A Day in the Country: Barn Quilts

Finally, it’s summer. School is out and vacation is in sight. Whether it’s a two-week holiday, four-day weekend, or just a day trip, a short break from day-to-day life can be so refreshing.

Red_barn_2

This was the only barn I saw with two blocks on it.

Earlier this week I got away for an afternoon, on country roads in Washington County, Iowa, where I went to take pictures of barn quilts. These large wooden squares are painted to resemble quilt blocks and affixed to barns. The displayed blocks may reflect a quilt owned by the farm’s family or simply be a design they find appealing.

Meadow_Flower_block_2

This Meadow Flower block is on the barn in the photo below.

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Barn Quilts sign

A few of the barn quilts had “official” signs like this one.

The first barn quilt was displayed in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio, and since then whole communities have jumped on the bandwagon and created barn quilt trails, complete with maps noting barn locations. (According to Suzi Parron, who wrote Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement, there are more than 7,000 known individual barn quilts, and Wikipedia says there are some 43 different barn quilt trails.) Barn quilts build community and highlight historic architecture. Indeed, many wooden barns are falling into disrepair and being replaced by metal buildings. It’s easy to understand why farmers might prefer this low-maintenance alternative, but seeing the well-cared-for wooden structures is a real pleasure.

Corn and quilt block barn

This barn is adorned with a quilt block AND an ear of Iowa corn.

I spent a lovely few hours checking out the barns and taking in the sights along the way. It was a lovely, blue-sky day and I enjoyed seeing tidy gardens and clothes flapping on the lines. The communities I visited have a sizeable Amish population and I slowed numerous times to pass buggies at a pace that wouldn’t kick up dust.

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It was definitely a break from the pace of my everyday life and every time I stepped out of the car to take a photo, I’d hear the wind rushing through the grass and the corn, and songs of red-winged blackbirds. (And there might have been a stop at a quilt shop along the way.) Such a relaxing day!

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Century_Farm_2

This barn has the date 1893 above the quilt block. A sign in the yard noted that it’s a designated century farm—the land has been in a single family for 100 years or more.

When I got home it occurred to me that I didn’t even need to leave my street—two houses within a block of mine have painted quilt blocks on them. (But I’m glad I had a mini-vacay, nevertheless.)

Julia's_house_2

Russell's_house_2

Do you have a barn quilt trail near you? Let us know where it is, so others can find and enjoy them!

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20 comments on “A Day in the Country: Barn Quilts

  1. Ellie P says:

    There are quilt blocks on many barns here near New Liskeard Ontario Canada. They were placed several years ago. The Quilt Barn opened their new shop about that time. I love seeing them as we drive from St-Bruno-de-Guigues Quebec to the Tri-town area in Ontario.

  2. Phyllis McDaniel says:

    In Oregon we have at least two that I am aware of. One in the Colombia Gorge and another trail in the costal range. I haven’t seen all of them yet but this fall I would love to do the coastal area.

    • Diane says:

      Phyllis, where in the Columbia Gorge is the trail? I’ve enjoyed finding the ones in Tillamook. They have added to them over the years so it’s fun to spot the new ones every time we get to visit.

  3. Carol Kuse says:

    Franklin County, Kansas, has one. You can pick up the route at the Visitors’ Center just off of I-35. The exit is well marked. Go on into town since most of the town is on the Historical Register.

  4. Sharon says:

    We are a part of the official quilt barn trail – Schoharie County, NY

  5. Toni Brooks says:

    We have one in Lake County, California. Neat to see the quilts on barns & buildings around Clear Lake.

  6. Helen LeBrett says:

    I was just going to tell you about the Lake County Ca Barn quilts, but was beat to the punch by Toni (above)! 🙂 There is also a book that a quilter made with 12 of the blocks made up into a quilt and the directions for it. It’s called “Sunday Drive” by Kerrie Hershey. Thanks for sharing your pics of the barns you saw! Hugs, H in Healdsburg

  7. Linzee McCray says:

    I love hearing about all these different trails (and the quilts that have resulted from some of them). Keep ’em coming!

  8. elyzabetsy says:

    My parents live in Western NC and we love all the barn quilts in their area. Western NC and Tennessee is a wonderful place to find quilt blocks on barns, garages and homes. Along route 181 going from Marion to Newland NC are at least a dozen quilts. I’m dreaming of doing one on our home someday here in Australia. 🙂

    • SarahZ says:

      Elizabeth, I would encourage you that making a barn quilt is much easier than making a quilt quilt! Pick a pattern and go for it…Australia will thank you!! 🙂

    • Marynel Merris says:

      I loved seeing these barn quilt examples. I am currently working on a quilt made with barn block barns.

  9. Donna says:

    Little McCormick County, South Carolina, has a quilt trail. We’re on the Freshwater Coast along Lake Thurmond. Y’all come check out our blocks.

  10. F mcbride says:

    Last year we drove throughout Maimi County, Ohio to see the Quilt Barns. The farming countryside was beautiful as well as the many restored quilt barns.

  11. Teresa Carstens says:

    My sister-in-law lives in Columbia, Missouri. There’s a Quilt Barn trail that stitches three counties together (Saline, Cooper, and Howard) that’s really fun to drive — very picturesque country, too.

  12. Patricia Cash says:

    Have never seen any in my area Texas Hill Country. We love road trips and are retired, so have added to our bucket list.

  13. Sue S says:

    There are several barn quilt tours here in Wisconsin. You can Goggle ‘barn quilts in WI’ and get maps for various counties. They look good with all our lovely cows arranged picturesquely around them!

  14. Michele J. says:

    I am on the team, working on a barn quilt trail along the Thames River. It is centred around Chatham, Ontario. We have 10 blocks left to paint and then we will be getting them up!

  15. Celia Kay Andrew says:

    I,m a British Moda-adora. I am really annoyed about a lovely jelly roll I bought that was not ‘straight’ – the strips when unrolled were in a slight ‘V’ formation and thus the quilt I made was extremely hard to get right – how can you follow the material line when it isn’t quite straight in the first place!!!! I can find nowhere to contact MODA to put this complaint, absolutely no contact address anywhere. I’m not on facebook or twitter or anything else except e-mail and there is no way except for this Blog where I can express my exasperation. So I’m going to put my annoyance here in the hope that someone from MODA finds it. The roll was made in Korea and was Atelier by 3 sisters. It is beautiful and such a disappointment that it wasn’t cut as it should have been. I’ve made my quilt and it’s OK, but I don’t want to work with jelly rolls again if they’re all like that one. It was my first one ever!!

    • TerriS says:

      Hi…I’m sorry about your experience with Moda fabric. I searched the internet and found the following information. I hope this helps.

      Phone: 800-527-9447
      Hours: Monday – Friday 7:30 am – 3:00 pm

      Customer Service: service@unitednotions.com

  16. […] written about hitting the road to visit barn quilts and quilt museums (and thanks, readers, for all the great additions to those posts). Now it’s […]

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