And One More on the Way: Barn Quilts

We continue our conference count down with information about something you might see anywhere along your route in the Midwest, barn quilts.


Barn Quilt


If you’re not from the Midwest, you might well ask just what is a barn quilt? In short, it’s a large plywood tile, painted as a quilt square and hung on the side of a barn (sometimes they paint them directly on the barn, but due to traditional barn battens they tend to look better on a second surface). The idea is too increase rural tourism by combining two things people in the Midwest often already love – barns and quilts. Although some people just hang the barn quilts on their own, most are part of a countywide program. You can just see them driving through the county or there is usually a map available giving you a route to drive to see all of them in a particular county. Some counties choose nice barns only. Some counties hang them on pole buildings or even put them on poles in front of a non-barn building. I even saw one once on the front side of barn where the back half of the structure had already collapsed, so they vary a lot.


I really think this would be an excellent program for the counties with Laura homesites to adopt. So far the only one I know about is Winnishiek County aka home of Burr Oak, Iowa. They started their program last year and there is even a barn quilt on poles outside the Masters Hotel. They need more participants, but kudos to them for starting.  I think  it would be a great idea for all Laura homesite counties because it would give fans an excuse to see more of the area and get a better feel for what it was like for Laura to live there and they can also be used to promote stops at rural businesses (many of which set up in farmsteads now made unnecessary as larger operations took over the farms). I think Laura fans would really enjoy it. What do you think?




Barn Quilt Beside Masters Hotel

Find a directory of current projects, lots more photos, and more explanation here.

Driving from Iowa City to the Burr Oak/Spring Valley/Pepin area you will see many counties that support these programs. This is just one I pass on the way that was nice and close to the road for a good clear picture. Please do remember that these barn quilts are on private property and take any photos from the road.

Also, they always photograph better if you can get the side of the building in full sun.

Sarah S. Uthoff blogs at TrundleBed Tales; look for her on Twitter and YouTube and Blog Talk Radio
Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association, Vice-President and Membership Chair

Posted in Homesites, Museums and Attractions, LauraPalooza 2012, Little House Travel Tagged with: , ,
6 comments on “And One More on the Way: Barn Quilts
  1. Connie Neumann says:

    My local Quilt Guild has just started a Barn Quilt Drive this year in Colorado, using local businesses to ‘chip in’ for a small design poster in their window that directs people to view barn quilts in the area. I agree with Sarah that the counties near the Little House sites would serve as another good venue for Laura travelers, spying quilts on barns.

  2. Linda Halpin says:

    I am really enjoying the series of articles on what to see on my way to Mankato! Several counties in Wisconsin are doing barn quilts. I am having fun gathering quilts to share with everyone for my Friday presentation on what quiltmaking was like during Laura’s time. Seeing Barn Quilts will be a great way to get everyone in the mood!

  3. Connie Neumann says:

    On my way through Iowa today I spotted a barn quilt! It was on a barn just north of I-80 at Exit 54 on the road to Elk Horn (where there’s an 1848 Danish windmill and museum). Couldn’t get a photo though…..shucks!

  4. Julie Miller says:

    Yes! Glad so many people are interested in barn quilts. There are several here in Iowa. On my trip up to Mankato, I saw two different barn quilts along I-35 (somewhere between Ames and Mason City, both on the east side of the interstate). Couldn’t get a photo, either! Also, the “latest fashion” 🙂 here in Iowa at least is putting “barn” quilts on other buildings or things, even in towns, like on garages and business buildings and sticking up on poles in gardens. Some are really big and some I’ve seen are only about 12 inches by 12 inches. I bought one for my sewing/quilting room that is only six inches by six inches and made of a painted wooden board. So if you like barn quilts and you don’t have a barn to put it on, just look for a business that sells them, have your local woodworker/artist make you one, or buy it through Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa like I did. If you have one made that will be outside, have the person make it using paint for the outdoors. If you want to design or “pick” your own quilt block to use, just look it up on the internet for examples. They also sell books in sewing/crafting stores that list various quilt block names with pictures of them (I own a book that has 5000+ quilt block designs!). The three quilt block patterns mentioned in the Little House books include Nine Patch, Bear’s Track, and Dove in the Window. So what kind of barn quilt would you like to own (or to see) and where are you thinking of putting it? I would like to know!

    I loved meeting all of you at LauraPalooza! It was the best time ever! So many good speakers and learned so many things. But meeting all the wonderful people was the best. I am definitely planning to come in 2015! If you couldn’t come this year, hopefully you can next time!

  5. Josh Hicks says:

    Mankato, Kansas now has a barn quilt just West of town on the South side of Highway 36! My blog website below shows a photo of it!