The Mountaineer

By Rachel Moore

September 30, 2021

Quilt Block, designed by Lauren A. Medford

When alpaca farmers Candace and Larry Wingo moved to an Iron Duff farm from Texas four years ago, Candace knew she wanted something unique to add to her barn.

In Texas, they had a Texas flag painted on their barn roof.

In North Carolina, they decided it would be a quilt block, the large painted wooden pieces of quilt patterns that grace barns across nine counties Western North Carolina.

“I always loved barn quilts,” said Candace, co-owner of Mountain Dream Alpacas. “There were none in Texas.”

Candace got in touch with Janet Steinke, who coordinates the quilt block program for the Haywood County Arts Council. She first volunteered with Steinke, painting a block for another community member, then set to work on hers.

The block Candace and Larry settled on for their barn is 8’ by 8’, the largest size option through the quilt trail program. The block is split into four panels — many quilt blocks are just a single 4’ by 4’ panel, but the Wingos decided their barn was too large for a single quilt block. With a background in interior and landscape design, Candace knew she wanted to play an active role in designing and painting her block.

“I wanted something Carolina-related and found the Carolina lily,” she said. The Carolina lily is the state wildflower, so it was fitting to base the design off of that to honor her new home.

“I’m so excited about that. To me, it’s a thankful gesture to be back in the mountains and part of this community.”

From there, the design took form. Candace worked to choose a color palette that would match that of the rest of her farm. Black, red, burgundy and green are all prominent on the block.

The massive block will hang on the front of the Wingos’ 100-year-old barn. Candace says a hog farm used to occupy the property, then a dairy farm, so she and Larry are excited to be a part of this new chapter in the property’s history. The quilt block is so large — Steinke estimates about 200 pounds total — that the barn had to be reinforced. Candace says the painting process took nearly a month, but she’s thankful for the time it took. Each quilt block is painted with extreme precision and includes at least three layers of paint. The blocks are supposed to last 15–20 years.

And the Wingos wound up starting a trend in Iron Duff. Already, another community member added a single 4’ by 4’ block to her barn. Five more quilt blocks are in the works in the Iron Duff community, meaning it may soon become a destination for travelers on the quilt trail.

For Candace and Larry, the a barn quilt is one of the final touches to making their mountain dream a reality.

The Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina has been a program of Haywood County Arts Council since 2019. All the quilt blocks for Western North Carolina are painted by volunteers in Haywood County at a studio space in the Folkmoot building. Visit haywoodarts.org/county-quilt-trail-information/ to view an interactive map of the Haywood County Trail.