Barn Quilts Bridge the Gap

Barn quilts display heritage and beautiful artwork in the countryside.

| May/June 2016

  • Barn quilts adorn the side of barns throughout the countryside.
    Photo by Stephenson
  • Barn quilts have been a longstanding tradition in the rural community.
    Photo by Wynne Crombie
  • Create your own barn quilt trail, and take the family for a drive through the countryside.
    Photo by Wynne Crombie

At last count, there were an estimated 7,000-plus quilt blocks adorning barns and other rural structures in 48 states. Among those who are helping that number grow are Glenn and Barbara Gross of Emlenton, Pennsylvania, who conduct workshops for people interested in painting quilt blocks. The Grosses thoroughly enjoy connecting with community members and keeping this beloved craft alive.

The Grosses’ workshops are for painters of every skill level. In fact, the work is more akin to painting interior walls in a house than being a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt. The Grosses bring to their workshops all of the materials participants need to leave with a finished block, including the preprimered wood onto which the design is painted. They also send each participant home with literature to continue making quilt blocks in their spare time, including step-by-step instructions on how to draw and create a block from scratch.

Quilt blocks range in size from 2-by-2 feet to 10-by-10 feet, and it all begins on a piece of grid paper. The Grosses explain the various block grids and how to determine which grid a participant wants. The final drawing is the key to success, or as Glenn says, “Do the math first.”

From here, the participants can try a variety of different color combinations on copies of their pattern.

Participants then transfer their design onto wood. In the case of a symmetrical 8-by-8 design, the work can be done on a 4-by-8, then flipped to mirror the other half.

At the workshop at the Centre County Grange Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania, Marjorie Korman of nearby Old Fort was painting an 8-by-8 called “Farmer’s Daughter.” A first-timer, Marjorie was the only one doing such a large block. Repeat participant Ben Haagen of Snydertown, Pennsylvania, was busy making a 2-by-2 block of a rabbit to be hung on the rabbit building at the Grange Fairgrounds. He plans a similar barn quilt for the poultry building.

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