|Barn Quilts of Walworth County|
|Written by Lynn Greene|
|Tuesday, 16 June 2009 10:17|
It’s his way to remind people to take time and appreciate the everyday things in life. Folks driving along Wisconsin County Highway O just north of Delavan have probably seen the sign so many times, they’ve forgotten it’s there. But now, Amon has another reminder for people.
When he decided to sign up for the barn quilt project in Walworth County, it was easy to pick the design he wanted. The 8-foot square hanging from his barn features a rose pattern he called “Rose Path.”
Peg Reedy, University of Wisconsin-Extension agri-business agent, heads up the project. She got the idea for the quilts when she was visiting Grundy County, Iowa, her home state.
Reedy said, “They had the first original barn quilt projects and as soon as I saw that, I said, we really need to do this in Walworth County.”
The project promotes the rural heritage of the county by highlighting the architecture and history of barns and by encouraging the preservation of these structures for future generations. In turn, the project is expected to encourage economic development by promoting ag-tourism and other local businesses.
Alyce and Gordon Smith, north of Elkhorn, jumped on the chance to have a barn quilt on their barn at Cedar Bend Farm. Their have a farm stand open to the public during the season, and sell garden produce – everything from spring asparagus to summer sweet corn.
The Smiths picked a pattern called “Ohio Star” but renamed it the Cedar Bend Star. Alyce’s sister Sylvia Baker lives just down the road and also has a quilt on her barn. The Baker’s barn is festooned with “Hereford Star,” a variation on the “Lone Star” quilt pattern.
Reedy applied for and received a grant from the University of Wisconsin Extension Southern District Innovative Grant program. The $3,000 grant provided funds for supplies and seed money for a brochure explaining the program to the public.
Donations from sponsors also pitched in with donations.
“Barker Lumber has been wonderful,” Reedy said. “They’ve given us the supplies at cost.”
Lumber and paint are the big costs. The squares require two sheets of plywood each and the paint is layered on with at least two coats of color and a sealer. Volunteers have been doing the painting.
Helen Schmaling painted Amon’s rose quilt square, after she and her husband painted their own. For their barn, the Schmalings chose the pattern “Corn and Beans,” which symbolizes the crops grown on their farm.
“We left the two cows up there two because we dairy,” Schmaling said.
The Schmaling’s red barn faces Wisconsin County Highway P. The barn quilt is on the part of the barn that originally housed the farm’s horses back when farming was done with real horse power. Helen said Don’s grandfather bought the property back in 1909 and she’s sure that barn was there then, which would mean it qualifies as a centennial farm this year.
The Schmalings got iinvolved in the project the minute they heard about it. They became part of a core group of volunteers that did much of the planning, painting and building of the squares during the early spring months before planting time.
Picking out a pattern for their own barn was no problem for Helen Schmaling.
“I take a lot of quilt magazines,” she said. “I was anxious to get on it.”
Educating the public about the art and history of quilting and promoting it as a form of art is another purpose of the barn quilt project. It’s a good combination: barns and quilts.
American quilt making had its roots in the early 1800s. Fabric at that time was expensive and often worn garments were repurposed. Scraps of fabric were piece worked together to create quilts. Women became adept at using the smallest scraps to create beautiful scrapwork quilts.
This deference to thrift is an attitude shared by farmers.
At the beginning of the Barn Quilt project, Reedy looked for barn owners, quilters, and businesses who wanted a quilt on their structure and who would be able to help paint and install the quilts. Not sure what response she would get, she signed up people as they indicated their interest. Before long, she had a waiting list.
“We hope to get all of those done and up by the fall tour,” Reedy said, referring to the fall Country with Character tour. The annual tour has grown into a day of farm-related events highlighting Walworth County’s agricultural roots. The barn quilts will be a good addition to the event.
“The next step is to really focus on some of the more historical structures and to get the people that are involved in agri-business to be a part of the project,” Reedy said.
Now, that the farmers are back in the field, the quilts are going up in between putting in soybeans and corn. Nevertheless, the project is well under way with seven barn quilts installed for the public’s viewing pleasure.
Look for Barn Quilts in these locations:
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 10:19|