ACCUQUILT’S 2013 4TH ANNUAL BARN QUILT CONTEST
History of the Barn Quilt Movement
By Linda Pumphrey
Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio initiated the Barn Quilt Movement in October 2001, however, according to Donna Sue’s interview in Quilters’ Save our Stories (Q.S.O.S.)* by The Alliance for American Quilts, the concept started much earlier.
Donna Sue got the idea for barn quilts as she watched her grandmother from Roane County, West Virginia quilt during family visits. As her family traveled through the country on back roads, her mother created a car game where they counted barns. Different types of barns would earn points. Barns with advertising were worth 10 points. Red barns were worth even more points. German Pennsylvania Dutch barns with hex signs and wonderful colorful geometric designs on them were worth the most…50 whole points!
From this childhood experience, barns left an imprint on Donna Sue that she carried with her throughout her life. Eventually, Donna Sue and her mother settled in Adams County (in southern Ohio) on a farm with a barn. Donna Sue thought their barn—a tobacco barn—was one of the ugliest barns she had ever seen in her life! In 1989, Donna Sue said to her mother, Nina Maxine—who goes by Maxine—that she would paint a quilt square on it someday. The concept grew from there.
In 2000, Donna worked to create a driving trail of numerous quilt squares where people would come to Adams County to see the barns with quilt squares, and ultimately create economic opportunity for the mostly rural communities. The first committee meeting took place in January, 2001 and the first quilt square was installed in October of that same year. In just under a decade, the Barn Quilt Trail has grown to encompass 29 states and into Canada.
Donna Sue believes quilts have power. Just about everyone has a quilt story and remembers a quilt. People run to their closets or pull quilts out from under their beds and share their stories. Do you have a quilt story to share? If so, please share them!
With the unveiling of the AccuQuilt Barn Quilt in July, 2010, AccuQuilt proudly adds another storyline and block to the Barn Quilt Trail started by Donna Sue.
Donna Sue recently shared with Linda Pumphrey, AccuQuilt’s National Sales Manager, that the 17’ AccuQuilt Barn Quilt is the first one that she knows of to be featured by a company involved in the quilting industry. She was unable to be in attendance at the unveiling but stated she was in Fremont, Neb. in spirit and would share in the excitement and fun from Ohio. The first quilt block designed and installed by Donna Sue to honor her mother was the Snail Trail design. AccuQuilt’s Barn Quilt design is a symbol to honor all quilters and their stories worldwide.
Donna Sue shared that her Barn Quilt Trail was a way to create economic opportunities but to also preserve stories about those that built barns and the family farm stories behind them. Of equal importance are the quilts in those families and the stories. We need to remember the rich tradition of quilting by sharing and documenting the wonderful stories associated with these quilts.