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Iowa Quilt Festival 2023

Winterset, Iowa, is a charming city with an amazing history. It is where the Delicious apple variety was discovered; it is home to the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum; and it is recognized for its beautiful covered bridges. But Winterset is also a popular destination for quilters as that is where you will find the Iowa Quilt Museum—and now the annual Iowa Quilt Festival!

Since 2017, the Iowa Quilt Museum has hosted the “Airing of the Quilts,” a one-day event dedicated to displaying stunning quilts of various genres throughout the city’s cultural landmarks and historic covered bridges. (Yes, the same bridges where Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep filmed the award-winning 1995 Bridges of Madison County movie.) The “Airing” grew in 2022, and this year expanded even more, transitioning into the Iowa Quilt Festival. 

The 2023 Iowa Quilt Festival took place May 31 – June 3 and included food, drinks, entertainment, a display of gorgeous quilts, classes, lectures, and more—all of which made for a spectacular event! 

Exterior of the Iowa Quilt Museum in Winterset. Photo from the Quiltfolk archive.
Movie poster of The Bridges of Madison County. Photo by Ricky Tims.

2023 Iowa Quilt Festival Highlights

  • Quilt Luminarium classes by Ricky Tims, his Timestamps exhibit at the Iowa Quilt Museum, and a gallery walk.
  • A three-day quilt retreat, which completely sold out.
  • A variety of other classes, receiving rave reviews.
  • A book reading with Frances O’Roark Dowell of her novel Birds in the Air, at the lovely stone arbor in Winterset City Park.
  • A quilt lecture by Tony Jacobson, a nationally known quilt designer, with door prizes and wine from the Covered Bridges Winery.
  • A showing of the How to Make an American Quilt film at the historic Iowa Theater.
  • The local Covered Bridge Quilters guild quilt show and a quilt-related garage sale.
  • And the grand finale was the all-day “Airing of the Quilts” event, featuring hundreds of beautiful quilts at 14 different local landmarks. The quilts were from Jean Nolte, a designer for Patrick Lose Studio; three regional modern and traditional quilt guilds; a selection of 2023 QuiltCon winners; Jody Sander’s personal vintage collection; and others. 
Star Quilt at the Cedar Covered Bridge. Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.
Collage 35 - Egg and Spoon Race by Sarah Hibbert. Photo from Frances O'Roark Dowell.
Sashes by Elizabeth Ray of Bentonville, Arkansas. Photo from Frances O'Roark Dowell.

Thoughtful Feedback

“We really wanted to elevate the Iowa Quilt Festival by bringing in a well-known quilter like Ricky Tims, and we’re delighted we took that big jump, with the help of Tony and Jeanne Jacobson and Piece Works Quilt Shop, who sponsored Ricky’s Quilt Luminarium event. We’re thrilled with the results and highly recommend Ricky Tims and his Quilt Luminarium lecture demo experience.” – Carissa Heckathorn, Iowa Quilt Museum Director.

Museum Director Carissa Heckathorn outside the museum. Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.
Cherita manning the registration booth. Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.

“This is the third year that I have presented my ‘Quilting and the Art of What If’ presentation at the picturesque Covered Bridges Winery. All three years, it has sold out. I’m not sure if it’s because of my talk or the fact that they get wine and a charcuterie plate. In my trunk show, I show how a minor change in a pattern—whether it’s changing the value of the background fabric or altering a portion of the block—can make a big difference in the overall look of the quilt. A portion of the ticket price as well as proceeds from the patterns that I designed for Piece Works Quilt Shop go directly to the Iowa Quilt Museum. It’s just a great way to wind down from the first three days of classes and retreat as we get ready for the ‘Airing of the Quilts’ event on Saturday.”  – Tony Jacobson

“I had a lovely time. It was my first trip to Iowa, and I came away enchanted.” – Frances O’Roark Dowell

Frances O’Roark Dowell's reading of her book "Birds in the Air". Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.

“The Iowa Quilt Festival is a must-add to your quilting event bucket list. Madison County and the charming town of Winterset provide an abundance of sites to see, and you’ll experience lots of ‘good feels.’ The classes, the Iowa Quilt Museum, the fantastic quilt shop (Piece Works), along with the airing of the quilts in locations such as the famous bridges, barns, and churches all combine to make a unique quilt experience that should not be missed. I can’t wait to go again!” – Ricky Tims

Ricky Tims during the Iowa Quilt Festival. Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.
Quilts on display inside a covered bridge. Photo by Ricky Tims.

Save the Date for the 2024 Iowa Quilt Festival

I personally had the honor of exhibiting my quilts at both the 2018 and 2022 “Airing of the Quilts.” I met quilt enthusiasts from all over the country and loved every minute of the experience. In 2018, my husband easily entertained himself around town while I answered questions all day about my quilts at the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge. Last year, my mom tagged along and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the event.

This festival is a must-see for any quilt enthusiast. Carissa shared, “We already have two bus tours that are offering a trip to our 2024 Iowa Quilt Festival!” So, plan now for next year’s event that is already scheduled for June 5-8, 2024. Grab a carload of quilting friends and make a road trip out of it, coordinate a guild bus trip, or book a flight and enjoy as many days as you can. I hope to see you there!

Quilts draped over church pews. Photo by Ricky Tims.
The Covered Bridges Winery sign adorned with quilts. Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.
Quilts on display at the Hogback Covered Bridge. Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.
Quilts on display at the Cedar Covered Bridge. Photo supplied by the Iowa Quilt Museum.

About the Author

Diane L. Murtha joined the Quiltfolk team in 2022. Learn more about Diane and her work on her website

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