What Are Barn Quilts?

Posted by on Aug 24, 2013 in Quilting | Comments

We quilters sure love our quilts. So much that we like to show off our quilting wherever we can! They look so beautiful laying on the couch, tossed over the back of a chair, or spread across a bed. Some even like to decorate the outside of their homes with them. I’m not talking about quilts hanging on porch rocking chairs, I am talking about barn quilts!

Barn in Trees with Red Barn Quilt

Photo via Old Red Barn Co.

A barn quilt is a large piece of wood that is painted to look like a quilt block.

Even though the name implies that an entire quilt is painted onto the wood, it generally is only a single quilt block. The size of the squares vary, but usually, they measure 8 feet. After they are painted, these blocks are hung on the exterior of a barn, house, garage or other building.

The majority of barn quilts are comprised of simple geometric shapes, like squares, rectangles and triangles. This makes them easier to create. They usually are painted in solid colors, though every now and then, you’ll come across one that has been painted to look like printed fabric. The simplicity in shape and the vibrancy of solid colors make these blocks easily seen from afar. If they are too complicated, the details can be lost.

The earliest versions of barn quilts have been around for hundreds of years.

Just as fabric quilts have their own unique history, so do barn quilts. While barns were not painted back in the day, they were decorated with different types of folk art. This included quilt blocks once paint was readily available and affordable. People chose certain blocks to reflect particular meanings.

In the early 2000s, barn quilts start showing up again, and these are the ones we are used to seeing today. This is also when the first quilt trail began, originating in Ohio.

A quilt trail consists of many barn quilts that are mapped together and visited. Those following along the trail receive a map with all of the locations marked, and viewers drive through the countryside to see all of the blocks. Today there are quilt trails all over the United States. A wide variety of people have created them, including quilt guilds, schools, churches, and 4-H clubs.

Yellow Country House with Barn Quilt by Door

Photo via Maureen Cracknell Handmade

Are you interested in creating your own barn quilt?

This is a very doable and fun project to tackle! While it may appear intimidating, it is achievable with careful drafting, taping and painting.

Check out these two free tutorials online:

If you would like a barn quilt or two but would prefer to purchase one, that’s okay too! Ask around locally, or do a quick search online. Be sure to include your state or county when searching so that you can locate someone close to home.


  1. Joan in NE says:

    I have a Lone Star “barn quilt” on my front porch. It is the only one in my immediate area, but I hope they will catch on eventually. There are a few in the rural area. Anyway it does draw a lot of interest when someone walks past and sees it.

  2. Oh, I do love a barn quilt!! And even though I had never seen one in person, I entered a Barn Quilt Design contest at AccuQuilt in 2011, and won 2nd place with my design, A Soldier’s Star! These big blocks translate well into a quilt. I hang it on my front porch or on a wall for patriotic holidays. I think I should start a trend around these parts, and paint it on my garage door… You can see the quilt on my Craftsy pattern page: http://www.craftsy.com/pattern/quilting/home-decor/a-soldiers-star/11612

  3. Cynthia Olson says:

    I had a lot of fun 2 years ago traveling around Ohio looking at the Quilt Barns. With luck, I will be able to do more this year. It was an exciting and relaxing journey through history. My family has an old workshop on our property and I painted “Card Tricks” to be displayed on the side of it. I would also like to paint a “Rose of Sharon” wreath to be displayed alongside it.

  4. diane says:

    i love this site

  5. Cheryl says:

    Shawano county in Wisconsin has a couple of hundred barn quilts. They have a website that shows all the quilts and where they are located in the county. It is an awesome site to see.

  6. Dana says:

    What a pleasure to visit the craftsy blog and see my very own barn quilt in a post! I love driving through rural America and spying these beauties on barns!

  7. Linda says:

    We have a tour of at least 80 barn quilts in our part of Southwestern Ontario (Canada), with a brochure of directions and coloured illustrations. http://www.barnquilttrails.ca

  8. Mary F Johnson says:

    Many of us in Maple Valley Quilters, Trufant, Michigan, have either painted our own barn quilt or commissioned them for our houses, barns and sheds. It’s been another way to share our love of quilting.

  9. Robbin Neff says:

    Ilive making barn quilts for the urban environment. A bit smaller boards and on fliir cloths. I highly recommend giving it a try yourself.

  10. Donna says:

    I live in Powder Springs, Ga. We have a very special Quilt Trail here that is a special project of The Country Store here in the old part of town and each quilt is specific to the old building or the type of shop it holds. I get to enjoy it frequently as I go through town.

  11. I just recently had a barn quilt painted for my barn. Everybody that sees it loves it. It is in memory of my husband who loved the Flying Geese pattern.

  12. Linda Welch says:

    We saw a few of the Barn Quilts when driving in the States a couple of years age. When we came home we found out the Ontario Canada also has some Quilt Trails. We have been on three different ones this year. Even bought a small 2×2 to hang on my fence.

  13. Suzi Parron says:

    Hi there,

    I am so glad to see that you–like so many quilters–are enjoying the many quilt trails around the country! But the original post is very wrong about one thing–barn quilts were NEVER painted on barns “once paint was readily available.” I spent three years traveling the country documenting barn quilts for my book, published by Ohio University last year. If there had been a quilt pattern painted on a barn that dated back hundreds of years–or even decades–I would have found it by now. Perhaps you are thinking of hex signs? They are geometric shapes, but they are not quilt patterns, as they were not replicas of patterns meant to be sewn.

    PLEASE give credit where due! Donna Sue Groves came up with the concept of barn quilts, and the first was painted in 2001. My research into the subject has been very thorough,. You can find out more on my website banquiltinfo.com.

    No, I am not trying to promote myself or my book here. I just want those who enjoy barn quilts to appreciate their origins and not to be misled.


  14. Want a sweet surprise, to come across your blog, about Barn Quilts.
    I have a website that I, sell my Barn Quilts from. I design the pattern and have them printed on outdoor vinyl, with fade resistant ink. They look like fabric quilts. http://www.americanbarnquilts.
    I have one in ArtPize right now, too.
    I do some blogging about Barn Quilts, also.
    Today I’m sitting here looking for other blogs that I might get inspired by…
    and this truly is one.
    Thank you for your lovely work.. I’ll be back.

  15. Debbie says:

    I am interested in having a barn quilt made for my mom for her birthday to put on their mini barn. Does anyone know who makes them in the Dodge-Douglas-Washington county area or surrounding counties? Thanks.

  16. I have seen numerous barn quilts in Tenn and am excited to find more about them. I enjoy looking at them but thougt they were part of a local guild now anxious to look for more.

  17. I have seen numerous barn quilts in Tenn and am excited to find more about them. I enjoy looking at them but thougt they were part of a local guild now anxious to look for more.

  18. I have seen numerous barn quilts in Tenn and am excited to find more about them. I enjoy looking at them but thougt they were part of a local guild now anxious to look for more.

  19. I have seen numerous barn quilts in Tenn and am excited to find more about them. I enjoy looking at them but thougt they were part of a local guild now anxious to look for more.