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.”