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 the 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 in kind of bad shape where the back half had collapsed, so they vary a lot.
I really think this would be an excellent program for the counties with Laura homesites to adopt. 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?
Find a directory of current projects, lots more photos, and more explanation at the link below:
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.
UPDATE: I really enjoyed updating my top 10 viewed posts and decided, just because I’ve been enjoying it, to keep going through the top 20. This is the first post of the second group. Barn Quilts have expanded in interest since I originally posted this in 2010. There has been an explosion of people privately creating barn quilts for their barn or house or even sheds and people have started making them smaller as another option, with some of these new barn quilts being about a quarter of the size of the originals. A lot of the standard size and quality has gone away as the phenomenon has spread and I’m sorry to say that to a big extent its original very clever purpose of promoting tourism has been lost. I’m afraid within a generation it will just be another of those things that were always done (probably, sigh, with a lot of phony explanations of why they are there and what they mean). They are still enjoyable to look for though, so next time you are driving to a Laura Ingalls Wilder homesite town, or just for a drive in the country keep an eye out and see how many you can see.
Sarah S. Uthoff is main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.