Back in 2001, when Donna Sue Groves painted a wooden block in a quilt pattern and hung it on the outside of her barn to honor her mom (a quilter), she had no idea that over the next thirteen years, that would become the inspiration for largest grassroots public arts movement in history.
Donna’s homage to her mother has spread to 48 states and as far north as Canada. But, what most folks don’t realize is that the largest concentration of quilt blocks in the U.S. is right here in the mountains of Western North Carolina where you’ll find over 200 quilt squares on nine official quilt trails.
The trails are created by volunteers, quilt circle members, local arts councils, school groups and other community-based organizations. The projects foster a sense of local pride and connect modern-day mountain communities to the traditions of a rich Appalachian heritage. It’s quite spectacular.
Most barn quilt blocks are made up of simple geometric shapes that include large blocks of color. That makes them easier to paint and spot from a distance. Some are traditional, others are whimsical and quirky. Each quilt block is connected by its pattern name to the history of the land, the building, or the family. Every square is unique — no duplicate designs are allowed.
Some of the pattern names are as intriguing as the designs themselves:
Duck’s Foot in the Mud Yummy Mud Puddle
Doctor’s Day Off
Old Maid’s Ramble
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
Cat Tracks and Snail Trails
Intrigued? Next time you travel the western part of NC, plot your own self-guided “Barn Quilt” tour of one or more of the driving trails that weave through the rural back roads.
Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina has published a driving map for the nine quilt trails covering Yancey and Mitchell counties. The 16-page map is full of treasures and will help you locate the quilt blocks scattered throughout both counties and tell you stories about the individual quilt squares.
You can also download one or all of the nine NC Quilt Trail Tour Guides here.
Of course, we hope you’ll make “home base” for your Barn Quilt Tour one of the dozens of great NC Bed and Breakfast Inns’ members. Here’s the map to our NCBBI member inns in the mountain region.
Be sure to pack your camera!