Today’s barn decorating revival started with Donna Sue Groves from Adams County, Ohio. She wanted to honor her mother by hanging a colorful painted quilt square on her barn.
The mother of the quilt-barn movement envisioned mile after mile of quilt trails throughout Appalachia, but the folksy phenomenon has exceeded her expectations. As the folk art spread across the countryside, Donna Sue’s gift to her mother became a gift to rural America.
Quilt trails are now organized all across the country. Barn quilts are displayed around communities and then mapped out for tourists to follow these amazing works of art. They promote tourism and help draw visitors into rural communities.
Today, more than 4,000 quilt squares adorn barns and other buildings in 34 states, most situated along more than 120 designated barn-quilt trails.
We recently toured one such trail, the Buffalo Gals Barn Quilt Trail in Scott County, Kentucky.
The Buffalo Gals Barn Quilt Trail takes you along country roads, past historic farms with barns old and new, and alongside fields where cows and horses graze, corn ripples, and wildflowers bloom.
The main attractions, of course, are the quilt squares themselves, a cornucopia of traditional and contemporary patterns that adorn barns, yards, and fences across the county. Built of wood and painted with care, these 8-foot and 4-foot squares are fascinating pieces of history preserved as roadside art.
The Buffalo Gals are a homemakers’ group, part of the local extension service and an organization that decided to take up quilting and organized a class so that they could learn the basics, but once each member completed a small sampler, the interest stopped.
The husband of one of the Buffalo Gals members had read an article about painting barn quilts in nearby Carter County, and after a reconnaissance trip to the area, the Buffalo Gals set to work on a project they thought would be more to their liking.
Group members took the squares home to paint—in front rooms, on kitchen tables, in garages, and basements. The quilt blocks took up a lot of space in the group’s homes and lives. In about eighteen months, the handful of self-proclaimed “elderly people” had painted and hung more than 150 quilt squares with about 70 of them the standard eight-foot size.
From “Prairie Queen” to “Union Soldiers,” every barn quilt square has a story to tell in shape and color. Driving the Buffalo Gals Barn Quilt Trail is a way to experience a sense of the rich history of quilting as well as the rural traditions of Scott County, of Kentucky, and of America itself.
Begun by the Buffalo Gals of Stamping Ground, the Buffalo Gals Barn Quilt Trail has grown to encompass more than 100 barn quilts, each one a unique creation. For the greatest concentrations of barn quilts, take U.S.-460 a short distance west from Georgetown and turn right onto SR-227 toward Stamping Ground. Once in Stamping Ground, you’ll find more barn quilts along Sebree, Duvall Station, Locust Fork, Owenton, Minor’s Branch, and Woodlake roads.
Remember, the barn quilts are located on private property.
We first learned about the Buffalo Gals Barn Quilt Trail at the Georgetown/Scott County Chamber of Commerce located in historic downtown Georgetown at 160 East Main Street.
I was eager to head into the Kentucky countryside but first had to ask about the meaning of the name “Buffalo Gals.” Stamping Ground, a small town of about seven hundred where the group is centered, got its name from the legendary stamping down of the vegetation so that the buffalo could feed along their way.
Leaving the visitors center with map and brochure in hand, we drove the few miles to Stamping Ground and began the Buffalo Gals Barn Quilt Trail, a scenic drive while viewing the quilt squares, a cornucopia of traditional and contemporary patterns that adorn barns, yards, fences, and fences across the area.
Remember to bring your camera and a sense of adventure. And get ready for a most enjoyable morning or afternoon.
For as the old saying goes, “A day patched with quilting seldom unravels.”
As you go through life, when you come to a fork in the road, take it.