Extension News

4-H’ers Make Barn Quilts Ripple Across Iowa

Barn quilt and 4-H member

Note to media editors: This article highlights the work of specific Iowa 4-H’ers in several counties including Muscatine, Plymouth, Sac, Shelby, Tama and Webster with mention of other work done in Boone, Buena Vista, Clayton, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Humboldt, Marshall, Pocahontas, Story and Wright counties.


AMES, Iowa--Take youthful enthusiasm, add caring adult support and apply both to Iowa’s barn preservation movement. That’s a growth formula causing barn quilt and preservation projects to ripple across Iowa.

Barn Quilts
“Never underestimate the ripple effect of the work of 4-H’ers,” two 4-H sisters wrote as they chronicled their club’s efforts for the Plymouth County Barn Quilt project. The sisters were following the lead of another club, the Plymouth Pros, who created and placed the first barn quilt in the county in October 2006.

The two 4-H’ers, Caine and Carissa Westergard, obtained a grant from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. so that their Johnson Juniors 4-H Club could create barn quilts. Working with the LeMars Arts Council, the county project coordinator, the 4-H’ers put up their first quilt in July, the next quilt in August and plan to display eight new barn quilts by summer 2008.

The 4-H emphasis on sharing knowledge and demonstrating a process also led another Plymouth County 4-H’er, Melissa Kellen, to create a barn quilt direction sheet, which was based on her participation in the barn quilt project. The LeMars Art Council, at (712) 546-7476, makes the guide available.

Barn quilts began to ripple across Iowa from Grundy County, were the project began in 2003. Created to increase economic growth, the project brings visitors from across the country into the rural community to see the quilt blocks, shop in specialty and gift shops and enjoy a meal in local restaurants.

The first ripple traveled west of Grundy along Highway 20 to Sac County in 2005, when 4-H’er Kevin Peyton chose barn quilts as his Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student project. Some 55 barn quilts now lead visitors on a tour throughout the county, boosting the local economy. Peyton, currently an Iowa State University (ISU) sophomore, maintains close ties with the project.

Visitors also can take in the Sac County Quilt-A-Fair, Sept. 29-30, 2007. This two-day quilt show features the barn quilt tour, gardens and shops as well as other attractions at the fair grounds. Two buildings will be filled with quilts, vendors, door prizes, a silent auction, demonstrations, a quilt raffle, drawings for barn quilts and barn quilt art by Toni Grote.

From Sac County, 4-H’ers have spread the barn quilts across the state. Projects can be found along Highway 20 in Hardin, Hamilton and Webster counties. Other projects can be found along Highway 30 in Tama, Marshall, Story, Boone and Greene counties. Still other projects spread west from Clayton County, including Franklin, Wright, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Buena Vista and Plymouth counties.

Some new barn quilts in 2007 include those by Darrin Zmolek, a senior 4-H’er, who painted a quilt at the fairgrounds for the Barn Quilts of Tama County Committee; Libby Anderlik, a Webster County sixth grader, whose barn quilt will hang on her grandparents’ newly restored barn; and Megan Fahn, a Shelby County 4-H’er, who created a Carpenter’s Wheel barn quilt.

4-H’ers also work in partnership with adults in the movement to save Iowa’s barns. The Iowa Historical Preservation Alliance estimates that Iowa has been losing approximately 1,000 barns per year, and is down to less than 50,000 of an original 200,000 barns.

The Iowa Barn Foundation works to preserve Iowa’s rural buildings and provides barn restoration matching grants to help property owners restore their barns. The group showcases restored barns during various tours, including an All-State Barn Tour each year.

Nilan Petersen, a high school junior, worked on a June 2007, Iowa Barn Foundation tour in Muscatine County. This year’s All-State Barn Tour is set for Sept. 22-23. Some 75 barns in 48 counties will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. both days for the self-guided tour.

Other 4-H’ers have documented barns through photography, written descriptions, GPS locations and counts by township.

“The save-the-barns movement is bolstered by the 4-H spirit of community service and empowered through this partnership of youth and caring adults,” said Chuck Morris, program director for ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development.  “4-H helps youth set and accomplish important goals. This process enables youth to find success and make significant contributions to their communities.”

For more information on Iowa barn quilts and preservation, see The Barns of Iowa.

Contacts :
Chuck Morris, 4-H Youth Development, (515) 294-1517, cmorris@iastate.edu Carol Ouverson, Extension Communications and Marketing, (515) 294-9640, couverso@iastate.edu
Libby Anderlik Barn Quilt 180 jpg