Extension News

Barn Quilts Generate Enthusiasm and Business

12/14/2007

This is the third in a three-part series about the spread of barn quilts across Appalachia, the Midwest and the Northeast,  improving rural economy through entrepreneurism.

AMES, Iowa--Sometimes the enthusiasm for barn quilts doesn’t come from 4-H youth, an Extension agent or a committee. Sometimes it comes from one person inspired with an idea. Such is Lora Partyka  from Kendall in Orleans County,  New York. The Partykas are upstate fruit specialists in a small, rural farming community between Buffalo and Rochester.  (See http://www.partykafarms.com/.)

“Picture Vermont, not New York City,” Partyka said. “We have a school, a post office, a restaurant and a farmer’s market.”

Partyka saw a feature story in a quilting magazine about an Iowa barn quilt project. She recognized that barn quilts were an opportunity to “immerse yourself in a time when barns were the center of community life and quilts were a means for women to express their creativity, share friendship and bring beauty and comfort to their homes and families.”

Being a quilting enthusiast and a farmer’s daughter with a love of barns, she gathered her quilting friends and discussed putting quilt blocks up in the Kendall area. That discussion grew into the  Country Barn Quilt Trail of Orleans County, which has been going one year. “It’s all volunteer and no money. Building owners pay for the block materials and mount the block themselves. The Stockham Lumber company in Holley supplies the special wood at an ‘extremely good price,’” she said.

Partyka does all the painting and people pick out their own blocks and colors from quilting books. “We don’t have any rules for barn quilts; you can put it anywhere on your property,” she said. “We do encourage people to pick a design that hasn’t been chosen. Most people choose a design that relates to their family history or that means something to them personally.”

This tendency is similar from state to state. Some people become nostalgic, selecting patterns that remind them of bygone days or a relative’s work, such as a mother’s quilting or a father’s farm crops.

Partyka reports “upwards of 200 cars going by regularly. Buses come and we receive fantastic feedback, including phone calls and letters. Once the town fathers saw the buses coming,  they wanted the businesses on a tour map and signs to direct people on a driving tour and to coordinate the tour with the farmer’s market.”

Partyka has design help from fellow quilter Kathy deMarco who offers some basics for building barn quilts.
* Make the quilts as eight-foot by eight-foot squares.
* Break the design down into eighths and measure in terms of feet rather than inches.
* Sketch and paint the design on a small block of wood before transferring the design to a large piece.

For more information on Iowa barn quilts and preservation, see The Barns of Iowa  at www.extension.iastate.edu/emms/barns/.

For more information on Appalachian states, contact the Appalachian RC&D Council (Resource Conservation & Development) at 1105 East Jackson Boulevard, Suite 4, Jonesborough, TN 37659, 423-753-4441, ext. 4. See the Appalachian Quilt Trail at www.vacationaqt.com/

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Contacts :

Carol Ouverson, Extension Communications and Marketing, (515) 294-9640, couverso@iastate.edu