Barn quilts

Barn quilts are quilt blocks painted onto plywood and hung on barns, and in the past decade, it's become a folk art movement that's spread across the country. It's a way to highlight both the textile art of quilting (and the farm women who made them), and the barns that dot the countryside.

Suzi Parron writes about the woman credited with starting the movement, and the barns and families from some of the first states with official barn quilt trails. The book is a wonderful read.

Washington has a heritage barn project, but only Kittitas county has an official barn quilt trail. There's a published map and route you can follow, with information about each family. You'll find more information here. (Rumor has it Parron is working on a second edition, which will include the Kittitas quilt trail.)

We saw several of the decorated barns near Ellensburg a couple of weeks ago; several of them are right down the hill from our good friends' house. I came home from that visit determined to add quilt blocks to some of our outbuildings. We don't have a big barn; it was torn down decades before we bought our farmhouse. But we have a cute old well house, chicken coop, and machinery shed.

So how to choose the perfect blocks to use? I love the traditional blocks... Wedding Ring, Ohio Star, Flying Geese. I especially like the Churn Dash variations like Quail's Nest, Monkey Wrench, and Hole in the Barn Door. My favorite is a flying geese block that forms a 4-pointed star in the center. It's completely perfect for our barn quilt. A strip-pieced Flying Geese quilt is the first one I ever made. But even better, it will remind me of the flock of Sebastopol geese we inherited when we bought our little farm.

It's getting too cold for painting out of doors, so while I wait for spring, perhaps I'll make a sampler quilt from my favorite barn quilt blocks. It will keep my interest alive while I wait for spring. And I'll get a beautiful quilt to hang in the farmhouse.

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