16 July 2014

Barn Quilt

Barn quilt and bonus dog, Harvey.
Some time last winter I got an email from Pat Dubyk telling me that she was trying to start up a barn quilt trail in Prince Edward County. I had never heard of barn quilts before, but a quick image searched turned up hundreds of examples. A barn quilt is a large piece of wood that is painted to look like a quilt block and mounted on a barn or other building.

I ran into Pat this spring and during the course of our conversation I started thinking about a quilt that was made by my maternal great-grandmother, Luella May Dutton (Barker). I remember this quilt as a staple object from my childhood, my mother tells me it was given to us around 1973. 

Sitting on great-grandma's quilt, left to right:
Me, my cousins Aaron, Joelle and Christopher,
family friend Kristen(?),and my cousin Deanna.
I suspect this may have been at a birthday party.

After not having seen the quilt for a decade or more, it recently turned up in my life again. My youngest sister Caitlin gave it to me last year, as she was moving to Sweden and didn’t want to take it with her. The quilt is in pretty bad shape now, with almost all of the patches missing. My mother explains, “Some of the fabric was decades old, some of it belonging to my Great Grandmother, Lillian May Barker (Luno) which was why some of the fabric sections did not hold up well, and deteriorated rather quickly. It was customary in “those days”, to stock pile fabric, as there was always a quilt on the loom being worked on. Some fabric could sit for many years before being worked into a quilt.”

It turns out the pattern on the quilt is known as Grandmother’s Fan. I had a pattern. We have a barn. We clearly had to make a barn quilt!

Milé designed the pattern in Photoshop:

Although many barn quilts are only one block, we thought it would be more interesting to do a 4-block square due to the large amount of negative space in the design. I primed the 4’ x 4’ board with exterior paint, and Milé penciled the pattern in.

I used green painters' tape to mask off all the square lines. Although I’m pretty good painting freehand, I wanted the lines to be really crisp. We always have lots of latex paint on hand, so that’s what I used, doing several coats of each colour. Finally I sealed it with a spray sealant.

The finished quilt, installed on our barn.

This photo of my great-grandmother was taken by the garage of her home in Mt. Elgin, Ontario. I remember playing at her house as a small child. I loved banging away on her piano and sifting through her tin of buttons. Her house had such a distinct smell, and there were always interesting things to discover: wind-up toys, shelves of Reader's Digest magazines, a crocheted Barbie toilet paper cover, and a tin of date squares or cookies awaiting appreciative visitors.

My great-grandma passed away in 2001. Our barn quilt is dedicated to her.

We're quite happy with it, and I think my Great-Grandma would be proud.