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Tag Archive: Laurel Horton

Nov 17

Quilts on beds and barns

“We Americans have adopted quilts as a symbol of what we value about
ourselves and our national history.” –From “Speaking of Quilts” by Laurel Horton

The brightly colored leaves of fall are mostly gone now on deciduous trees in Missouri, but some color remains in surprising places—on barns.

For me, it is always a pleasant surprise to drive down a rural Missouri road and unexpectedly spot a ‘barn quilt’.

If one follows an historic central Missouri trail once blazed by Daniel Boone’s sons, the Boonslick Trail, one can find an array of colorful quilt art on barns, each with spectacular patterns of color and design.

In case you have not heard of barn quilts, they are colorful, large wooden blocks that are designed, painted and hung on the sides of barns, an art trend started in Ohio and Tennessee.

I wish I had a barn because I would indeed adorn it with a barn quilt. Perhaps, a shed would do instead? At any rate, I am a new fan of barn quilts.

When I spot a barn quilt, it instantly evokes memories of my youth when we youngsters snuggled under a quilt or comforter and memories of how those quilts were made.

Quilts, as I am sure you well know, are quite time-consuming and labor intensive. They are composed of three layers of fiber that include a woven cloth top, which is a combination of colorful pieces sewn together, and a layer of cotton batting with a woven fabric backing that is often one solid color or a pattern.

These days if you don’t have time to quilt, it is nice to know that barn quilts do not require much effort. They only require that busy passersby simply pause, admire and revel in their bright colors and intricate designs.

And dear readers, there is no time like the present to take a drive in search of local barn quilts, our Missouri roadside masterpieces. You will find several in an area known as the Boonslick Trail that runs through Howard, Cooper and Saline Counties. It takes you on a scenic byway that was once a major corridor for pioneers traveling west.

Look for these barn quilts to get you started on your expedition:

–The first barn quilt on the Boonslick Trail is called the “Missouri Star.” Find this quilt at Exit 111 off Interstate 70 at the Missouri River Valley Steam Engine grounds southeast corner, in Cooper County.

–Located on Highway 240 about 5 miles south of Fayette, Missouri in Howard County, is the barn quilt pattern called “Electric Fan.”

–Called the “Bear Paw,” this barn quilt can be seen, on the east side, about a mile south of Fayette, Missouri, at 1090 Highway 240 in Howard County.

–The pattern called “Country Farm” is located west of Arrow Rock on Highway 41 toward Marshall. At Hardemann turn right (north) on Highway D. See the barn quilt after two miles on the right at 22264 Highway D-Hardemann.

–Called the “Farmer’s Daughter” because, for the last 3 generations the farm has been inherited by daughters in the family, this popular barn art can be seen at 29117 Hwy. 290, three miles east of Marshall.

I am sorry to tell you that there is one problem with barn quilt art that needs mention. Unfortunately, barns themselves are gradually disappearing from our rural landscape.
The Columbia Missourian explains that barns are nostalgic remnants of another time but are sadly dying out: “These buildings are valuable and wonderful and precious. We can’t let them die,” said Margot McMillen, a Westminster College English instructor. “An awful number of barns have disappeared, or are just falling apart.” An effort to preserve barns by adding barn art remains a work in progress in Missouri.

Barn art organizers, according to The Missourian, hope to some day match the ambitions of Tennessee, home to an 81-quilt driving tour in the Appalachian region; or Ohio, Iowa and Kentucky, which each boast more than 250 barn quilts.

Before winter sets in, I hope you take a barn quilt tour of central Missouri and enjoy the colorful autumnal glory as Nathaniel Hawthorn, novelist of the 1800s, once reminded us to do. He wrote, “I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”

Me either. Take your camera, it’s a great photo op.