Sunday, February 5, 2012

Barn Quilts - A Photo Journey

About a year and a half ago an article appeared in our local weekly paper about barn quilts. A few local women, some of them actual quilters, had painted quilt patterns on plywood and hung them in their yards and gardens. At the time I had no idea that barn quilts were all the rage east of the Mississippi. To me they were novel and esthetically pleasing. I seized on the idea as I had been envisioning a mandala of sorts to decorate our outbuilding known as "the shop". Painting a barn quilt seemed like a fun project to take on. I ended up painting five of them. The first two in 2010 and the next three in the summer of 2011. 

You begin by primering a square of plywood in the size of your choice. If you have a good sense of geometry, they are fairly easy to lay out. You just look at a picture of the pattern you want to use, grab a pencil and a straight edge and a measuring tape, and figure it out. Iowa is big on barn quilts, and barns for that matter. You can view scores of different patterns on some amazing old barns at Once you have laid out your pattern, you tape off the segments that you are ready to paint. Choosing the colors is an opportunity for your creativity. After applying a few coats and letting it dry, you pull the tape and move on to different segments. The whole process from start to finish is quite lengthy but the actual time spent working on it is more reasonable. The first two I painted are the same. The colors coordinate with our house and outbuildings. 
"The Shop" yesterday
"The Barn"/woodshed yesterday
Last summer I painted a large (4' x 4') quilt that is meant to help cheer me up in the dead of winter. It is working!
Here is our fence in the fall.
Here is our fence yesterday.
Well, it turns out that I wasn't the only one inspired by the barn quilt idea. All over our rural valley (American Valley) and throughout our mountain town, these colorful artistic expressions have popped up. Within a year or so, our community went from no barn quilts to dozens of barn quilts. Our local arts commission, Plumas Arts, put together a map of barn quilt locations for an auto tour last September. 

Last week I picked my son and his friend up from kindergarten and we did a 10-mile driving excursion around our mountain valley in search of barn quilts to photograph. Below is what we saw.

I take pleasure in the colorful and artistic dimension they add to Quincy. Just thought I'd try to capture their charm for y'all.


  1. Good Morning Karen!
    I love your beautiful Farm Quilts, have you painted one on your dad's "wood shed" yet? Tonight we are having African Ground Nut stew to celebrate the return of rain. Your blog warms my heart. Keep blogging and make stollen for the blog in December. Love, Candace

  2. Wow, what a beautiful rural valley you call your home!

  3. Could you give us a location for these individually. Some would like to know where to go see them. Please and Thanks.

  4. Hi. Your best bet is to contact Plumas Arts. They publish a map of barn quilt locations that is available to visitors. Here is their contact info:
    Plumas Arts Gallery
    525 Main Street, Quincy, CA 95971
    Phone: 530.283.3402
    Fax: 530.283.1168
    Mailing Address: PO Box 600, Quincy CA 95971