Following a Barn Quilt Trail Through Kansas

Explore Kansas by Following the Barn Quilt Trail that celebrates the State and its heritage.

| November 2016

  • New York Beauty/Ohio Star
    Photo by Suzi Parron
  • North Star
    Photo by Suzi Parron
  • Pioneer Star
    Photo by Suzi Parron
  • In Following the Barn Quilt Trail, Parron brings readers along as she, her new love, Glen, their dog Gracie, and their converted bus Ruby, leave the stationary life behind. Suzi and Glen follow the barn quilt trail through thirty states across thirteen thousand miles as Suzi collects the stories behind the brightly painted squares. With plentiful color photographs, this endearing hybrid of memoir and travelogue is for quilt lovers, Americana and folk art enthusiasts, or anyone up for a good story.
    Cover courtesy Swallow Press

In Following the Barn Quilt Trail, Suzi Parron, in cooperation with Donna Sue Groves, documented the massive public art project known as the barn quilt trail. The first of these projects began in 2001, when Groves and community members created a series of twenty painted quilt squares in Adams County, Ohio. Since then, barn quilts have spread throughout forty-eight states and several Canadian provinces.

The road north took us to Ajax, Louisiana, more of a crossroads than an actual town. The RV park sat just a minute or so from the interstate and miles from much else; a saw mill near the highway and a diner across the road were the only businesses nearby. We walked over for a pork chop dinner and took our time returning, overwhelmed by the sight of infinite stars in the blackest sky I had seen. I seldom accompany Glen and Gracie on their pre-bedtime walk, but that evening the three of us strolled along the fringes of the park, Glen and I in silent awe of the bits of light that were always there but so seldom visible to us.

I had been really pleased to find an RV park along the Arkansas River in Tulsa. Online maps displayed a wide span of river, and the reviews mentioned plenty of kayaking. I didn’t let on to Glen but waited for the drive across the bridge near the campsite that would reveal the treat in store. The joke was on me, as the river had fallen victim to drought and had dried up completely, leaving a lunar-like landscape behind. Sensing my disappointment, Glen said, “Oh, you picked a perfect spot for some hiking, Sweetie!” At least he knew I had tried to make the long drive to Kansas more enjoyable.

Chris Campbell had brought the quilt trail to Kansas in 2010 and contacted me soon afterwards, so a visit to Franklin County was one of the first on our itinerary. Along with being a farm wife and mother, Chris is an avid quilter and quilt shop owner. A trip to the renowned Sisters Quilt Show in Oregon included a side trip to Tillamook County. “I was amazed at their farming methods,” Chris said. She described an underground pipeline from a dairy to a cheese factory. “How wonderful is that?” One critical difference she noticed was the size of the farms. Chris said that in Oregon, a typical farm might be sixty acres or so. “In Kansas,” she said, “an eighty-acre farm would be a hobby farm!”

Chris also saw the quilt trail in Tillamook and when she got back home, she kept thinking that somebody in Kansas needed to start the project. “That somebody became me!” she said. The county’s first quilt block, which is mounted on Chris’ Corner Quilt Shop, combines two patterns, New York Beauty and Ohio Star. I thought that the block, which Chris said combined her traditional quilting with the more modern quilting favored by her business associate Brenda Weien, looked pretty good, but Chris affectionately called the quilt block, “the first and the worst.” Chris wasn’t sure at first what type of board and paint to use, but she learned quickly and helped Kansas’s first quilt trail grow to more than forty blocks.

The Boss



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