11 Quilt Barn Trails to Explore
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Celebrating our heritage
Like colossal roadside canvases, barn quilts artistically combine two symbols of Midwest heritage--barns and quilts. The colorful patterns, painted on hundreds of barns throughout the region, create the backdrop for a series of driving and walking tours perfect for an afternoon escape. On the next slides you'll find 11 tours that connect art with a scenic country drive or small-town visit.
Pictured: Le Moyne Stars barn quilt in Adams County, Ohio
Adams County, Ohio
The beginning of the modern barn quilt trend is generally credited to Donna Sue Groves, an Ohio Arts Council field representative, who in 2001 promised her mother she'd paint a quilt square on the family barn. She eventually envisioned a trail of barn quilts through southern Ohio that would draw visitors to Adams County, boosting the economy and preserving the rich American quilting tradition.
The Adams County "Clothesline of Quilts" now features more than two dozen barns, including the Bow Tie quilt barn at left. You can find printable maps and a self-guided driving tour through the Adams County website below.
In the last few years, Donna's vision has spread well beyond Adams County: Other areas in Ohio and surrounding states have started quilt barn trails to bring visitors to rural areas and provide appealing public art projects in the countryside.
Grundy County, Iowa
About 30 miles west of Waterloo, the Barn Quilts of Grundy County adorn more than 60 barns and corncribs. You can traverse over 65 miles of trail and visit the towns of Wellsburg, Conrad and Grundy City--all of which have shops and restaurants to complete your day trip. More barn quilts are added every year. See the Grundy County website for more information.
Alcona County, Michigan
The Alcona County Quilt Trail Project is Michigan's first quilt trail, built as a self-guided driving tour in this county along the Lake Huron shore, two hours north of Saginaw. The quilt projects include a Little Fisherman design displayed at Cedarbrook Trout Farm (left).
Check the Alcona Quilt Trail website below for driving tour information.
Green County, Wisconsin
Green County in south-central Wisconsin has more than 100 barn quilts. Visitors can grab a handout to a self-guided tour, or request a step-on guide for bus tours. The Italian Tile (left) is in Twin Grove, about 50 miles south of Madison. Visit the website below for maps and information.
Sac County, Iowa
Since 2005, Sac County has created 55 quilts on barns or corncribs more than 50 years old. The county, about 75 miles east of Sioux City, also has 19 "community quilts" outside public places and seven "house quilts" at Sac County homes. Local quilters chose the patterns, while volunteers painted the designs.
A quilt trail weaves through almost every town in the county, with barn quilts every 5 to 10 miles. The picturesque Double Aster square (left) is at the Prairie Pedlar, a 7-acre garden business near Odebolt. The Sac County website features GPS coordinates for each quilt barn in the area, plus a list of websites for other Iowa counties' barn quilt tours.
In 2008, Caledonia launched "Quilting the Countryside" in southeast Minnesota's Houston County area to promote tourism and exhibit its many beautiful barns. The Crow's Nest pattern (left) is one of more than 45 modern and classic barn quilts that weave a trail through the "Heart of Quilt Country"--officially designated by Minnesota Sen. Sharon Ropes. Maps are available through the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce.
Vinton County, Ohio
Tucked deep in Southern Ohio, this woodland gem is known for its scenic driving tours and beautiful barn quilts. Three driving loops--30 miles, 35 miles and 70 miles long--lead past different barn quilts. A five-generation family farm displays Farm Friendliness (left). For more information, see the Vinton County Convention and Visitors' Bureau website.
Racine County, Wisconsin
A 30-mile "Quilts on Barns" trail winds through Racine County in southeastern Wisconsin. More than 20 barn paintings, including the Wild Goose Chase square (left), have been completed toward a goal of 45. The trail has two sections, east and west of Interstate 94, and both take about an hour to drive.
More Ohio quilt barn tours
Perhaps because Ohio's Adams County was the first Midwest area to have an extensive barn quilt tour, the state is especially rich in barn quilt development. In addition to Adams County (slide 2) and Vinton County (slide 8), Ohio barn-quilt tours include:
-- Champaign County: Sixty quilt barns (including the cardinal design at left) dot this lovely area, about 70 miles west of Columbus; the annual Barn Quilt Tour in the fall features quilt-related activities.
-- Athens County: Options for driving to more than 20 barns quilt include the 45-mile Applique Loop, the 45-mile Stitch Loop and the 55-mile Quilter's Loop.
-- Harrison County: Sixteen quilt barns welcome you to this Eastern Ohio county. Designs were chosen from patterns submitted by local residents.
Reader's quilt barn
After seeing a quilt barn in a recent Midwest Living® article, Linda and Max VanDyke of St. Joseph, Missouri, decided they wanted one of their own. So they did some research, made a pattern, and bought paint. The result is this beautiful quilt square now displayed on their shed (left). Share photos of your own barns quilt and projects at midwestliving.com/photos.