Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Sign in or become an insider to access this story

Sign In

Quiltmaker Heidi Parkes Tells Stories Through Her Diary Quilts

Improvisational design and hand stitching help her build a personal narrative
Threads #221, Spring 2023
Left: The author, on the Lake Michigan shore, is wrapped in her quilt Static, Sand, Sky, 2022, 60 inches by 6o inches. Pieced from white fabric scraps, the quilt engages the viewer in tracing each remnant to its origins, like an archaeologist. Photo: Jeff Parkes; Right: Meuse, Pandemic, Invisible, Sweetheart, 2020, 60 inches by 60 inches. Photo: Heidi Parkes

When I was around 10 years old, I got a little diary with a padlock on it. Although I wrote in it infrequently, I felt excited by the idea of storing my secrets and the thought that my story was worth writing down. I acted in most of my high school plays, and my only leading role was as Anne Frank. These two moments have likely nurtured my interest in diary-keeping.

As a professional quilter, my artist’s statement has evolved over time, and making diary quilts was something I realized I’d been doing for a while before I named it. I define the “diary quilt” as a quilt that tells the story of the maker. I’ll explain how I came to the practice, and share some of its benefits. My approach is improvisational and often abstract, and I love how the process enables me to gain insight as I fashion my narrative through textiles. You don’t have to be an experienced quilter to make a diary quilt: A few hand-sewing skills and a willingness to play with fabrics, shapes, and stitches are all you need for your storytelling adventure.

Dare to get personal

My earliest fabric quilts, made in 2013, were largely inspired by the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. I used what fabric I had, sometimes repurposed clothing, and focused on rhythm and assembling dynamic compositions with fabric. There was an inherent element of storytelling connected to the fabric source, the imagery on the prints, and the history behind blocks such as courthouse steps, log cabin, and housetops.

meuse pandemic quilt by Heidi Parkes
Meuse, Pandemic, Invisible, Sweetheart, 2020, 60 inches by 60 inches. Photo: Heidi Parkes
close-up details of the above quilt
Meuse, Pandemic, Invisible, Sweetheart, details. Photo: Heidi Parkes

For a time, my quilts were about looking at the sky, the view from the window of an airplane, and…

Start your 14-day FREE trial to access this story.

Start your FREE trial today and get instant access to this article plus access to all Threads Insider content.

Start Your Free Trial

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in


  1. Heidi_Parkes | | #1

    Yay!!!!! I'm so happy to be a part of this issue. Carol and Steven were incredible to work with: they helped me with the vision of the article, editing, and also gave me so much freedom in telling my story. Thank you. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    1. carolfresia | | #2

      Heidi, you have been wonderful to work with, and inspiring as an artist. Thanks so much for writing for us.

      Can't wait to share your guest appearance on the Sewing with Threads podcast, coming up next week. Readers and listeners will enjoy hearing more about your work, I'm sure.

      Carol Fresia
      Editor, Threads magazine

Log in or become a member to post a comment.

More From Threads

Discussion Forum

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All