The History and Love for Barn Quilts

Mar 17, 2021 12:03:26 PM / by Erica Bottger

Have you ever been driving down the road and spotted a large, painted quilt block on a barn? Chances are, it’s part of a barn quilt trail. What started in Adams Country, Ohio in 2001 has now spread throughout the United States and parts of Canada thanks to Donna Sue Groves.



Barn Quilts History

Donna Sue Groves got the idea to honor her mother and her mother’s quilting by painting a large quilt square on their family’s barn. Through Donna Sue’s work with the Ohio Arts Council and other community-based organizations, her idea spread and soon there were 19 other buildings involved, creating a driving trail for visitors to the area. Since this humble beginning, the concept has grown and spread to include 48 states.


Several years ago, my family stumbled onto a series of barn quilts in southeast Nebraska. We were driving our daughter to a camp where she would be working for the summer. With that mission in mind, we hadn’t even consider researching sites to see in the area so you can imagine my curiosity as a quilter when I started spotting these colorful blocks along the way!


I did a little research and was pleased to know that Nebraskans were participating in this creative, grassroots arts initiative. A few short months later, I started working for AccuQuilt – a building with its very own barn quilt block on the side. I learned that over the years, AccuQuilt had hosted design contests for the building’s block. Take a look at some of our winners in this video:


Barn quilts are a unique form of expression. Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement by Suzi Parron with Donna Sue Graves is a fascinating book covering many of the quilt trails and the stories behind them. The book includes beautiful photographs of barn quilts from around the country.


Translating into Fabric

For those of us without barns, think about translating the bold, distinctive look of a barn quilt into fabric to adorn your porch. The GO! Front Door Barn Quilt (PQ11846) is a great starting point! This project is made using the GO! Qube Mix & Match 8” Block (55776).



If hanging a quilt outside in the weather is an issues, let it adorn the inside of your home instead. The GO! Quarter Storm Porch Hanging (PQ11845) would look great hanging inside OR outside! To change up the colors, be sure to check out GO! Quilt, AccuQuilt’s free pattern customizer program.



Quilt Blocks on American Barns by Eleanor Burns is full of inspiration. This delightful book includes directions for 6” and 12” blocks, all inspired by barn quilts.


Looking for more on barn quilts? Don’t miss this video from AccuQuilt’s live event saluting barn quilts highlighting even more creative projects and how to translate them into GO! dies.


Do you have a barn quilt picture or quilt trail story to share? We’d love to hear from you!

Topics: Books, Barn Quilts, Patterns

Erica Bottger

Written by Erica Bottger