A road trip is a great way to bring the whole family together, get out of the house for a change in scenery, and make amazing memories! No matter what season it is when you find some free time, the Barn Quilt Trail is a great guide for a family road trip. With lots of history, amazing scenery, and special stops at some of America’s most beautiful farms, the Barn Quilt Trail is an easy way to explore your state or create a cross-country adventure.
What is a Barn Quilt?
If you live in a more rural area, the barn quilt might look a little familiar—even if you weren’t able to put a name to it. They are squares of bright colors arranged in a pattern similar to a single square of a quilt. With criss-crossing or interwoven lines, geometric shapes, and plenty of colors, these quilts are hard to miss. Often hand-painted, they originated in 2001 with Donna Sue Groves who decorated a barn with one. Ever since, the trend has caught on. But that’s not the whole story.
These sorts of barn decorations actually originate with Dutch immigrants. In many places on the East coast, you can find lots of barn decorations that became known as Hex symbols. Like the quilts, they are bright and very decorative, but for the Dutch immigrants the signs often held a lot more meaning.
For example, in Pennsylvania, German families select “hearts for love, birds (called distelfinks) for luck and happiness, tulips for faith, and stars for good luck.” They also choose colors carefully as each has a different meaning: “Blue conveyed protection, white purity, green abundance and red strong emotion.” (from lancasterpa.com) For hundreds of years these signs were hand painted then, eventually, silk screened onto wood and hung on barns and in homes.
Depending on which states you drive through, you will most likely see a combination of the barn quilt and the hex symbol. No matter which you find, you will experience a true Americana tradition that is beautifying the American rural landscape and keeping traditions—both of quilting and Dutch design—alive.
The Barn Quilt Trail
Start your barn quilt road trip by finding the counties in your state that have the most barn quilts. Then check out surrounding states and start planning your trip. Use this handy breakdown of barn quilt trails in each state to find guides, histories, and more info to aid in your journey.
As you travel, explore the areas you pass through, find local restaurants, landmarks, and museums to expand your trip. This is a great opportunity to support local farmers and buy produce and other goods from roadside stands, farm stores, and farmers markets. You might even find a good place to source local meats, dairy products, and eggs. Make connections with the farmers if you can, and let them know you love their barn quilt or hex sign!