The idea of patterns and symbols on barns began about 300 years ago when immigrants left the Rhine region of Germany and settled in Pennsylvania. The Amish, Mennonites, Lutherans, and other Reform groups painted small quilt-like patterns on their barns to celebrate their heritage, bring good fortune, ward off bad spirits, and provide protection for their farms.
This wonderful art form, that celebrates the creations of quiltmakers, was reborn again in Adams County Ohio in 2001. Donna Sue Groves, a field representative for the Ohio Art Council decided to honor her mother, a lifelong quilter, by painting a large quilt square on her barn. Friends in the area not only lended a hand by participating in the project, but also added 19 more decorated barns to attract tourists to their community.
Word of the barn quilts traveled quickly spreading the concept to other communities and states. As popularity continued to grow, new versions were added and people began to paint quilt squares on fences, flood walls, businesses, garages, silos, and sheds. In the beginning, the 8 ft x 8 ft squares were based solely on traditional blocks. But as time passed, artists started adding their own embellishments, incorporating monograms, family crests, pets, and animals and they began using much more complex block designs.
Now tourists are beginning to discover barn quilts when traveling through towns and farm country. As the quilts become more visible from the road, their popularity has spread and communities are creating tours and printing trail maps for tourists to follow. Believe it or not, barn quilts have now been spotted in over 45 states!
So…If you are a quilter and plan to travel any time in the future, don’t leave without first doing your research to see if there are any barn quilts in the area!