The American barn quilt movement started in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio. To honor her mother Maxine who was a master quilter, Donna Sue Groves painted a quilt block on her tobacco barn. The project seemed to have a wide appeal! Neighbors and friends realized this could be beneficial to the community as a means to bring tourism and economic development, so instead of just a single personal tribute, Groves worked with the community to create a “clothesline of quilts,” which began with an Ohio Star.
Sac County Iowa embraced the barn quilt idea and in the summer of 2005, visitors began seeing decorative quilt blocks on historic barns and corncribs all around the county.
Inspired by the Sac County Barn Quilts, the Kewaunee County Area Barn Quilt project began in January 2008. Over 125 area 4-H and Future Farmers of America students worked with the community designing and painting 18 “quilts” for historically-significant barns. They learned about barn history, quilt and color theory and painting techniques.
The 4-H and FFA students met with the farm families to learn about their barns and to choose the pattern that would be just right for that barn and family. The quilt squares were then painted with the first squares being hung on a blustery Saturday in February 2009. In typical Wisconsin fashion, the weather that day started off with 1-2 inches of snow in the forecast. By the time six of the quilts were hung, 14 inches of snow had fallen!
Three more quilts were hung the following Tuesday in freezing rain with the final quilts gracing their barns in June!
Originally, barn quilts were painted directly on the structure where now they are 8-foot square wooden blocks painted in beautiful quilt patterns that are mounted on the barns. It is estimated there are over 7000 quilts that are part of organized trails in 48 states and Canada; dozens more individual quilts are believed to be scattered through the countryside waiting to be discovered.
So grab your family, download the map and take in the colors and designs of these beautiful barn quilts. You can also pick up a copy of the map from the Algoma Visitor Center as a part of our free Friendly Algoma Visitor guide. If you can’t make it in while we are open, you can download the guide here.
Map/brochure and photos courtesy of AgriculturalHeritage.org.