Editor's Note: Painted quilts put artistic twist on farm buildings

There are more than 3,000 barn quilts registered on the nationwide American Quilt Trail, but according to the trail’s website, there are hundreds more not registered.

Christine Ewald of Kingston’s is one of these. Ewald painted the geometric red-white-and-blue quilt square on two 6-foot-by-3-foot panels over the winter and mounted it to the 100-year-old barn on her property this summer.

“I wanted to add something to (the barn) that I did. It’s part of my legacy,” Ewald said. “And I wanted something for the customers of my you-pick berry business to enjoy.”

Barn quilts are painted quilt squares usually painted on panels and then mounted to barns or other buildings. While actual quilts are a series of squares of the same pattern pieced together, barn quilts are typically only one square, in a geometric pattern that is easy to see from a distance. Some are based on actual quilt patterns, others are unique. According to the Quilt Trail website, some students in Kankakee added a 3-D effect to some squares in that area, so that they look like fabric draped against the barn.

Some people choose a pattern to replicate an actual heirloom quilt, or something personal to them – a quilt pattern called Corn and Beans is popular for farmers.

“It’s kind of a personal thing,” Ewald explained. “Mine isn’t really symbolic of anything. ...I chose the pattern partly because it’s patriotic, and because the colors worked with the colors of the berry business.”

Ewald said there are a few other barn quilts in the county, though she’s not sure where they are. In some areas, the outdoor art pieces are prevalent. Those registered on the American Quilt Trail are listed on maps people can download, and some areas have their own barn quilt tours or trails available.

The Quilt Trail lists barn quilts in every state except Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Mississippi. In Illinois, there are quilt trails in Stephenson, McHenry, Kankakee, Dewitt and Calhoun counties. The concept began in Ohio, and there are now more than 6,000 painted quilts in the U.S. and Canada that are part of some kind of organized trail. Others, like Ewald’s, are personal statements waiting to be discovered.

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