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Barn Quilts

What was that flash of color high on that barn? You just caught a glimpse of one of the Barn Quilts of Bureau County. As you drive across the county pay close attention to the farms that you are passing. You may see one of the over 60 Barn Quilts that have been placed on farm buildings all over the county. “What’s a Barn Quilt?” you wonder. It is a quilt block design painted on a special type of plywood called MDO board. The blocks are usually either 4×4 feet or 8×8 feet. No fabric is used in the design, it all comes from paint. They are painted with exterior paint and each displays a colorful quilt block, either one chosen from a traditional quilt design or from something personal to that farm owner.

A small group of local women came together as a group that loves quilts and now the rich tradition of the barn quilts. They started the group, The Barn Quilts of Bureau County and they started out in 2014 with just five quilts in place. Early in 2016 they will have over 60 quilts on barns and farm buildings all over the county. The committee’s goal is to have barn quilts in all 25 townships in the county. Several of the townships have multiple quilts hanging already. The Quilt Trail was designed to celebrate our rich agricultural heritage, showcase our rural areas and promote agritourism, the arts and a sense of community pride in Bureau County. A barn quilt lends a homey feeling to a farm and is just another of the ways our community honors our agricultural roots.

“How do they pick their design” you may wonder. Some of them are chosen by the name of the quilt design or by a favorite hobby or tradition. For example “The Ohio Star” hangs on a barn outside of Ohio, IL. One farm has the “Pinwheel” design painted in green and yellow. It shows the colors of the family’s favorite football team and tractor style along with the windmill design too. Family heritage shows on some of the quilts that have a Swedish styled flag or Swedish Dala horse designs. Livestock on the farms show up on some of the quilts with horses, cattle and sheep designs. Some of the quilt names are really unique- “Farmer’s Daughter”; “Corn & Beans”; “Mariners Compass”; “Loyal Daughter”; “Double Wedding Ring”; “Gentleman’s Fancy”; “Honey Bee”; “Carpenters Wheel” or “Flying Geese”. Designs are found in quilt books, on quilts handed down through the family and also on Pinterest.

You can see four examples of barn quilt designs on the red building inside the main gate of the Bureau County Fairgrounds, 811 W Peru St, in Princeton. There is a box on the end of the building next to the quilts that contains maps for the quilt trail around Bureau County. You can also pick up maps at the Prouty Building on Main St. in Princeton. You can do a self guided tour of the barn quilts at any time, summer or winter. The map in the guide is for informational purposes; please use the addresses for the best help in locating the farms. Note that the quilts are to be visible from the road. If there is no safe place to pull off the road to view the barn quilt you may pull into their driveways. Please remember to check for traffic as you slow down to view a quilt. We are indebted to our barn hosts for their hospitality.

The Origins of Barn Quilts

This nation-wide phenomenon was born in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio, when Donna Sue Groves made a promise to her Mother to paint her a quilt block. Her Mother was an accomplished quilter and she thought this would brighten up their colorless, grey barn. This barn quilt that was painted for her Mother has sparked the Barn Quilt movement throughout the United States and Canada. The book “Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement” by Suzi Parron with Donna Sue Groves tells the story of one of the fastest-growing grassroots public arts movements.

Our Beginning

Barn Quilts of Bureau County began in 2014, starting the year with 6 quilts in place. Since then, we have added many more, with over 2 dozen currently situated throughout the beautiful Bureau County countryside. It is our goal to continually added additional Barn Quilts with each passing year hoping to ensure a quit in each our Bureau Counties 25 Townships.

Quilt Map

Additional Information

Barn quilts on the Bureau County trail are required to be on an agricultural building. You may see other quilts in your travels that are in town or on homes and garages. The Barn Quilt committee can make arrangements to paint one for your farm building if you don’t feel artistic.

We hope you will slow down and take a few back roads and enjoy the lovely landscapes, farms and villages that make up Bureau County, Illinois and enjoy the Barn Quilt Trail too!

If you need additional information please contact us at:

Phone: Valerie Jensen (815) 303-4608 or Sandy Carpenter (815) 973-7789.


Social Media: “Barn Quilts of Bureau County” Facebook Page