The journey over the hill and through the woods to grandmother’s house for turkey and pie is a bit more decorative these days thanks to artists who are hanging squares of local culture on the sides of buildings.
Quilting—an old tradition of art and agriculture—has taken on a modern twist with plywood, paint, and brushes replacing the needle, thread, and fabric. While quilting as an American pastime is still a widespread practice, artists are now taking patterns of heritage preservation and hanging them on the sides of barns.
Designated Barn Quilt Trails weave across the country thanks to Donna Sue Groves, who created the concept in 2001 to honor her Appalachian heritage. With support from the Ohio Arts Council, her idea expanded into a driving trail that featured twenty squares. Today, organized trails include forty-eight states and 7000 quilts. Colorado is one of those states.
Several Front Range counties have united to create the Colorado Barn Quilt Trail, aided in part by the Colorado Quilting Council, Inc. (CQC). Although not a designated trail, barn quilts on the Western Slope are a part of the fruit culture’s landscape along the byways and beyond.
Along the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, orchardists such as Carol Zadrozny of Z’s Orchard and lavender store Sprigs & Sprouts display barn quilts that reflect their agricultural pursuits. At the Museum of the West and Cross Orchards Historical Site in Grand Junction, artist and local quilter “Verda,” crafted more barn quilts using traditional quilting patterns.
Barn quilts are usually wooden squares 4×4, 6×6, or 8×8. The Iowa Extension offers a PDF with directions for building a barn quilt by the Le Mars Arts Council. (Click here for directions.) Also, the Monroe County Illinois Barn Quilt Trail Members have a “how to” download that includes additional resources. (Click here for directions.)
Quilt FAQ from Quilting in America:
- Mothers made “several quilts for each of her children to have when they left home to start life as adults.”
- “The U.S. government urged citizens to ‘Make Quilts – Save the Blankets for our Boys over There’” during WWI.
- The Depression prompted thrifty quilters to “saving bits and pieces of material from clothing and other blankets, using material from feedsacks.”
- During WWII, “quilting was used to raise money to support the Red Cross.”
Cross Orchards Historic Site is a historic fruit ranch brought back from the dead.
From 1896-1923, the Massachusetts-based Red Cross Land and Fruit Company ran one of the largest and most productive fruit ranches in Colorado. With 243 acres and over 22,000 trees—mostly apple—the site was alive with growing and harvesting. Then came the codling moth and other challenges for the offsite owners.
The ranch died a slow death.
In the 1980s, the ranch rose from the grave, up out of the “weeds as big as trees,” and twenty-four acres of the original ranch site were saved from being buried under demolition and sub-divisions. The community united around the project, with the Territorial Daughters leading the way.
Territorial Daughters are still preserving history…and apple butter.
Territorial Daughter of Colorado volunteers can be seen in era-appropriate costume making treats on the wood cooking stove for Fall Day on the Farm this October 18, 2015. Other historical demonstrations include blacksmithing, quilting, weaving, and pressing cider.
Cross Orchards Director of Operations says Fall Day on the Farm is “a celebration of the harvest.”
Cross Orchards Historic Site is an opportunity for our 21st Century culture to travel back in time. It is a generational experience: children, parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents come together for the day. Walking into history—whether it’s the packing shed, the bunkhouse, or the summerhouse—is an opportunity for older generations to take youngsters by the hand and share their own walks down memory lane.
At Fall Day on the Farm history is very much alive!
Fall Day on the Farm:
Hours: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Cost: Free to members, family groups – $15, Kids – $3.50, Seniors – $4, Adults – $5.
Click here for map.