How to Make Barn Quilts

    by Cynthia Myers

    About the Author

    Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.


    Where the broad sides of country barns once provided canvases for tobacco advertisements and notices that the circus was coming to town, today those barns are likely to sport colorful reproductions of quilt squares. Painted in bold colors, the geometric designs that mimic time-honored quilt squares were the brainchild of Donna Sue Groves of the Ohio Arts Council. In 2001, Groves initiated a barn quilt trail in Adams County, Ohio. Now many communities are getting together to paint barns with quilt designs and promoting them as public art.

    Things You'll Need

    • Two sheets of 4-foot by 8-foot 3/4-inch thick plywood
    • Latex primer
    • Latex paint
    • Yardstick
    • Charcoal pencil
    • Painter’s tape
    • Foam paintbrushes
    • 12 1 ½-inch screws
    • Drill
    • Level

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    Coat the plywood with two coats of latex primer, using foam paintbrushes. Allow each coat to dry for 1 hour.

    Choose a geometric quilt design that is easy to draw. Geometric quilt designs consist of rectangles, squares and triangles. Mark your quilt design on the 8-foot square formed by the two sections of plywood placed side by side. Use a yardstick to mark straight lines with a charcoal pencil.

    Mask off each section of the charcoal pencil design with painter's tape and paint one section at a time, using a foam paintbrush and latex acrylic paint. Choose bright primary and secondary colors for your designs, with sharp contrasts between the light and dark colors. Paint light colors first. Let each color dry for 20 minutes before moving to darker colors.

    Mount the two sections of the quilt to the side of a barn with 12 1 ½-inch screws, using a drill. Make sure the design matches the two sections meet and that the square is straight, using a level.

    • Search quilting books for suitable patterns for your barn quilt.
    • Do not use subtle colors in the barn quilt, which is designed to be viewed from a distance.