A Visit to the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts

The perfect road trip includes sunny days, time enough to stop at quilt and antique shops, and one very special destination. I experienced just that last week when I visited the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts.


The museum is located just outside the charming town of Cedarburg, not far from the shores of Lake Michigan and just 20 miles from Milwaukee. Cedarburg was once a mill town, but its well-preserved stone and wood buildings now beckon tourists to art galleries, restaurants, and specialty shops. The quilt museum is on the site of a former German farmstead that dates from the 1850s. Its 2.2 acres includes structures like an ice house, summer kitchen, and farm house. 

According to museum director Melissa Wraalstad, the farmstead was purchased in 2001 and the museum operated for ten years out of that small farmhouse. In 2011, the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts opened in the refurbished barn, which houses an exhibition hall, classroom space, museum shop, and storage for some of the museum’s holdings: handwoven coverlets, Stevengraphs (silk Jaquard-woven bookmarks and greeting cards) and of course quilts. “A fiber museum is so appropriate in this town of former woolen mills,” says Melissa.

Past exhibitions have included Commemorating his Purple Reign: A Tribute to Prince; Lace: Works of Adornment; and Quilt National, 2015.

Peony Flower by Tashiko Tanaka of Tokyo and detail (below)

I was delighted to arrive on the last day of the 13th Quilt Nihon exhibition. This traveling show includes 36 prize-winning quilts from Japan’s April 2016 Nihon competition.

Spinning a Happy Moment by Mieko Hara of Fuqui, Japan and detail (below)

The quilts reflected their makers deep and patient communion with their materials, and a staggering understanding of color, perspective, and technique.

Triangles to My Heart’s Content by Keiko Ohno of Chiba, Japan
Detail of Birds of a Feather Flock Together by Noriko End of Tokyo
Prayer for Peace by Saeko Hasumoro of Okayama, Japan
Into the Woods by Sachiko Suzuki of Chiba, Japan

Moving through the gallery, from one quilt to the next, was a humbling experience.

Round Dance by Aiko Sumiyoshi of Hiroshima, Japan
Detail of Welcome Home! by Mutumi Chihara
Blooming Flowers on the Waterfront and detail (below) by Tomoko Sho of Saitama, Japan

Fiber Arts in the Digital Age is now on view at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, and the Quilt Nihon exhibition moves next to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, where it opens on October 12. We’re so fortunate that museums like these and others preserve and share the artistry of quilts with viewers. If you’re looking for a road trip this fall, you couldn’t do better than making a quilt museum your destination.

Do you have a fall road trip in mind? Where are you going and does your trip include quilts?

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4 thoughts on “A Visit to the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts

  1. Cedarburg is a wonderful old town–went on a couple of shopping trips there 20+ years ago when I lived in Wisconsin. I hope to visit there again one day. I remember that building from your interior picture–perfect location for a quilt museum!

  2. I am in awe of the workmanship that went into these beauties!!! I think my favorites are the quilt that looks like a glowing stained glass window, and the neighborhood at night quilt. My Momma is from the area if Kentucky south of Paducah. It’s a wonderful town and the Quilt Museum there is a gem as well. Thank you for sharing these with us!

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