For centuries, quilting has been an economical way to stay warm and make art at the same time. That was certainly true in the Appalachian Mountains, where quilters sewed together scraps of clothing, sheets and even old feed bags into patterns that often reflected family history or community events. As the art form developed, quilts were increasingly created to adorn not just beds, but walls and mantles.
Today the storied blankets are on display all over the country in the form of barn quilt trails. Often created by quilting guilds, arts councils or tourism councils, barn quilt trails can be found in 48 states and feature billboard-sized quilting squares on the sides of old barns. Like quilts themselves, these trails are a collection of disparate parts that together form a point of pride for the communities involved.
In Garrett County, Maryland, visitors can celebrate the rich heritage of Appalachian quilters by taking a ride on the Garrett County Barn Quilt Trail, which includes 45 stops and 45 unique patterns, with names like “Goose Tracks,” “Bear Paw” and “Garden Maze.”
Inspired by a trip she took to Amish Country in Ohio, where the first barn quilts were painted as an homage to a quilter’s mother, Karen Reckner gathered a group of women together to see if they would make it happen in Western Maryland. The Barn Quilt Association of Garrett County (BQAGC) became an official 501(c)(3) in 2010. Since then, dozens of barns have been painted with the lovely designs.
Each square has a story, often associated with the owner of the barn. Greg Hinebaugh’s “Delectable Mountains,” was a pattern created by his mother, and the square is his tribute to her. Rachel Miller’s barn is emblazoned with the “Love Ring” pattern, and is based on the quilts her mother made for each of Rachel’s seven daughters. Most squares commemorate a momentous occasion: a friend graduating from medical school, for instance, or grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Some are modeled after an actual quilt in the owners’ possession or honor the area’s rich agricultural tradition — maple syrup and dairy farms among them.
There are many ways you can enjoy the Barn Quilt Trail of Garrett County. First, take a look at the BQAGC’s website to download the official brochure that includes a map and list of the quilt squares. If you want to learn about each stop and square along the way, simply call (301) 501-5063. For an even more dynamic tour, download the Garrett Heritage Area app on your smartphone to combine your barn quilt journey with other notable stops such as railroad depots and flour mills.
If you’re holding off on travel for a little while, you can always take the Garrett County Barn Quilt Trail via their Google Earth Tour. Afterward, download the coloring pages from the BQAGC’s website to create colorful quilts and rural panoramas from the comfort of your own home.