The Story Behind Alabama's Growing Number of Barn Quilts
Founder Regina Painter saw her first quilt block on a barn while traveling through Tennessee. Determined to bring the idea to the Yellowhammer State, she founded the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail in 2015. According to its official website, the trail is an “agricultural tourism project designed to promote travel and community pride by encouraging the public to explore our roads, farms, businesses, and historic towns.”
Today, “The American Quilt Trail Movement” is reportedly is one of the fastest-growing grassroots public art movements in the United States.
Winding through the state’s northwest counties, the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail currently includes 80 official sites, with three quilt blocks in the process of being installed, and 10 to 20 more on the non-profit’s to-do list. Thanks to a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Alabama Farmers Federation, the barn quilts are made and installed free of charge.
The quilt squares measure either 8 feet by 8 feet or 4 feet by 4 feet. Though they were originally made from plywood, the group now uses composite aluminum, which is more lightweight and durable.
As a member of the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail committee, Dale Robinson, designs and draws each barn quilt square in his garage before it’s painted and installed. He told AL.com that he and his wife Lisa became involved in the organization after he was forced to retire early due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. It keeps him busy and it’s “way for me to give something back to the community and make Alabama a better place,” he explained.
After Dale sketches the design, other volunteers paint the blocks with industrial acrylic paint. Another pair of volunteers installs them on barns around Alabama. Some people volunteer their barns, while others are scouted out by the team. The barns need to be in good repair and easy to see from a roadway.
“We want people to be able to drive by and enjoy it and have a safe place to take pictures,” Dale explained to AL.com. “We encourage prospective hosts to find family heirloom quilts, and we re-create them, which makes it that much more special.”