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Author Topic: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns  (Read 1633 times)

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Online doc henderson

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My wife is into quilting, and we have traveled to areas where there is one of these on each barn.  do they run in family by design,  is it like a coat of arms?  can you just make up your own?  we plan to do a wood wall in the basement, and I thought we could do a wood one in or near my wife quilt area.  thanks @Ron Wenrich @Jim_Rogers 
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2022, 02:06:36 PM »
I don't have any history on any quilt patterns. Sorry I can't help you with that.

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Offline Chilterns

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2022, 02:33:25 PM »
Checkout pp66 in :-

LEFFINGWELL, R., 1997. The American Barn. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International Publishers.

- where Jeff Marks explains the likely source of barn pattern painting instigated mainly by the Pennsylvanian Dutch. The patterns first appeared on birth certificates and later on furniture like blanket chests. These patterns then started to be painted on barns in the late 1800's.

It might also be worth checking out Eric Sloan in :-

SLOAN, E., 1965. A Reverence for Wood. New York, USA: Ballantine Books.

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2022, 03:07:44 PM »
Prevalent in Wisconsin too. Wife also a quilter and have one on our barn/shed. Gift from our 4 kids.
What it means ?  do not know.  
south central Wisconsin
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2022, 03:16:04 PM »
.........

It might also be worth checking out Eric Sloan in :-

SLOAN, E., 1965. A Reverence for Wood. New York, USA: Ballantine Books.
Where does Eric Sloane mention quilt squares in his "A reverence for Wood" book? 
south central Wisconsin
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2022, 03:53:29 PM »
thanks!
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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2022, 06:19:34 PM »
You might want to look at hex signs.  That's what they're called in our area.  Predominately a German area.  There is symbolism in the design and the meaning.  Here's a couple of websites that might help.

https://hexsigns.com/pages/hex-symbolism

Folk Magic: The Hex Signs of Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Here's something for quilts:

https://vintagepatterns.com-inspired.com/pennsylvania-dutch-quilt-patterns/
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Online doc henderson

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2022, 07:25:04 PM »
getting great ideas Ron, and all thanks!
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2022, 07:52:16 PM »
.........

It might also be worth checking out Eric Sloan in :-

SLOAN, E., 1965. A Reverence for Wood. New York, USA: Ballantine Books.
Where does Eric Sloane mention quilt squares in his "A reverence for Wood" book?
Found it, I did remember something, Eric Sloane's "America"
The chapter titled American Yesterday, pg 18
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2022, 04:23:54 AM »
In Pennsylvania, Ron is spot on. The question remains, which came first, the hex sign or the quilt?  
Say when

Offline kantuckid

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2022, 08:48:13 AM »
KY has a quilt trail as well. They are seen are commonly seen on barns in my area. They probably reflect the quilt choice of the wife of whatever barn owner who's going to paint it. A few men quilt but mostly a girly hobby. 
Paducah, KY has a national quilt show each year and KY's state fair has many quilts on display.
A lead article in todays Lexington Herald-leader newspaper is a quilt story about the recovery of many quilts left behind by an 83 yr old quilter who died in her home in our recent E KY floods. There's a neat picture of them on display after having been restored from immersion in black water in her home.
When my wife & I prepared her Mom's (over a hundred year old family home) home for sale after her death last year, we hauled quilts from several closets by the dozens. Some were unquilted, others were finished. They filled the beds in three bedrooms upstairs alone and were distributed to family who wanted them. My wife completed several while we snowbirded in FL last winter. My wife and her 5 sisters all learned to sew their own clothes along with quilting, which a couple have done as an adult hobby. 

In Kansas, my own Mom was a quilter who'd learned to sew as she grew up. In fact, she did professional sewing on a treadle machine during much of my childhood. Yes, I know hoiw to sew myself and used to do embroidery when a child on scraps I was given to play with. 
She went on quilters bus tours in retirement, including the Paducah show. 
I spent my entire childhood under a home sewn quilt. They were warm when sewn from woolen scraps but I never liked the weight on my toes when the cold forced piling them on! 

Quilt story: Doc, as a scout leader you'll like this one. True story-My cousin David, who I went through school with was a scout as his church had a troop. He invited me on his own to go camping with them one weekend. I showed up at the pickup spot with my quilt rolled up as my sleeping "bag" and when the troop leader saw my quilt and he told me I couldn't go along as they only allowed "official" scouting gear. 
 A local old Topeka, KS department store ("Palace Clothing Store") sold the gear as I'd seen it on display there. I walked home heartbroken as I loved any chance to be outdoors. It was a heavy quilt folded into a bag, then sewn together part way which I camped with all the time. We used old WWII pup tents as our other gear and carbide lanterns. Pork & beans and chili, some eggs & bacon, baked taters were the meals.  
 
The quilters tend to do what they like and try a new one based on seeing others work or from quilting magazines. 
In my home is a handwoven quilt that came from my wifes family, made from homespun, dyed (in 3 colors) and loomed wool, it dates back to the early settlers in Eastern Kentucky. That woven quilt would probably be a family pattern learned and passed down, I think. Sewn quilts were more trendy. 
Well known KY governor, John Y. Brown of KY chicken fame, his wife (Phyllis George, a Miss America) was a strong promoter of KY crafts and quilts were a large part of that effort.  
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Offline petefrom bearswamp

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2022, 10:26:02 AM »
Roxie, I think the hex signs
Hex signs were fairly common in our area for a lot of years.
I think barn quilts are pretty recent and another way for my sweet wife to torment me.
She only has one so far but comments on them whenever we travel.
I expect more in our future.
I see no rhyme or reason to the designs,  but that is to my unpracticed eye.
I seem to also remember a stylized bird called the distlefink maybe?
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Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2022, 08:03:30 PM »
   This area was supposedly past of the underground railroad and escaping slaves heading for the north had support who would warn or advise them using quilts with different patterns. I saw part of a clip the other day explaining what certain patterns meant. Many barns around here have them on them.

   Some patterns meant safe, others meant come after dark, etc.

    Since everyone used quilts and washed and aired them out they did not raise any concerns.
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2022, 09:15:42 PM »
Now, inside the barn on timbers would be scribed a daisy wheel. That looked like a flower.
On some timbers that was the "sun" side of the timber/or barn.
And the wheel or peddles of the flower were distances of the barn dimensions.
There is a whole series of reasons for the daisy wheel in regard to dimensions.
There was a famous writer who Jack Sobon had come over from England who taught how to use a daisy wheel to layout the dimensions of a barn.
Dave Shepard, a forum member, took the class and learned from him. The class cut frame and a picture of it is Dave's profile picture.
The frame was brought to the timber framer's guild conference and sold at the yearly fund raiser auction. I'm not sure who bought it or where it is now.
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #15 on: September 13, 2022, 08:20:52 AM »
Granted, I didn't look at any of the links above, so maybe I'm missing some info, but I would have thought this to be easily answerable, and it sounds like there is still a fair amount of mystery to it. We've got these on a lot of barns around me too and I assumed it was similar to a coat of arms as well, an identifier for product perhaps? 

I like the idea of quilts being part of the underground railroad. 
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2022, 09:45:24 AM »
The Underground RR was toward Cinn, OH in my area. Thats why the Underground Railroad museum is in Cinn, OH now. A black man who retired from Morehead State U as an admin was from Maysville and moved to Cinn. to run that museum when it started. 
 Outside Maysville, KY on the Ohio river, in Washington, KY is the oldest town in KY. It has a number of old log buildings and several homes used in the slaves path toward freedom across the river. They have historical tours which I have done that visit these private homes with special secret places they hid the runaways. Even the USPS post office there is an old log building. They have a Christmas festival yearly there too.
As I recall there were a variety of signals used for runaways, quilts being one of them. 
Quilts on barns now are simply a private, hobby related thing promoted by state tourism folks here and there. I considered one but since we live where only family and the UPS man see my barn, why bother?  :D
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2022, 02:46:56 PM »
When I was little, like 4-5 years old (early 1980s?), we lived on the outskirts of a "town" called Maineville, just a bit north of Cincinnati, right next to Kings Island (amusement park), and our neighbor was a big, neat, old mansion and we were living in a crappy old farmhouse on it's property.

This mansion was, as I understood back then, part of the underground railroad, as well. I can only recall visiting the house a few times, though I think my parents were friends of the owners, and I remember hearing them talk about the secret passageways and tunnels and stuff that the house had. It was the neatest house I'd ever seen for a long time. It was also just up the road from the Peters Cartridge Factory, a really neat place that made ammo, then was sold to Remington Arms, and later Columbia Records, then Seagrams Distillery, now a brewery and apartment complex.

Unfortunately, it was torn down probably 20-25 years ago, maybe longer, to make room for a new neighborhood. The house I lived in was also torn down but I got a chance to walk around in it, abandoned, when I was probably 20 or so, after 15 or so years of not living there. I'm attempting to find more info on the mansion, but not having much luck yet.
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2022, 08:34:34 AM »
Smithsonian magazine had an interesting twist on the "other" underground railroad recently. It told about the much lesser-known runaway's who traveled south, not north, going into Mexico through Texas and stayed there. Mexico had laws that abolished slavery and was a much more friendly place to the former slaves. It was also a reality that bounty hunters went there after them to bring back into the US. 
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2022, 09:24:17 AM »
I have a friend who makes barn quilts for sale.  For the most part they are just a pretty design.  Sometimes the person buying it wants to have things added to the pattern that have meaning to them or the farm, such as the outline of the first tractor their great grandpa ever had on the farm, or pine trees for a Christmas tree farm, or some other unusual crop.

I don't know if originally they had deeper meaning, they have only recently caught on in this area.

Offline Don P

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #20 on: September 14, 2022, 07:40:44 PM »
I think it was in that article they mentioned at least one instance of the Mexican people sending the bounty hunters packing.
Just south of here in the NC upper piedmont was another station on the underground railroad. Winston-Salem and Bethabara were early Moravian towns. The governor had to call out troops to put down peace rallies there twice during the war.

Jim's daisy wheel is how you layout a hex sign. I used the same compass techniques/play as many of those painters while doodling a chip carving pattern. 

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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #21 on: September 19, 2022, 08:20:02 PM »
My wife was looking for a barn quilt for our little barn after seeing several on barns around here.I knew it was a matter of time until she found one for sale and I would have to foot the bill.I found a pattern that didnt seem to difficult and made one.I bought a sheet of 1/2 exterior plywood and cut it in half and framed out the back with 2x2s.I think the pattern is called turkey tracks.Not to hard to make,just takes time letting different colors dry and a lot of tape.

 
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #22 on: September 19, 2022, 09:00:07 PM »
Well golly gee, thanks for that. My wife was walking by when that photo was up on the screen and she said "Yeah, I like that, wanted one for a long time but exterior plywood is so expensive."
 Guess what just got added to my list. :D >:(
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #23 on: September 19, 2022, 09:39:48 PM »
Tom you only have to use 1/2 sheet so you can make two and sale the other one to pay for the plywood  :laugh:I ended up using my other 1/2 sheet to make another one for my sister-in-law to save my brother from having to buy one.
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2022, 07:04:46 PM »
Funny, all the people moving out of Toronto and buying up old barns go on and on about how they have to have one of those authentic barn quilts. They never existed here 10 years ago, somebody must have put the first one up for a laugh
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #25 on: September 24, 2022, 09:34:35 PM »
They just had the regular kind at the farm museum today, but it was pretty cool to see that many very nice quilts in one place. 



 



 
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2022, 03:56:24 AM »
Interesting story. I can imagine some patterns are actually hand woven to. Some of them were named after events, by shape or by fancy. Quilt patterns are 19th and early 20th C, I would think. Weaving goes back much further before the Industrial Revolution provided cloth on bolts for the masses. ;)
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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2022, 04:04:33 AM »
I think the pattern is called turkey tracks.
Wild Goose Chase I believe.
Turkey tracks is a hand woven rug pattern with rags.


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Re: what can you all tell me about the quilt square decorations on barns
« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2022, 08:32:14 AM »
I sleep every night under a quilt sewn by my MIL. The one my Mom sewed was getting a bit tacky.  I dislike heavy covers unless it's really cold()like we sleep every winter by choice), then I switch to a filled cover.
As I'd mentioned former first lady of KY, Phyllis George was heavily involved with crafts promotion here and nationwide. She knew it was a tradition and a cultural feature of our people. Her hope was that KY folk could cash in on crafts as well. It was well intentioned but less than a huge money maker for many here who had lost that skill set, like hand sewn quilts. Like find someone now who can perform basic alterations on their clothes let alone make thousands of tiny stitches or create a new winter coat from cloth, or who has the time it takes if they could.
NYC has a folk museum with quilts that date way back, the national quilt museum is in Paducah, KY thus the annual quilt pilgrimage there by quilt folks.
Near me the Morehead State U Folk Art Center features quilts- and IMO far too many folk wood carvings as they ignore the carvers that are immensely talented but don't qualify as "folk". The Southern Highland Craft Guild Center in Apex, NC is my idea of the epitome of American crafts from this eastern mtn. region and includes most of the top level crafts of many types.
My wife collected rags some years back and braided several rugs-it's hard work! Wool suits were the better choice and so much polyester cloth made it hard to find the good pieces
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