The Art of Barn Quilt Blocks

Driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas has never been so pretty. Over 50 barn quilt blocks hang in the region for tourists to view. What is a barn quilt block? Some may be surprised to find that making a barn quilt block involves paint, patterns, and plywood instead of fabric, patterns, and stitches. The pattern is painted with exterior paint onto exterior grade plywood and can hang anywhere outside.
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Barn quilt blocks vary in size, pattern, and color. The best part of making a barn quilt block is picking the pattern. Most designs mean something to the artist. Whether it is a quilt block named Farmer’s Daughter for a farmer’s daughter or a rooster for a lover of chickens, the patterns mean a lot. Only the imagination limits the decision. Most of the quilt blocks I have painted are my own invented designs. My mom and I sit around drawing new patterns for our next project. I don’t know which is more exciting, drawing new ideas or actually painting them! The size can vary from a one foot square to larger than an eight foot square.
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The barn quilt block trails that cover most of the country started in the early 2000’s. Donna Sue Groves had a vision when she was a child. She wanted to find a way to honor her mother. She would play a game with her mom on road trips. They would look for barns, with or without advertising and made them worth different point amounts. Later on they moved to a farm that had an old barn that her mom thought was ugly. She wanted to improve the look of the barn and honor her mom’s quilting. She dreamed of having a quilt block painted on the barn.
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Donna Sue worked for the Ohio Arts Council when the economy started to slow down. They were looking for a way to bring tourism to the Adams County, Ohio and honor local artists and quilters. As she planned for the quilt block to be painted on the old tobacco barn, it gave the arts council an idea. They wanted to have quilt blocks hung up around the county like quilts on a clothesline. They had no idea how this would spread. The Ohio Arts Council put together a group of 20 quilt blocks in the county and the effort soon spread to the neighboring county.
 
Today there are over 6,000 barn quilt blocks hanging on buildings in the United States, Canada, and other countries. Forty seven of the fifty states have barn quilt blocks hanging on buildings. Barn quilt block numbers in the United States have doubled in the last couple years as more trails are being developed.
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In November 2012, a group of ladies, including my aunt, organized the Kansas Flint Hills Quilt Trail. Today there are over 50 quilt blocks in 16 out of 22 counties in the region. Classes are offered throughout the region to make your own quilt block to hang on a building. I caught the barn quilt block bug from my aunt and started making them myself. Since I live outside of the Flint Hills region I decided to start a new quilt trail for the north central Kansas region. So far I have put together two classes and 15 barn quilt blocks have been painted. We have three quilt blocks hanging in Philips county so far and many more to come. If you have questions or are interested in helping put together a quilt trail, you can contact me, Jessie Wyrill (620) 767-3911 or follow the journey on my blog snapshotsofakansasfarm.blogspot.com. You can visit www.barnquiltinfo.com and www.ksflinthillsquilttrail.blogspot.com for more information on barn quilt blocks in Kansas and the United States.
 
In Sisterhood,
 
Jessie Wyrill
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