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The Winding Ways Quilt

The Winding Ways Quilt

An Elm Creek Quilts Novel

(Book #12 of The Elm Creek Quilts)
  • reading group guide
Jennifer Chiaverini's bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series continues with The Winding Ways Quilt, in which the arrival of newcomers into the circle of quilters heralds unexpected journeys down pathways near and far.

Quilters have flocked to Elm Creek Manor to learn from Master Quilter Sylvia Compson and her expert colleagues. There's Sarah, Sylvia's onetime apprentice who's paired her quilting accomplishments with a mind for running the business of Elm Creek Quilts; Agnes, who has a gift for appliqué; Gwen, who stitches innovative art quilts; Diane, a whiz at the technicalities of quick-piecing; and Bonnie, with her encyclopedic knowledge of folk art patterns. But with Judy and Summer, two other founding members of the Elm Creek Quilters, departing to pursue other opportunities, will the new teachers be able to fill in the gaps created by the loss of their expertise -- and more important, their friendship?

"When I think of all the different paths I could have followed in my life, all the twists and turns that could have led me anywhere," muses incoming teacher Gretchen, "it's something of a miracle that I ended up here, surrounded by loving friends."

But what of friends departed? As Sylvia contemplates a tribute to the partnership of the Elm Creek Quilters, she is reminded of a traditional quilt pattern whose curved pieces symbolize a journey. Winding Ways, a mosaic of overlapping circles and intertwining curves, would capture the spirit of their friendship at the moment of its transformation.

Will Sylvia's choice inspire the founding members to remember that each is a unique part of a magnificent whole? Will the newcomers find ways to contribute, and to earn their place? The Winding Ways Quilt considers the complicated, often hidden meanings of presence and absence, and what change can mean for those who have come to rely upon one another.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416533153 | 
  • December 2008
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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions
1. How does the quilt that Sylvia works on throughout the novel represent the Elm Creek Quilters? Describe how she uses each piece and the overall concept to create a lasting tribute and connection to her friends.
2. The women of Elm Creek Manor often come to realize their own feelings by analyzing their reactions to others. For example, how does Judy's reaction to Anna, the manor's new chef, reveal her feelings about leaving Waterford? Identify other scenes in the novel where a character's true feelings are revealed by the way she acts toward or reacts to others.
3. At the first Candlelight Ceremony in the novel, a shy camper's words remind the Elm Creek Quilters that circles can exclude as well as include. Relate this concept to the running theme of absence vs. presence in the novel and explain the symbolism inherent in the concept of a Quilting Circle.
4. Gwen warns Sarah about "unsmoothable wrinkles" of motherhood, but the uber-organized Sarah is confident that she can plan for just about anything. What unsmoothable wrinkles present themselves to Sarah, and how does she deal with them? Which other characters struggle with unsmoothable wrinkles along their own winding ways?
5. Several of the Elm Creek Quilters came to quilting because of their grandmothers, either directly or indirectly. Describe their stories and compare them: Were these women brought into the art with love, or were they motivated by somethin see more

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About the Author

Jennifer Chiaverini
Photograph © Steve Garfinkel

Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaveriniis the author of the New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series, five collections of quilt projects, and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, her most recent historical novel. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

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