Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement
Publication Year: 2012
The story of the American Quilt Trail, featuring the colorful patterns of quilt squares writ large on barns throughout North America, is the story of one of the fastest-growing grassroots public arts movements in the United States and Canada. In Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement Suzi Parron travels through twenty-nine states and two Canadian provinces to visit the people and places that have put this movement on America’s tourist and folk art map.
Through dozens of interviews with barn artists, committee members, and barn owners Parron documents a journey that began in 2001 with the founder of the movement, Donna Sue Groves. Groves’s desire to honor her mother with a quilt square painted on their barn became a group effort that eventually grew into a county-wide project. Today, registered quilt squares form a long imaginary clothesline, appearing on more than three thousand barns scattered along one hundred driving trails.
With more than fifty full-color photographs, Parron documents a movement that combines rural economic development with an American folk art phenomenon.
Published by: Ohio University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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These past couple of years, I have often been asked, “What is your book going to be about?” At first I would reply, “Oh, it’s something you wouldn’t be interested in.” Rather an odd characterization, since taking on a topic unlikely to engage readers is hardly a writer’s purpose. All right, I decided, I’ll just answer, “It’s about barn quilts.” That didn’t work out too well, as the questions that ensued led to protracted ...
the trail begins
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As I rounded a bend on a Kentucky two-lane, a flash of bright color startled my road-weary eyes: a large yellow sign, with two painted rows of pink, red, blue, and purple triangles, affixed to the side of a small dark-planked barn. I slowed for a moment. The intricate geometrical design and the placement of colors and shapes looked exactly like a flying Geese quilt square! ...
the adams county quilt sampler
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Donna Sue had kept meticulous records of the quilt trails’ progress—not only in Adams County but also in the many states in which barn quilts had become part of the landscape. Dozens of e-mails, a detailed time-line of events, news articles, minutes of meetings—a fiood of documents flowed from Ohio to Georgia. I knew that the quilt trail extended far beyond my early ...
new pegs along the line
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When Donna Sue’s Appalachian clothesline of quilts crossed the Ohio River, it stretched almost three hundred miles, to northeastern Tennessee. Candace Barbee of the Clinch-Powell Resource Conservation and Development Council in Tennessee saw an article about the barn quilts during a visit to her native Scioto County, Ohio, and thought that they might fit the council’s goals. ...
barbara webster day
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After talking with Donna Sue and visiting fifty or so barns in Ohio, I was beginning to understand how the quilt trail idea had caught on, but recording further history would have to wait. I felt the need to experience firsthand the excitement of building a quilt trail. Burnsville, North Carolina, was set to celebrate the installation of the one hundredth quilt square in the western part of the state. ...
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I had been intrigued since the first time I heard about the Buffalo Gals Quilt trail. Who were these “Gals,” I wondered—a bunch of horsewomen who wrangled barn quilts? They claimed to have a trail of about 150 quilts—the most I had heard of—and I was eager to document the lot. A call to University of Kentucky Cooperative extension agent Connie Minch, the contact person for ...
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I was energized by my visits to Burnsville and Georgetown and ready to dig into the trail’s beginnings. Donna Sue had shared the story of Candace Barbee, of the Clinch-Powell RC&D Council, who brought the quilt trail to Tennessee, but I had also discovered that the Appalachian Quilt Trail, as the group was called, was expanding quickly across the state. I was ready to find out more, so I made...
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Donna Sue had spoken often of Berea, Kentucky, and the meetings that she had held there to introduce quilt barns to the state. Before the Adams County trail was completed, she had begun to see the project’s potential and to envision an Appalachian “clothesline of quilts.” Because Kentucky was between the growing trails in Ohio and Tennessee, it seemed natural for the state ...
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My first foray into the world of barn quilts had been in Burnsville, North Carolina, but the stay had been brief. I had initially visited to witness the installation of the one hundredth quilt block, but I had to make several return trips to the area to gather some of the more interesting stories of the first ninety-nine. The brilliantly colored starlight quilt block is tucked away above a valley east ...
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I had begun my exploration of Ohio’s quilt trails at its beginnings—in Adams and Brown Counties. on the way out of the state, a special event made a stop in Gallia County a priority. When Donna Sue went to Gallia County a couple of years earlier to talk about the quilt trail, Roy McGinnis and Gale Leslie of the Bob Evans Farm and Heritage Museum were also taken with the story of Maxine’s ...
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I was eager to visit Iowa, as it had played a pivotal role as the starting point of the quilt trail west of the Mississippi. In 2003, while the Adams County quilt trail was nearing completion, Donna Sue attended the National Rural Funders Collaborative Conference in Nebraska, to share the barn quilt concept with other rural communities that were seeking ways to generate revenue. There, she met ...
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Donna Sue often remarks that a successful quilt trail needs a “spark plug” to get things going. Holly Froning of the Kankakee County, Illinois, extension office—a part-time employee who devotes countless volunteer efforts to the barn quilt project—is so energetic that she seems more like a teenager than the mother of teens. She gives credit to the committee of quilters, arts ...
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I had doubted whether I would make it to Wisconsin, as the state isn’t on the way to anywhere I planned on going, But I wound up making two trips there. The first came during my escape from the hailstorm in Fayette County, Iowa. I had been in touch by phone and e-mail with quilter Lynn Lokken, who was one of the driving forces behind Wisconsin’s first quilt trail, in Green County. It was a ...
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I had been in touch with Cindi Van Hurk several times over two years, and she had urged me more than once to visit the quilt trail she had helped create on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I knew that I would travel to some locations only by phone and e-mail, and this location was particularly remote, but I wanted very much to meet the woman who had answered my call to ...
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Many quilt squares are created in honor of earlier generations, to celebrate family heritage, the legacy of quilting, or those who once worked the family farm. But some of them are tributes to a single family member, a loving gesture of remembrance. I heard several of these stories, and a few stayed with me. It was a welcome surprise in November—just a week after her surgery—when ...
the quilt trail comes full circle
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Donna Sue spoke often of places she hoped that I would visit, but the Prescott farm was another matter. “The full circle story,” as she called it, was one that Donna Sue urgently wanted to be sure was recorded, and she mentioned it often. I was grateful that Melissa and Pete Prescott agreed to meet me at the nearest highway exit, as the steep backcountry roads that lead to their farm would have ...
blanketing the country with quilts
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I spent eighteen months visiting the ten states where quilt trails have proliferated, some for several days and others for multiple trips over a period of months. But like the bride who was a young girl “just yesterday,” the quilt trail grew and matured seemingly overnight as I worked to record its progress. In 2009, with projects in New Jersey and Oregon, the trail of quilt squares spanned the country ...
the american quilt trail
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Standing on the Adams County hillside in October 2001, the crowd of neighbors, loved ones, and hundreds of others wore faces aglow with excitement, as they had become part of something very special. as the first quilt square was completed, Donna sue smiled widely and, dabbing away tears, remarked to a friend, “This is going to be big.” But even Donna Sue could not have ...
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Publication Year: 2012