Repainting the barn quilts


The first time I got acquainted with a barn quilt I was standing next to a big, old, weathered wooden barn as a woman painted a barn quilt directly on the faded hay mow door. A scaffold was set up so she could easily cross from side to side with her brushes and paints as she went carefully but confidently about her task that fall morning.

I thought it was one of the most daring –and intriguing — things I had ever seen.

That was about thirteen years ago in Grundy County, the first place in Iowa to welcome barn quilts to their farm buildings. I was at the barn that morning to see what was happening so I could write a magazine story about it. It turned out to be the beginning of a handful of stories on the topic that I wrote for several publications.

In case you aren’t familiar, a barn quilt is a replica of a quilt block that’s painted on a piece of plywood and then mounted on a farm building for everyone to see. They blend well with our rural landscape. There are numerous barn quilts on barns and outbuildings around our county.

So, after writing about barn quilts, photographing them, and talking to the owners over the course of a few years, I decided I really needed a barn quilt of my very own.

And now I have two of them. They’ve been on the side of my building for six years, one the kaleidoscope pattern; the other is the friendship star. They brighten up the old place, and I enjoy them. I hope others do, too.

The only problem now is that they are showing the effects of Iowa winters. The paint needs refreshed, so that has been one of my late summer projects. (Actually, it was going to be a late summer project last year.)

As I scrape, tape, prime, and paint, I am now to the point of wondering just whose idea this was, anyway. It is a tedious job, and as I age I don’t do tedious very well. Probably I never did.

I’m closing in on finishing up painting both barn quilts, thankfully. Now that they look better, I am getting more inspired. But I’m still thinking that this might well be the last time the quilt blocks are repainted. I don’t think I have a lot of tedious left in me. In a few years when they become weathered again, the quilt blocks just might be coming down.