As physical objects, barn quilts are very simple. A barn owner or homeowner paints a large piece of wood to look like a quilt square—bold, basic geometric shapes--and then mounts it on a building, facing a road. Sometimes the painted squares are modeled after those on family heirloom quilts. Sometimes they’re new patterns or pictures. Thanks to the rise of barn quilt trails, these decorations have become one of the most surprising, and delightful, pleasures of driving through rural America.
The first official barn quilt trail stretches through Adams County, Ohio and dates to 2001, when Donna Sue Groves decided to honor her mother and attract visitors to her hometown by initiating the creation of 20 barn quilt squares, the number her mother would stitch into a typical bed quilt. In the years since, a “National Clothesline of Quilts” has sprung up in across the country, stretching into 45 states and Canada. In 2012, Groves partnered with Suzi Parron to publish Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement.