The first use of colorful designs on barns in America dates back as early as the 1800s. German and Swiss immigrants settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch region of southeastern Pennsylvania, building family farms that were often spruced up with small painted patterns on the barns.
Recent lore indicates that today’s barn decorating revival became popular through the efforts of a woman named Donna Sue Groves from Adams County, Ohio. In honor of her mother, she initiated a community project in 2001 including 20 quilts displayed along a driving trail.
Traditional block patterns like Bear Paw, Log Cabin, Wedding Ring, and many kinds of star designs—as well as custom geometrics—are becoming familiar sights on barns and other buildings along rural driving trails, often designated on tourism maps.
Urban areas have picked up the theme and you may see barn quilts on garden sheds, front porches, and garages! What a wonderful way to honor one of America’s most honored handcrafting traditions!
If you’re in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area for QuiltWeek, March 12-15, 2014, be sure to keep an eye out for them; you’re near the birthplace of America’s barn quilt phenomenon.