America has always been a work in progress – a patchwork quilt of different people and cultures, traditions and beliefs. So it’s only fitting that an enduring symbol of America is the handmade quilt.
Born of pioneer frugality to repurpose old clothing into warm bedding, quilting evolved into a sophisticated textile art form, rich in skill and symbolism.
Bringing a quilt to life often calls on the talents of many people to create the pattern, cut the pieces, assemble the blocks, and stitch the fabric. It’s an act of community.
As a little girl I learned all about quilting at my Grandmother’s knee – literally. When she invited her neighbor ladies over for a “quilting bee” I would play under the unfinished quilt stretched across their laps as their deft hands wove quick, sharp needles in and out of the fabric, forming intricate patterns that held the layers of the quilt together. As Granny said of her quilting community, “Many hands make light work.”
That same sense of community launched an American movement called “Barn Quilts.” A group of Ohio quilters decided to create a “painted sampler” of twenty quilt squares, to be placed on barns all along a driving trail designed to entice visitors to travel through their countryside. The idea was an amazing hit with both locals and tourists. It spread like wildfire, creating a domino cascade of Quilt Trails across North America. Now painted quilts also appear on houses, businesses … just about anywhere.
“This simple idea has spread to 45 states and to Canada, and the trail continues to grow. Over 6000 quilts are part of organized trails; dozens more are scattered through the countryside waiting to be discovered.” Suzi Parron, Barn Quilts & The American Quilt Trail Movement
You know how much we love a good treasure hunt, so when we stumbled across the headquarters of the Louisiana Quilt Trail while catching beads at the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, we were intrigued. We followed the map and tracked down a few more quilts, but with over 100 quilts to discover, I guess we’ll just have to come back.
If you live in a US state or Canadian province that has a Quilt Trail I’d love to hear about it.