Barn Quilts are thought to be the ‘descendants’ of early settlers. In the early 1800’s, paint became a little more affordable, so some groups began painting small designs on their barns. With the Pennsylvania Dutch, these designs were often thought of as ‘hex’ signs to prevent ills and troubles from visiting their farms.
It is credited to Donna Sue Groves, with her wish to honor her mother, Maxine, for the beginning of the Barn Quilt trails that are predominate in the North. But Quilt Trails also extend to other sections of the United States, including The Louisiana Quilt Trail, which is just south of us and winds through Washington, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Livingston Parishes.
Although the barn we have is neither sturdy enough to hold a Barn Quilt, nor is it facing where people driving by could see it, I still decided that it would be fun to make one. Instead of the barn, I decided to use the South facing wall of our well shed on which to display it.
I had already cleared the area and built a small container garden there, but during the cold months when nothing would blossom, the peeling brown paint just looked forlorn. So I got busy. I scraped the flaking brown paint off the wall, and repainted it a deep red. I pulled away all the grass and weeds that had taken root underneath the bricks that I had laid down for the containers, and did a thorough cleaning. Now it was time to go shopping.
My First Barn Quilt
Using plyboard, the Country Boy cut me a piece that was 30”x30” in size. We gave it two coats of primer, and two base coats. He then cut a frame for the back of the Barn Quilt out of 1x4s. This created a 1” frame all the way around the back to raise it up and away from the wall. Now it was time for the design I wanted to use for my Barn Quilt.
I chose ‘Crown of Thorns’ for several reasons. The first is that it reflects our faith in God, and our belief in Jesus. The second was that this pattern is all straight lines that form squares and triangles. For paint, I opted for a subtle but still bright paint so that the Barn Quilt could be seen from the road. It took two days of taping, painting and waiting for the paint to dry, since these have to be painted in sections, but I finally finished it. And I’m not sure whether I should be proud of my efforts, or shocked that I could actually accomplish such a feat.
The Barn Quilt is now hanging on the wall of the well shed, and I can’t wait for it to get warm enough for me to add flowers to all of my containers. It will be a work of art on farm that still too closely resembles Green Acres. But that’s okay. I have one section down; now all I have to do is decide the next section and figure out what comes next!
Wouldn’t it be fun to do the same? Maybe we could all have a splash of fun and color in our neighborhood if more Barn Quilts were hung on the sides of barns, well houses or just homes.
Just so you know: This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission, but it does not affect the price you pay!
Ready to Paint Your Own Barn Quilt?
Then let’s get started. After creating my first one, I quickly discovered that a 30” x 30” was rather ambitious for a beginner. In light of that, these instructions scale it down a bit, and the final creation will be 12” x 12”.
The Country Boy built a frame out of 1” strips, but this is optional. The purpose of the frame back is to give it a bit of thickness, raise it away from the surface it hangs on, and a sturdy place to hang the Barn Quilt. I will offer instructions on how to make it, but just know that this step is optional.
(Items marked with an ‘*’ are optional)
- 1/4” plyboard, cut 12”x12” (you can make one any size you want, but this is easiest for beginners)
- 4 – 1/4″ strips, cut the length and width of your board, with ends mitered to create a frame*
- Paint for the foundation (I used Valspar Latex Paint & Primer in White)
- Paint for the quilt ‘pieces’ – I used acrylic craft paint for this one. For one hanging outside, I used Valspar Latex Paint & Primer in red, green, blue, and yellow. (Please see my note on paint!)
- Paint Brushes – a larger one for painting the foundation, smaller ones for the quilt pieces
- Ruler or straight edge
- Pencil (if possible, use one with a lighter lead. A #2 Pencil is heavier, but can still be used if it is sharp.)
- Paper & Pencil – to create a template*
- Paint Tape –1/2” or smaller, if available. Use a quality brand that will not peel the paint off of completed squares. I used Frog Tape, and it works beautifully.
- Craft Knife – (for cutting the tape)
- Clear coat Spray – for a Barn Quilt that will be displayed outside*
- Water and paper towels to clean the brushes
- Quilt Block Pattern & Shape Templates (I found the Lone Star block in the Better Homes & Gardens Complete Guide To Quilting. This is an excellent book for both quilting and creating a Barn Quilt! (Just a note – this is an older book, so search used bookstores or Amazon Marketplace to find a copy!)
A Note on Paint for a Barn Quilt:
My choice of using the Lone Star block design meant that I needed to choose four basic colors, and each color required two gradients – a lighter and a darker. When shopping for acrylic craft paint, I quickly learned that there are not many options that would work. I did find suitable choices, but not in the colors I originally intended.
If you are just learning how to make a Barn Quilt, many of the color choices in acrylic craft paint will work. But if you truly need those ‘perfect’ colors, you may want to opt for shopping at your local paint store and choosing your colors from a broader range of paint selections. These can often be purchased in smaller cans, including ‘sample’ sizes. It may cost a bit more, but your final project will be closer to the exact colors you originally imagined.
Prepare your board. Sand all the edges smooth. Assemble and attach the back frame, if using. Paint the front, back and all sides with your foundation color. If you choose, you can paint the back and sides in an accent color. This may take two to three coats, depending on bleed through. By using a paint and primer product, you may be able to limit this to two coats. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.
To create a template, I found a photo of the quilt square I wanted to reproduce for my Barn Quilt in the Better Homes & Garden Complete Guide to Quilting. For this tutorial, I chose a version of the Lone Star quilt block. It has straight lines, and is relatively easy to center.
I used a Lone Star quilt template made of heavy plastic. But if necessary, you can create templates made out of poster board or sturdy material. Carefully measure and cut your templates.
Using your ruler, measure each edge of your board, and add a small mark at the center. (For this one, it was marked at 6”.) Line your straight edge up from top to bottom, and make a small dot at the very center of your board. Double check that this is the center by lining up the dots on each side.
At this point, you can either create a template of your Barn Quilt block on paper, center it using the center and edge marks and trace it onto the board. Or you can ‘free hand’ it. For the Lone Star block, I placed my straight edge from top to bottom, directly along my center dot. I lined up one point of the template to my center point, and then along my straight edge. Holding the template firmly on the board, I traced the outline onto my board.
From there, I continued to line the point of the template to the center mark, and then the edge of the previous outline. Do this until the entire star is outlined – a total of 8 diamond shapes.
Getting Ready to Paint
Keep in mind, unless you have an exceptionally steady hand, you will need to use your painter’s tape to paint your block. You will also paint your blocks in ‘layers’ – this means you will tape off and paint blocks that are not next to each other. I started with the top right hand block. I am labeling this the ‘1st Layer’.
Tear off a strip of tape, and line it up exactly along one line of the diamond shape. Your first piece of tape will cover the blocks next to it, so make sure it is firmly taped down to prevent bleed. Tear off strips of tape, and line it up on the next sides of your diamond.
Next, you will skip to another block (in my case, the 3rd diamond on the right) and continue the process. In some areas, your tape may overlap into a block you are trying to tape off. When this happens, use your straight edge and craft knife to cut the tape out of the painting area.
Once all of your 1st layer blocks have been taped, it is time to start painting. Using your image as a guide, choose the first color, and paint the block. Move to the next block, and paint it the color desired.
Each of the blocks for the Lone Star pattern is painted in a different color, so it was required to wash my brush after each color. If you are doing a different quilt square, you may want (and be able to) tape off all squares that will be the same color.
When painting, know that each block will require at least two coats of paint, if not three. Do not try and pant each coat thickly, as this can cause uneven coating and you run the risk of the paint ‘seeping’ under the tape. Instead, opt for thinner coats of paint.
Between each layer, allow the paint to dry. When all the coats are completed, allow the paint to dry thoroughly – approximately 1 hour, depending on the temperature of your room. Once it is dry, gently remove all the tape. Allow the paint to continue to dry for at least another hour, to prevent smearing when you tape for the 2nd Layer.
For the second layer, repeat the taping process, until all the unpainted sections are completely taped off. Be sure to line your tape up with the already painted squares, to ensure sharp lines.
Again, allow drying time between each coat, and at least an hour before removing the tape after the last coat. Repeat this same process if you have more layers to paint.
Once your Barn Quilt is completed and the paint removed, you may find a few areas that did not get painted. Tape off the area on the side of a different color, and with as steady a hand as possible, add paint where needed, being sure to blend in the fresh paint with the dried paint. Allow to dry, then remove the tape.
Your Barn Quilt Success!
Now it is time to step back and enjoy your new Barn Quilt! The last and final step is to decide if you need to add a picture hanger on the back to allow it to hang on a wall, and where you plan on displaying it.
A small Barn Quilt is an excellent focal point on a shelf or fireplace mantel. I am considering doing several quilt blocks in seasonal colors, and changing them out at the beginning of each season.
Another great way to display them is to make one larger one, and several smaller ones, and create a collage on one wall. And don’t forget – a Barn Quilt will make a perfect gift for almost every occasion!
Did you make a Barn Quilt? Be sure to share your success by sharing a photo of it in the comment section. Have questions? Just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will happily help!
Ready for more Handmade Home posts?
Stay tuned – there are still three more posts coming up. And in the mean time, be sure you didn’t miss these!