The Appalachian mountains are steeped in traditions.
One colorful (newer) tradition that you will find scattered over the country side of these mountains are beautiful barn quilts. Barn quilts are large wooden squares (usually 4’x4’or greater) that are painted to look like quilt patterns.
The barn quilts are typically displayed on the side of a barn or workshop for all to admire.
The history of barn quilts (from Heritage Barn Quilts):
“The history of barn decoration dates back to the mid 1800’s. Painting symbols on barns originated from traditional folk art passed along from the German and Swiss immigrants who settled the Pennsylvania Dutch region in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Once these groups including Lutherans, Moravians, Mennonites and other Christian reformists, built their family farms and communities, they would paint small patterns on their barns to celebrate their heritage and bring good fortune. Originally these patterns were simple stars, compass roses, or stylized birds from traditional folk art.
Today’s barn decorating revival became popular with a woman named Donna Sue Groves, from Adams County, Ohio. She wanted to honor her mother (and her Appalachian heritage) by hanging a colorful painted quilt square on her barn. Instead of just one quilt square, she began a community project with twenty quilts being displayed along a driving trail to encourage visitors to travel through the countryside.
This was the start of our first quilt trail in America. Quilt trails are now being organized all across the country. Barn quilts are displayed around communities and then mapped out for tourist to follow these amazing works of art. They promote tourism and help draw visitors into our rural communities.
Traditional stars and various quilt patterns are now being displayed on barns, homes, sheds and sides of buildings. They are also put on posts and displayed in yards and parks. Some examples of quilt patterns on barns throughout our country are shown below (source Heritage Barn Quilts).”
Once we bought our farm, my wheels started spinning about designs for a barn quilt for our own barn! I had been drooling other people’s barn art long enough! A few quarts of paint later, we proudly hung our own barn quilt on our barn! Here’s how we made it!
-Exterior latex paint in your select colors
-Pressure treated exterior 4’x4′ plywood square
-White exterior latex primer
-Paint roller & paint brushes
–4 sheets of graphic/grid paper with 1/4″ squares
-Drill & 8 wood screws
-Three 4 foot 2×4 strips to secure the quilt to the barn
Barn quilts are all about showing off your gorgeous original design! Think big and bold!
-Use bright colors because you want your barn quilt to be visible from a long distance.
-Outline your designs in black or another darker color to make them easier to see.
-Keep all your designs larger in scale
-Tape your 4 pieces of 1/4″ grid paper together in a square. Starting in the center, draw your design on the grid paper.
-Lightly sand both sides of the plywood square. Clean off the dust. Using a paint roller, prime both sides of the square with 2-3 coats of primer. Let it dry completely.
-Using a ruler and tape measure, map your plywood square into 1″x1″ squares (similar to a piece of graphic paper).
-Transpose your design on to your plywood square, starting the center.
-Starting in the center of the plywood, apply painters tape to the outside edges of your lines. Paint your lighter colors first and do one color at a time. I got a bit inpatient with the painters tape, and ended up free handing it.
Watch out for curious critters!
-If you use painters tape, don’t remove it after your first coat of paint. It will need 3-5 coats of paint to get a really saturated color. Wait until each coat fully dries until applying another coat of paint.
-Continue working towards the outer edges of your design. Go back and fix any mistakes with a small brush.
-If you are painting a border, tape off your border, and apply 3-5 coats of paint, as needed. Allow to dry.
-No varnish or exterior coat is needed since exterior paint was used.
-Find the perfect spot for your beautiful barn quilt. We drilled 3 four foot 2×4’s to even out the surface on our barn wall. The barn quilt was then drilled to the 2×4’s to secure it.
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