We’ll be featuring posts celebrating the intersection of local food, agriculture, and art, leading up to AgriCULTURE Fest and Feast on September 16. Ag Fest is a supercharged Farmers’ Market and Ag Feast is wonderful dinner made by local chefs with locally produced food. The Ag Feast is a fundraiser for the Greeley Creative District.
Quilting, the process of sewing two layers of fabric together to make a thicker padded material, is an ancient art. Egypt claims the oldest quilt in existence dating back to 980 BC, a piece made from colored gazelle leather. Knights from the Middle Ages wore quilted garments, called gambesons, under their armor.
Early American quilts were made by English and Dutch settlers and were strictly utilitarian, used to cover poorly sealed windows and doors to ward off cold and dust, and provide warm covers for beds. According to historians, quilting “bees” arose with the new settlers on the Great Plains, and were social in nature, used to mark important events in a woman’s life, such as marriage or the arrival of babies. With women on farms often isolated from family and neighbors, quilting bees became an important opportunity to exchange medical advice and other information essential to survival. While still utilitarian, quilts evolved to creative and artistic representations of themes and designs.
Barn Quilts are painted quilt squares – usually fashioned on wooden boards and then mounted on a barn, garage, house, or other building. The size of the squares vary, depending on the place to be displayed, but usually measure 8 feet.
While cloth quilts are usually made up of a series of squares of the same pattern placed together, a barn quilt is almost always a single square and comprised of simple geometric shapes, like squares, rectangles, and triangles. These simple designs and limited details not only make the blocks easier to create but the contrast of solid colors also makes the blocks more readily seen from a distance.
Like their fabric counterparts, barn quilts have their own unique history. Even though barns were not often painted structures in early years, they were often adorned with different types of folk art.
The pattern for a particular barn quilt may be chosen for a myriad of reasons. Often the barn quilt is a painted replica of a favorite quilt or honors a loved one. A pattern may be selected because of its name—for example “Corn and Beans” (seen at right) is popular among mid-west farmers. Sometimes the barn quilt pattern is chosen just because of the appeal of the colors and pattern.
The modern concept of barn quilts began with Donna Sue Groves and her wish to honor her mother, Maxine, and her Appalachian farming heritage, by having a painted quilt hung on her barn. With the help of friends and community members, Donna’s vision grew to a trail of 20 quilt barns in Adams County, Ohio, which began in 2001.
Donna Sue’s idea has resonated with people throughout the country who wanted to honor other special quilts and quilters. They have created barn quilt communities in 45 states and in Canada. The American Quilt Trail is a collection of all of the thousands of painted quilts—both those that are part of an organized trail and those that have been painted by individuals to decorate their property. There is no formal registry as such; the number of documented barn quilts has grown past 7,000, but there are hundreds more that have been created by individuals, quilt guilds, schools, churches, and 4-H clubs.
East of Eaton, Colorado, the A.H. Myers Barn quilt, seen at right, is a variation on the Double Aster pattern. It was designed and painted by Susan Nelson, and was chosen for the appeal of the colors and the dynamic pattern movement.
Other Barn Quilts in the area include Tigges Farm, Von Trotha-Firestien Farm at Bracewell, the Trowbridge farm east of Eaton, Sally Clift farm on Fern Ave., and ones on State Hwy 14 east of Ault, Rd 43 north of Rd 74, Rd 43 north of Rd 70, and Rd 55 north of Rd 74. There are certainly others on barns, sheds, and garages throughout the County.
interested in your own barn quilt?
There are a number of places to purchase a barn quilt and even online tutorials on making one yourself. Here is an easy step-by-step guide.
ECONOMIC FOOTNOTE: the current value of quilting in the U.S. is $3.6 billion.