What is a Barn Quilt? Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever been on a road trip in a suburban area? It’s not unusual to see barns and large sheds. Odds are, you have also probably spotted a barn quilt. 

Those large painted squares on barns might leave you wondering why they’re there. Some even think that they’re fabric quilts, but they are not. 

What is a Barn Quilt?

A barn quilt is a piece of painted wood that resembles a traditional quilt. Barn quilts are square-shaped with geometric designs. They look like a single quilt block and are primarily used as decorations. Barn owners usually choose geometric designs that hold significance and meaning.

white and blue barn quilt on red barn

Common Features of a Barn Quilt

They're Large

Barn quilts are usually huge and can be spotted from a distance. The size of the squares differs based on the barn size and its placement. On average, they measure eight by eight feet or four by four feet.

They Can be Spotted from a Far Distance

They’re large, so you can spot them from far away. You’ll be able to see barn quilts from a huge distance while on road trips. They stand out and are a visual treat!

They're both Modern and Vintage

Some barn quilts have been there for years and hence hold heritage value. Some farmers believe in the power of folk art and what it embodies; hence they choose to use those old barn quilts. Lately, barn quilts have again become very popular, so many new designs are also being experimented.

The History of Barn Quilts

Have you ever wondered how the concept of barn quilts came into being? The roots of barn quilts can be traced back three hundred years when immigrants from Europe, Germany, and several other parts of the world started coming to the United States.

In those times, paint wasn’t very affordable. So people started making decorative and distinct quilt patterns on wood blocks.

Besides being lovely art pieces, they also allowed travelers to find their way using these distinctive patterns. They knew which patterns to look out for when traveling, and so it served the purpose of convenience too.

In the 2000s, barn quilts again started becoming very popular. In 2001, a girl named Donna Sue Groves came up with the idea of having a painted quilt hung on her barn in Adams County, Ohio. She wanted to honor her mother and her Appalachian heritage by doing this. When Donna shared this idea with her friends, they loved it. Her idea quickly gained popularity too. Many believe that the Groves farm also later became a part of a trail of 20 barn quilts that formed a quilt trail. From then on, the idea of quilt blocks came into being.

This idea spread far and wide, reaching almost all states and Canada. Today, the concept of barn quilt trails has become even more popular. At this point, you must be wondering what barn quilt trails are! Keep reading to find out.

What is a Barn Quilt Trail?

Barn quilt trails are a series of barn quilts on a walking or driving trail that make it much easier to identify a route heading to a certain place. Not only do these add to the aesthetic appeal of the area, but they also make it much easier for people to find their way. North America has 46 quilt trails, the United States has 43 quilt trails, and Canada has three. The concept of quilt trails is getting more and more popular with time.

Barn quilts do not necessarily have to be on barns. As part of a quilt trail, they can be anywhere – on buildings, roads, streets, walkways, etc. This means quilt trails are in areas where it is essential to help people find their way.

The Meaning Behind Patterns

The patterns on barn quilts celebrate the heritage of their place. Simple geometric shapes are put together to mean something native to the people making these shapes. But, more than anything, they symbolize the closeness of a community.

Some even go on to symbolize the family history of quilters. These patterns have now taken a more artsy style, and some people have also begun hanging them in their living rooms and garages. Some barn quilt designs also take people back to the memories of the times they cherish.

What are Colonial Quilt Squares?

Today, barn quilts aren’t just painted pieces of wood but rather works of art that tell stories and reflect culture. They speak volumes about the place they are in. They are a celebration of communities that hold great significance and meaning. The patterns are unique to different cultures.

Many believe these painted colonial quilt squares are also engines of a movement to promote tourism and spark interest in developing rural America. The barn quilt movement has now spread across many states. You can see numerous barn quilt squares on several tourist trails.

The best part about colonial quilt squares is that they bring communities together, who often come together to paint these eight-by-eight plywood squares. In addition, the designs speak volumes about their culture and rich history. These are then used to make quilt trails and are placed in different areas.

Establishing barn quilt trails using quilt squares is usually an extensive process that must follow specific guidelines.

Feeling Inspired? Here are Popular Barn Quilt Ideas

Stained Barn Quilt

For this design, stain is used instead of paint. Different geometric designs are stained and then put together to form a lovely hanging piece that is used in various ways. You can even use it in your living room.

Texas Daisy Barn Quilt

This design is a flower-shaped centerpiece made using catchy colors. It makes for an amazing decoration piece for your living room as well.

Maple Leaf Barn Quilt

This barn quilt pattern is an all-time favorite. It has a maple leaf in the center, painted using a very bright color. Made with simple squares and triangles, this one has a very identifiable shape that stands out from the rest.

Card Trick Barn Quilt

This one is also a trendy design. The blocks are optical illusions, looking like four cards overlapping each other. There are a lot of color options to play with in this one. It is based on a three-by-three grid.

Earth Tones Barn Quilt

This looks more like an elaborate star parting. The use of earthy colors for this one gives the quilt a wooden look.

Sweet Judy Blue Eyes Barn Quilt

This is a very modern design that again allows you to play with different colors. It looks amazing as a centerpiece for a fireplace too. While this is definitely more complex than the other ones made from basic geometric shapes, it is also more eye-catching.

Ohio Star

This is one of the simpler and more classic designs for a barn quilt. If you like to play with minimalist colors and want to keep it as simple as possible, then the Ohio star is your best bet. It looks great on a nine-patch or a three-by-three grid as well.

LeMoyne Star

This type of star shape looks best if you pick three colors. Made on a two-by-two grid, this is both simple and complicated. You can combine the shapes on it in different ways to create something new each time.

Make your own Barn Quilt

There are so many people who are now making them. Of course, you can purchase one as well. But if you want to make the smarter choice, it is recommended that you design your own.

Unleash your creativity and design something unique. Design something that speaks volumes about you! So many people are now working on making barn quilts with different patterns and designs on them and you can do the same.

It would be very interesting to have this as your new summer project. Are you wondering how to start? Or what you’ll need? Continue reading to know how you can start with your barn quilt.

Steps to Design a Barn Quilt

1. Choose a Pattern

The toughest part when making a barn quilt is picking the pattern. First, pick something that you love. Painting a pattern that you like will undoubtedly make the process more fun. Go through the different design options, and then pick the one you like the most.

2. Buy Supplies

Now that you know which pattern to go for, you must get the supplies. This is the most important part of making a barn quilt. You need to ensure that you get high-quality supplies.

  • Plywood: You need squares of wood to start with. It is a smart idea to reuse scrap wood. You can save up on quite a few bucks by doing that. If it is covered with some blotches, you don’t need to worry because you will be covering it with paint anyway.
  • Paint: You need outdoor house paint since it is meant to withstand all kinds of weather conditions. It is recommended that you first plan what colors you will be working with and then use those only. The amount of paint you’ll require also depends on how many colors you have selected. For instance, if you are working with only two or three colors, then you will surely need more paint.
  • Painters Tape: Since barn quilt painting requires working with geometric shapes, you will have to make straight lines. For that, painter’s tape is very useful. It can help you be neater. Having said that, make sure you don’t opt for the cheapest one in the market since it doesn’t do the job well. Such tape shreds when you unroll it. So go for a high-quality one to ensure that your painting looks neat.
  • Measuring tape and pencil: By now, you already know how precise you need to be with the shapes and the spacing. So measure it up first and use a pencil to mark the areas since the pencil can easily be covered up with paint.

3. Paint Your Barn Quilt

You need to start off with your first coat of paint. Plywood usually has a lot of holes in it, which makes the paint get stuck. So, after your first coat of paint, you need to check if a second coat is needed.

Let the coat dry up properly. It is recommended that you let it stay overnight or till the base coat dries up entirely. This is important because partially dried-up paint can scrape off with the tape.

When the paint dries up completely, start by marking your pattern. Once you have marked the patterns, use tape to go over them. Once that is done, you will have your sections to paint. You can start painting then.

If it gets messy, don’t worry. All you’ll need to do is a second round of paint on the areas where you have splashed any extra paint.

Here are a few useful tips when painting:

  • Be generous with the paint. Plywood can suck up a lot of paint, so use ample amounts. If you don’t, you will see a very shabby turnout in the end, leaving you unsatisfied.
  • Examine your plywood first to see if there are any extra holes. You’ll need cheap brushes to fill in those holes with paint.
  • The simpler your design, the greater the chances of you doing a cleaner job. if you are new to this, then it also helps to keep things as simple as possible. When you do that, you increase your chances of doing better.

And that brings our discussion of barn quilts to an end. If you are looking to make one, then good luck with your new summer project! Your design will surely be a hit!