3
  • White or Black Construction Paper 9 x 12
  • glue sticks
  • (optional) authentic quilt


Hello. My name is __________.

Today we are going to talk about story quilts.

(If possible, introduce this lesson with one or more authentic quilts in the classroom, to give students the opportunity to see how a quilt is constructed and what the elements of a quilt are. Alternatively, you can show images of quilts.)

Does anyone have a quilt at home? Does anyone use their quilt as a blanket? How is a quilt different from a blanket? A quilt is made up of scraps of material that are sewn together. Quilts have two layers of material with padding in between. The stitching that keeps the padding in place creates a pattern that invites further decoration. This decoration can employ elements such as color, pattern, and symbols. The designs on quilts can tell a story. Ask students questions such as: How many different kinds of cloth do you see on the quilt? Do you see some of the same cloth in different places in the picture? What colors do you see? Do you see objects on the quilt -- people, animals, flowers, baskets, etc.? How are objects arranged? What pictures can you see in the quilt? Is this quilt telling a story, and if so, what is the story about?

We are going to read Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold. Faith Ringgold was born in 1930 during the great depression and grew up in New York City's Harlem. Faith Ringgold wrote and illustrated Tar Beach based on a fabric quilt that she created. The fabric quilt is part of a series called, "Woman on a Bridge." The quilt is on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. You'll notice that in the book there is a block border that resembles a quilt.

(Read book or part of book.)

We are going to draw a picture of ourselves flying, just like Cassie from the book imagined herself flying. Historically, flying is a symbol of freedom in African American Culture. And then we will create a quilt border and mount our drawing in the center. When we place all of our finished blocks together, they will create a large paper quilt.

Student Activity:

1. Put oil pastels on each table and pass out a half sheet of dark blue construction paper.

2. Students will draw a picture of themselves flying in the night sky like the opening image from Tar Beach.

3. Pass out one sheet of black or white construction paper and 10 patterned squares to each student. Instruct the students to glue the squares in a border around the edge of the construction paper and then glue their flying image in the center.

4. If there is time, have the kids place their pictures next to each other on the floor or table to create a large quilt.