As reported in Carolina Country –.These wooden blocks represent a labor of love, many created by Barbara and Martin Webster starting in 2008. At first concentrated in Yancey and Mitchell counties, barn quilts have spread across the Tar Heel State as others have taken up the cause.
“While they’re pretty to look at, there’s much more to the story of barn quilts here in Western North Carolina,” says Barbara Webster, former executive director of Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina. “Barn quilts blend history, culture and community spirit and help tell the stories of the sites where they hang. Each block has been carefully designed or chosen to trigger the story of the family, business or school where it resides. You can learn the history of the area by finding the quilt blocks.”
Over the years, other states developed their own quilt trails. By 2008, Toe River Arts Council in Burnsville had received funding from Handmade in America to start a quilt trail, but there was no one to manage it. As a quilter, Barbara spoke up.
“How hard could it be?” she says. “We eventually became an independent nonprofit organization. And we set up some guidelines, such as the designs could contain no words or numbers, they must be translatable to a traditional quilt made of fabric, they couldn’t be used as a company logo or be made from a company logo, and they must portray a connection to history or culture.”
The Websters created a board of directors that researched the optimum materials for long-lasting construction, volunteered to work and to raise additional funds. The group enlisted help from schools, businesses and individuals in the community to bring the project to fruition.
When the Websters moved from NC to Tennessee, sisters Carole and June Pearson took over the production of the quilt blocks.
Carole Pearson with a guitar barn quilt in front of One of a Kind Art Gallery. Photo by Carole Pearson.
In July of 2019 the Quilt Trails of Western NC became a program of the Haywood County Arts Council and the tradition of handcrafting exterior quilt blocks has fallen to a dedicated group of volunteers in Waynesville, NC, who meet weekly to hand paint these works of art.
A geometric pattern portrays NC birds. Photo by Carole Pearson.