Director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s film adaptation of the novel by Whitney Otto stars Winona Ryder as Finn Dodd, a Berkeley graduate student on summer hiatus at her grandmother’s home to work on her thesis and ponder a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Sam (Dermot Mulroney). Finn’s grandma, Hy (Ellen Burstyn), lives with her great aunt, Glady Jo (Anne Bancroft), at their idyllic Northern California home.

The two fiery women meet with seven older female relatives and close friends for a regular quilting bee, led by Anna (Maya Angelou). Over the course of the summer, Finn contemplates her future while gaining insight into love and relationships from the different members of the quilting bee.

Their experiences are brought to life as each woman shares a unique tale with the confused young woman. The interwoven memories of each sage member of the quilting bee–including Constance (Kate Nelligan), Anna’s daughter Mariana (Alfre Woodard), and Finn’s free-spirited mother Sally (Kate Capshaw)–become lessons in love, pain, and emotional growth for Finn as the women work to make her wedding quilt.

Each memory becomes a vivid flashback subtly weaving the past and present together to create a colorful collection of stories, featuring young stars including Claire Danes and Samantha Mathis as the individual women in their youth. A tribute to women’s friendship and camaraderie, HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT shines with a cast of all-star actresses.



June 14, 1996


Jocelyn Moorhouse


Whitney Otto (novel), Jane Anderson (screenplay)


United International Pictures (UIP)


Comedy, Drama, Romance




109 minutes