Bring Barn Quilts to Your Embroidery Machine

Discover OESD’s newest embroidery collection inspired by rural Americana – Quilt Trails by artist Karen Combs. It features beautiful mini quilt block appliques and historic barn quilt renderings to bring a little country nostalgia to your home.

American barn decoration dates to the mid-1800s when Pennsylvania immigrants of Swiss and German descent painted simple compass roses, birds, or stars in a traditional folk-art style to celebrate their heritage. Today, American barns feature quilt blocks… a trend started in the 2000s by an Ohio quilter. Ohio Arts Council Member Donna Sue Groves came up with the idea, and her home county of Adams now features over two dozen barns with quilts. Today, tourist “quilt trails” have popped up in 43 states, including Tennessee, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Missouri, and Kentucky.

A barn quilt is a quilt block design painted on an 8-by-8-foot piece of plywood, then mounted on the exterior of a barn. Individual farmers may do their own, but frequently rural communities select barns along a path to feature, and a group of volunteers from a quilting guild or church or 4-H club create and build the barn quilts. The local chamber of commerce publicizes this quilt trail to bring in tourists from around the country.

Besides tourism, these roadside canvases honor the contributions of rural men and women to American agriculture. To celebrate their sesquicentennial (that’s 150 years) in 2013, Pocahontas County, West Virginia commissioned 19 barn quilts to be created and displayed throughout the countryside. These barn quilts tell the story of their Civil War history.

Occasionally you will find a barn with the quilt design painted directly on it. Additionally, you may find smaller versions of barn quilts featured on historic buildings and homes in rural towns. Barn quilts are essentially weather-safe mini quilts. They add color, history, and interest to barns. The barn quilt idea has become America’s largest grassroots public arts crusade and continues to inspire people across the country to participate.