Barn Quilts in Rural America

Updated on November 15, 2017
ThelmaC profile image

Thelma is an award-winning writer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She enjoys writing about rural America, especially Appalachia.

"Summer Sunday" Barn Quilt in Monroe, Wisconsin

Located on the farm of John and Amy Bartlett
Located on the farm of John and Amy Bartlett | Source

Beauty of Barn Quilt Art

Bright and colorful quilts are covering barns across the heartland of America. No, these are not the fabric quilts that grandma used to make that looked so beautiful draped across her four poster bed. These unique works of art, known as barn quilts, are quilt squares made of wood and mounted to the sides of barns and other farm buildings.

Predominantly found in rural areas, barn quilts are meticulously designed and hand painted by craft hobbyists as well as artists who are making a living selling barn quilts.

Barn decorating dates back to the 1800's when the Pennsylvania Dutch painted hex signs on their barns. The small colorful patterns were of traditional folk art designs. They were thought by some to be talismans for good fortune while others displayed them merely for decoration.

The barn quilts are not only a delight to view, but the fun starts with the "thrill of the hunt" to find them!

How to Find These Pieces of Art

Much like the recent interest in the sport of geocaching, quilt barn hunting is really catching on. It has become a hobby popular with traditional sewing quilters as well as people that don't even know how to sew.

To aid in the scavenger hunt for these unique art forms, quilt trails have sprung up in over 30 states and 2 Canadian provinces. These quilt pathways were the brainchild of Donna Sue Groves of Ohio who, in 2001, placed a wooden quilt block on her barn as a tribute to her mother, an avid quilter. She then organized a community project in Adams county which resulted in 20 barn quilts being displayed along a driving trail, now known as barn quilt trails.

You might ask, "What is the difference between a barn quilt and a quilt barn?" The quilt barn is the name for the barn that has the painted wooden quilt attached to it. The wooden quilt is known as a barn quilt. Makes sense, doesn't it?

"Grandmother's Pride" Pattern Features the Color of Each Grandchild's Birthstone

Pattern: Grandmother's Pride located on a farm in Juda, Wisconsin
Pattern: Grandmother's Pride located on a farm in Juda, Wisconsin | Source

This beautiful art form is not just for barns. It can be displayed inside the home as well as out.

"Rooster" Pattern: A Small Version of This Pattern Can Be Used as a Kitchen Decoration


This Artwork Brings a Surge to Rural Tourism

Quilt barn trails have encouraged a surge in rural tourism in many areas. The trail organizers provide tourists with self-guided trail maps and GPS coordinates to locate the quilt barns. This gets visitors off the beaten path into areas which would not normally be frequented by out of town guests. The result is exposure for gas stations, motels, restaurants, and other businesses along the way. Many times, tourists return for repeat trail visits to enjoy the countryside and see quilts that are added to the trail. Tour buses provide group trips for a day in the country viewing the pastoral scenery and the beautiful barn quilts.

Another economic benefit that has come out of the barn quilt craze is the formation of "cottage businesses" that make and sell barn quilt squares. One such venture is Heritage Barn Quilts of Chesterfield, Missouri. Owner Karen Parrish makes her quilts out of wood in a variety of sizes and patterns or she will paint a custom order in a pattern that you provide. Karen says, "Many people have a quilt pattern that is meaningful to them and want it duplicated to honor a special person or time in their lives".

"Sunflower" Pattern Displayed in Brodhead, Wisconsin

Located on the farm of Doug and Laura Zettle
Located on the farm of Doug and Laura Zettle | Source

Trail in Green County, Wisconsin

One example of a county taking advantage of barn quilt tourism is Green County, Wisconsin located on the Illinois Wisconsin border. Lynn Lokken of the Green County Barn Quilts Committee explained they are proud that they still have many small family dairy farms and want to promote their agricultural area to tourists.

The group of volunteers paint wooden quilts and seek farm owners willing to donate the space to hang the art where it is visible from the road. They have developed criteria for the structure to be eligible to host the quilt and the committee makes the decision as to where the quilts will be located.

Many Green County businesses and residents have sponsored the quilt trail program through monetary donations. In exchange for their contributions, the donors are recognized on the group's website and on the trail maps. According to Lynn, it typically costs $250 to make and install one of their barn quilts.

If you can't visit Green County in person, stop by their website where they feature each one of the quilts from their trail along with location addresses.

"Cornucopia" Pattern on Barn in Argyle, Wisconsin

"School House" Barn Quilt in Blanchardville, Wisconsin

Located on the farm of Dean and Rae Reeson.
Located on the farm of Dean and Rae Reeson. | Source

Not Just Art: A Signature of Rural America

Barn quilts have certainly redefined the term "public art". They not only are a kaleidoscope of color but they also exude a certain nostalgic charm with their quaint names such as Star Puzzle, Farmer's Daughter, America's Pride and Tumbleweed. Each one you find gives you the urge to find the next one. They appear out of nowhere on quiet country roads like a beacon of color beckoning you to stop and take the time to "smell the roses".

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Slideshow Featuring More Beautiful Barn Quilts

© 2012 Thelma Raker Coffone

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    • profile image

      Carol Singleton 20 months ago

      Your article was great. I enjoyed learning more about these amazing barn quilts and seeing the pictures.

    • profile image

      whatwhenwhereandwhy 22 months ago

      Really enjoyed this article. ...Thanks so much for sharing...

    • Lacey Taplin profile image

      Lacey Taplin 2 years ago from Highlands Ranch, CO

      Very interesting article. My mother-in-law is an avid quilter but not this kind of "quilting!" I will be keeping my eyes out for these interesting pieces of art.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      RTalloni I love that little bird house with the barn quilt on it. Glad you enjoyed the hub and video. Thanks for your nice comments.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Midget38 I forgot to thank you for sharing my hub with your followers. I really appreciate it!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      How delightful! Thanks for highlighting barn quilts and the quilt trails for us. I may never make more than the little birdhouse design in the video, but I do intend to have at least that! :)

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Moonlake the barn in your picture is just screaming for a barn quilt! I envy you living on an old farm. I look forward to following you and reading more of your stories. Thanks for your comments!

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Midget38 I am planning to add more pictures soon. I really had fun making the little video that I have here. I am so excited about barn quilts and will be doing much more writing about them. I will keep you informed. Thanks for your comments!!!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I love barn quilts if I had the energy I would put one on our barn. Thanks so much for sharing this interesting hub. Voted up.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Wish we could see more barns here, Thelma. Beautifully rustic! Sharing!

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Thanks so much Randy. The UP, coming from you, really means a lot!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia

      These are really great, Thelma. I'd never heard of these barn decorations but I may have observed some and didn't know what I was seeing at the time.

      Very well written and researched, Thelma. Rated up, of course!


    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      lrc7815 you have to watch for them where you live in Central Virginia. I'm sure you will find some! Thanks for the follow!!

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

      What a wonderful hub. As a lover of old barns and quilts, this is near perfection. I have not seen barn quilts but thanks you you, I will have a new obsession. Great job!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I have seen these all of my life without giving them a second thought. Wonderful hub.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 5 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA


      I'm thrilled with your comment. Thanks!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      So interesting;I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

      It has to be an Up up and away!!!!

      Eddy .