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An Ode to the Barn Quilt

As I rounded the corner on a country road in Oregon, the scenery opened up to show rolling farmlands, and, there, standing stalwart in the fields, stood a beautiful old barn. Adorning the barn was a brightly colored barn quilt. 

Seeing barn quilts scattered across the country—on barns, sheds, and even in the urban landscape on the sides of buildings—is always a treat. I feel like I’ve been let in on a little secret, or a hidden language written in painted patchwork, sprinkled across the landscape of America. 

Barn quilts have grown in popularity in America over the past decade, and now you can find “trails” of barn quilts all over the country, with individuals and businesses alike hanging their own patchwork contributions. Some of these trails can be found through a simple Google search, like the Tualatin Valley Barn Quilt Trail here in Oregon. But others are more elusive, often discovered only by accident or word of mouth. Author Suzi Parron has taken it upon herself to photograph and log barn quilts across America in not one but TWO books published in 2012 and 2016.

Barn Blocks spotted across the country are often featured in issues of Quiltfolk Magazine.

There are also those who provide the tools needed to create barn quilts—like Sheila Sinclair Snyder, who has been teaching barn quilt painting classes for many years. For a long time, the DIY Barn Quilt Kits available in the Quiltfolk Shop were made by Sheila, but as she has been moving more toward teaching, she no longer has time to produce those original DIY Barn Quilts.

Innovating the Barn Quilt

Not wanting to lose this beloved staple item from our shop, the Quiltfolk team brainstormed an updated offering of the DIY Barn Quilt with laser-etched designs. The laser-etched design would remove the need to draw the design by hand, thereby making the process faster and more approachable (for all experience levels). 

But the laser-etching has one more perk that we hadn’t anticipated! Using the method outlined by Sheila, you tape along the lines to ensure a clean, precise line. And, sometimes, there are instances where the tape overlaps onto a second area that should be painted with the same color. When that happens, it’s necessary to trim or “fussy cut” the tape to match the line exactly. And the small groove created by the laser allows you to cut along that channel with ease, trimming the tape right along the line. 

Using the laser-etched groove to trim or “fussy-cut” the tape on a DIY Barn Block.

I discovered this perk when testing out one of our new laser-etched designs, and the Quiltfolk team soon realized that this will allow us to offer curved designs in the future. 

One thing’s for sure: The barn quilt is here to stay, and it’s heartening to know that so many people are interested in adding their own contribution to the tradition of barn quilts. And when you are ready to give it a try, our new DIY Barn Quilt is an excellent place to start!

One of Quiltfolk’s recent laser-etched designs.


Emily Pillard is the Marketing Coordinator for Quiltfolk. She is also an artist and painted the Watercolor Barn Quilt series.

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