Art / Louisiana / Slice of Americana / Travel

America’s Quilt Trails: Louisiana Pieces it Together

Green Quilt on Porch

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.”

#99 “Mariner’s Compass” at Fairview-Riverside State Park

#99 “Mariner’s Compass” at Fairview-Riverside State Park

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.

#44 “Elemental Balance” at Ponchatoula Therapy

#44 “Elemental Balance” at Ponchatoula Therapy

“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.

IMG_4917 - Version 2

Covington Depot

Covington Quilt

#100 “Covington Trail Head” at old CovingtonTrain Depot, now the trailhead for Tammany Trace, their Rails-to-Trails Path.

If you live in a US state or Canadian province that has a Quilt Trail I’d love to hear about it.

Cheers,
Terri

 

 

49 thoughts on “America’s Quilt Trails: Louisiana Pieces it Together

    • Sue, I was only familiar with the “barn quilts” that I’ve seen in the New England states. I always thought they were so cool, but didn’t know a thing about them. So this Louisiana Quilt Trail was a total surprise. Trying to find the quilts got us into a lot of small towns we would have missed. I love it that you remember quilting bees, too. Did the women use a quilt frame or do it freehand? ~Terri

      • Terri they would use the frame and I recall as a child playing under the frame listening to the chatter of the women above. Your ‘scavenger hunt ‘ of the Quilt a Trail sounds intriguing. Such fun to discover those little spots sometimes barely on the map.

  1. I have a friend who is quilter, her finished products are AMAZING. She still does every stitch by hand. Those painted quilts are very cool. I love the idea of creating a trail with them.

    • Laura, I would love to see your friend’s quilts. Does she post photos online? I remember seeing the wonderful barn quilts up in New England. Do you encounter them when you’re photographing around New Hampshire? I still love to do the final quilt by hand, too (although I use the machine to put the pieces together.) ~Terri

      • She doesn’t do much online, but I’ll bet she’d let me photograph some of them. Only one county in NH has a barn quilt trail and I don’t remember seeing any of them when I was up there. Sounds like a great reason for another road trip!

      • Don’t you just love another reason for a fun road trip! I’m the same way. I just read that my home state Kentucky has over 600 quilts on their trails. Who knew! Now I’ll be looking for them on trips back home. 🙂 ~T

  2. I have never heard of this before, but I grew up around quilting too as my mom is a quilter. I’m going to share with post with her because I know she’d get a kick out of it! In fact, I’m writing this with one of her quilts keeping me warm!

    • Hi Mike. My Mom loved to knit (me, not so much), so I was so glad that my Grandmother was a quilter. She got me in the habit of saving scraps of fabric (any quilter can tell you stories about their “stash”) and I started collecting bits and pieces from every country I visited. You can imagine the stash. But it’s been really fun creating a quilt for someone and telling them all the countries the fabric came from. Hope your Mom enjoys the post. Does she live somewhere that has a Quilt Trail? ~Terri

    • Tia, I was surprised too! I found some great blogs on how the artists paint the quilts that were very cool. I will be really interested to see what you find in Canada – please let us know. 🙂 ~Terri

  3. Thanks for letting me know about the Trailhead, a term I didn’t know existed. Now, I’m wondering if we have one in Tennessee. Where I live in East Tennessee, you can see quilt squares (HUGE!) on barns mostly. I love the ones near Greenville, TN where the rolling landscape, cattle on green fields, and quilt-bearing barns form a lovely scene worthy of calendars! Thanks for this post. And you’ll enjoy one I’m about to write about a quilt exhibit in Boston. Stay tuned.

    • Rusha, that’s so cool. I would love to see the photos of quilts on barns. Do you have any from the Greenville area, or have you done a post on it? I’d love to link to it and send people your blog. I’m really looking forward to your Boston quilt exhibit post. ~Terri

    • That is wonderful! I didn’t know about this trail. I used to live in Dallas and travelled all around the state for work, so I love your idea of Walking Texas. This Quilt Trail sounds like good inspiration to visit Terry County. Thanks so much for the info and stopping by. All the best, Terri

    • Joyce, I didn’t know that! Maybe you could give us the tour the next time we’re home! 🙂 Hope that you and Dascal are doing great. Is it finally Spring there yet? Love, Terri

  4. What a super idea. I love quilts and knew a lady who did the most beautiful work. I had no idea of the Quilt Trail. I haven’t heard of any in these parts. I’m always intrigued by small ideas that become large and take on a life of their own.

    • Hey Tess, Welcome Home! We’re so glad you’re back. 🙂 I love that quilts can be as simple or as complex as the quilter. And discovering the Quilt Trails was a real joy. Now I need to see what we have here closer to home. If you discover any up by you I’d love to hear about it. ~Terri

      • Thank you. Nice to be back.
        I’ve seen a few quilts in my day and I used to sue, although not quilt. I don’t believe I ever had the patience it take for all that cutting (my least favorite part of sewing).
        Will keep my eyes and ears open for Quilt Trails and let you know. 😀

    • Dixie, when I was putting together this post I thought about the beautiful masthead you have on your blog. So gorgeous! Like you, I’ve quilted for years but never heard of Quilt Trails. It’s such a cool thing for a community to do, and now I’m looking forward to discovering more. ~Terri

  5. Now I really wish I could come and follow that trail. Last year we had a trail of decorated rhino sculptures hidden in our city and I spent many a happy hour hunting them all down.

    • Bronwyn – speaking of treasure hunts. We used to live in Greenville, South Carolina and they have the greatest treasure hunt called “Mice on Main.” All along Main Street they have hidden tiny bronze sculptures (about 4 inches tall) of mice in various poses. Our nieces loved to hunt for them. Your kids would love it if you ever head this direction 🙂 ~Terri

      • Actually I probably shouldn’t say across IN, as I am not certain of that, but while at a rally in IN last year in Elkhart, we received a map of the area and found them around Elkhart and Goshen.

      • Thanks LuAnn. My grandparents used to live in Elkhart and I still have family in that area, so I will check them out the next time I’m up there. 🙂 ~T

  6. Pingback: Westmoreland | Touring NH

    • Laura, Hope that you’re feeling better and recovering quickly. That barn quilt you found is gorgeous! Thanks so much for the link to our blog – much appreciated. ~Terri

  7. I used to be a quilter myself, but I recently realized I’d never get to it again, so I gave away my huge collection of fabrics. I love the barn quilts. They have them in southwestern Virginia too. Sorry it’s been so long since I visited. I’ve been bogged down, and feeling more than a little dejected, about my unfruitful job search. Hope you two are doing well. 🙂

    • I’ve missed you Cathy! Like you, I did a similar thing and reviewed all my quilt projects to decide which ones I wanted to finish – and which ones I needed to pass on. It actually felt really good to move that monkey off my back. 🙂

      Sorry that your job search hasn’t turned up something you like so far. It’s always such a challenge. Of course you never know when something really cool is going to come up so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. ~Terri

      • Thanks so much, Terri. I’ve really missed all my blogging friends, but there are just so many hours in the day, and I’ve been trying hard to stay focused (although not always succeeding!). Yes, my quilting had to go. I also have a bunch of jewelry-making stuff, but I think I’ll hold on to that for someday when I have time on my hands.

        Thanks for the words of encouragement. It really does get disheartening applying for job after job and not hearing ANYTHING back at all! Hours just tossed away.

    • That’s wonderful Joanne! Thanks for the link – it looks like a really good one. And it’s always great to have a fun destination in mind when you’re looking for travel inspiration. 🙂 ~Terri

  8. What a coincidence to read your post right now. I just told my husband last week that we’re going to follow the Ohio Quilt Trail after he runs the Warrior Dash this May. I’ll be curious to see what I find and will be sure to post lots of pictures. I hope they’re as pretty as yours!

  9. I love your metaphor of quilts as the patchwork of America’ people, cultures and traditions. I enjoy seeing these handicrafts from the pre-Industrial past when people had to make what they needed for themselves.

    My grandmother used to make a handcrafted quilt for each new child born into the family. My daughters treasured their quilts and used them until they wore holes in places. I still enjoy seeing the handicrafts at state and county fairs. Your story helps spread the word of these beautiful works of folk art. Well done! – Mike

    • Many thanks Mike! My Aunt and cousins in Indiana were always involved in 4-H and entered every contest at the county fair. It was so inspiring to see everyone’s handiwork.

      In addition to quilts, my Grandmother also made fantastic “rag rugs” that warmed our feet in the winter. We used to pull each other around the house on them … only when our parents weren’t watching. 🙂

      One of my favorite things to do with James’ Mom was to have her tell me the story behind each of her quilts. She would start out saying, “Well, this fabric was James’ good shirt when he was 7 …” I just loved the stories that the fabric and the quilt told. ~Terri

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