Updated February 1, 2020.
You may be stuck at home, in front of the computer. It may be rainy or cold. Or you may have worked hard on the yard or house all day and are in need of a little vacation. Whatever the reason, I’m here to help with a little tour of a completely charming (and growing) idea in the American Midwest.
Farmers can have huge quilts painted on their barns, just like the one you see above. Painting on barns is not something new. In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, hex signs are often painted on barns. Another common item is barn advertising, like the Mail Pouch tobacco signs.
What started as a tribute to a woman’s quilting mother, has now grown to include hundreds barns throughout the Midwest and many other states. The idea is to take a quilt or quilt block and paint it onto the front or side of the barn. You can also buy smaller (often 4 feet square) painted quilts to put on a wall on the outside of your home.
Three states, Ohio, Kentucky, and Iowa have more than 250 quilt barns each. Often the barns are done as part of county initiatives and organized along trails of 20 or more barns. The quilts pictured can have a connection to the family who owns the barn or they may have historical significance to the area.
I always thought the quilts were painted directly onto the barns, but they’re not. Typically they are painted on two 4’x8′ plywood sheets, attached to a frame, and hoisted into place. The painters can be anyone from professional artists to groups of students.
Having a quilt barn trail is great for these rural communities. They encourage visitors and in many places you can even take bus tours of the barns.
You can learn more about the barns in this article. At the bottom of the article is a list of sites with listings of quilt barns. I also have a Pinterest board with plenty of pictures of quilt barns for more armchair traveling.
Some of the county, state, or regional sites have pictures of all the barns including:
- Harrison Country, Ohio
- Athens County, Ohio
- Adams County, Ohio – home of the first quilt barn
- Eastern Tennessee – click on quilt barn index to see pictures
- Iowa – this state also has similar quilts on other buildings, look at “Community Quilts”
There are also quilt barns in a total of 43 states and 3 Canaduian provinces. Learn more about these (with even more links0 in the quilt trail article on Wikipedia.