You’ve probably seen them when you were driving down some winding state route. Maybe it was this time of year. Maybe you were cruising a little too fast. Maybe you came over one of those knolls that puts your stomach in your throat, and just as it settled back where it belonged, something caught your eye.
It was off to the side of the road. Amidst the blur of gold leaves and bent corn stalks, you spotted a purple triangle and a blue diamond. But you were in the middle of farm land where the signature colors were red for roofs and brown for nearly everything else. These quirky shapes seemed so unlikely you did a double take. You slowed down. Maybe you even backed up, and that’s when you saw that it wasn’t just two strange shapes. They had friends, other triangles and other squares in other colors. They were locked together in a geometric hodgepodge that added up to something greater. Back to back and side to side, they formed a giant square–a quilt square–and it was hanging like fine art from someone’s rickety barn.
The first time I spotted one of these enormous beauties, I thought it was one farmer’s inspired self expression, but boy, was I wrong. The quilt squares are a full-fledged movement. After starting in Ohio in 2001, they’ve popped up in at least 28 states and two Canadian provinces. They symbolize a renewed interest in simple living, and this time of year, they give leaf peeping a whole new shape.
Rather than brave the crowded tourist trails (yes, I’m looking at you Skyline Drive), maybe we should all go quilt square hopping instead. We’ll avoid the stop–and-go traffic and see the leaves like locals see them–from back country roads, across beautiful autumn fields, as the backdrop to daily life. With a little help from our local quilt square groups, we can even make new friends and find favorite restaurants along the way.
- Eastern Tennessee: Appalachian Quilt Trails promotes the squares in eastern Tennessee, but this group doesn’t stop with farms and barns. They offer visitors dining tips, lists of local attractions, referrals to historic sites, and more. ”Whether you are in search of colleges or covered bridges, llamas or cranberry bogs, country fairs or wineries,” says the site, “You are sure to find something to please along the Appalachian Quilt Trail.” Trail organizers are also giving The Revivalist’s readers a sneak peak at the new local map for Kyles Ford, Tennessee. Watch the site for the official release of this map and others in the area.
- Western North Carolina: Across the border in Western North Carolina, they also have downloadable tour guides and you can order a quilt square of your own from their site. With prices starting at about $200, they’re an affordable way to join this growing movement.
- Eastern Kentucky: With more than a hundred quilt squares lining four trails that traverse eight counties, Eastern Kentucky is quilt square heaven. The folks at Kentucky Quilt Trails make it easy to experience this outdoor art installation with clear trail directions and pictures of area squares. All you have to do is pick your favorite designs and hit the road.
- West Virginia: The quilt square movement has its roots in The Mountain State. The first quilt square, created by Donna Sue Groves, was dedicated to her mother Nina Maxine Groves, a fifth generation quilter from Roane County, West Virginia. Fittingly, West Virginia has not one, not two, but three quilt square groups, including an unusual urban trail dedicated to the city of Huntington.
- Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley: Across the border in Harrisonburg, a second urban quilt square trail has popped up. Formed in 2011, the Shenandoah Valley Quilt Trail is walkable. It takes you to a farmer’s market, a food co-op, the historic Hardesty-Higgins House, and, to the delight of every quilt lover, The Virginia Quilt Museum, which houses quilts dating back to the Civil War.
- North Georgia: The North Georgia Quilt Trail is centered in Gilmore County, the Apple Capital of Georgia, which makes this trail a triple header. You can take in North Georgia’s breathtaking fall scenery, visit the quilt squares, and enjoy the bounty of Gilmore’s signature fruit.
- Western Maryland: Launched with help from quilt squares founder, Donna Sue Groves, the Barn Quilt Association of Garrett County boasts Maryland’s first quilt trail. This innovative group has added a cell phone tour and a store to its mix. On this website, you can purchase barn quilt lapel pins, posters, and fridge magnets.
So are you ready to hit the road? Where’s your favorite quilt square? Do you have one of these beauties on your house or barn? If so, tell us what inspired you to put it up, and when we should drop by to see it!