In How To Make an American Quilt, Berkeley graduate student Finn (Winona Ryder) decides to spend the summer with her grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and great aunt (Anne Bancroft).

Uncertain whether or not to accept the marriage proposal of her boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney), Finn listens carefully to the stories of love and loss shared by the rest of the women in her grandmother and aunt's quilting group (Maya Angelou, Kate Nelligan, Jean Simmons, Lois Smith, and Alfre Woodard). Their tales make palpable such experiences as adultery, abandoned dreams, the struggle to be free, racial constraints, and the difficulty of sustaining love in a marriage.

The screenplay by Jane Anderson touches all the bases in Whitney Otto's 1991 bestselling novel. Jocelyn Moorhouse's direction of How To Make an American Quilt is efficient but somewhat lacking in heart. Nonetheless, the film celebrates the value of women sharing their stories and secrets across generational lines with younger women.