A Brief History of My Humble Barn Quilt

My mom phoned me one night last spring, and told me she was going to take a community education class and make a barn quilt.

I said, a what?

She said, you know, a barn quilt.

I said, a huh?

She said, oh, just google it.

So I googled “Barn Quilts,” and if you don’t know what a barn quilt is either, I have saved you the task of googling it because I am now about to show you what I’m talking about. Barn quilts are these colorful, decorative painted boards that people paint and hang on old barn buildings. They serve no purpose except to be beautiful. Here are a few gorgeous examples:

I liked these. So the next night I called my mom back and asked her if she would mind if I signed up for the same class she was taking. She said, of course not, you’re my daughter. I guess we can take a community education class together if we want to. (It’s something I love about mothers. They don’t usually mind spending time with their children.)

So I signed up. And we showed up. I chose an easy design that still took time. You have to cut your plywood first. (Mine is only 4′ x 4′, as I wanted something small for my small barnish building. Barn quilts can be any size, but most are probably more like 6′ x 6′ or even bigger.) Then you sand the plywood. Then you have to prime the darn thing, front & back. By this point, an entire class period has been used and all you have is a wet white board.

But then, in your next classes, you get your pattern onto the board (which I did with much pain and much measuring and re-measuring of portions and angles), and you tape up spots you don’t want to paint, and you get some paint and you paint into the spots that are still open. Then you let it dry and then you tear the tape off, then you tape it up again and paint some other spots. And on and on till you’re done. In case you can’t tell, I am really not in the least bit interested in describing the process, because the photos I took along the way seem so much more meaningful:

My cat Sagan LOVED looking over the quilt, and somehow just knew not to step onto the wet paint.

Here’s what it looked like when I painted green and torn the tape off.

Here’s what it looked like after I’d added blue, and before I’d removed the green masking tape.

So one night I finished it off in the garage, all except for one little spot of blue that I had accidentally taped over at the top. I took off the tape and left it in the garage to dry. I figured I’d add the little spot of blue the next night.

But when I got home from work the next night, my schoolteacher-on-summer-vacation hubby had already hung the barn quilt on our old pig shed (which we now use as a ping pong shed and a place to store the lawn mower). And since the quilt had a home, I just left it there and I like it. If I were to start over, I’d use brighter colors, maybe red or orange. But, imperfect as it is, it’s a barn quilt nevertheless:

True, it’s not quite (OK, it’s not nearly) as pretty as some of those I found when I googled “barn quilts,” but this one is right outside of my back door, and it does feel homey. Like me, it’s here to stay.

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