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Quilt Trails in Western North Carolina

Quilt pattern of trees and mountains

The craft of quilting is widespread across our state, and quilts, both old and new, remind us of family, community and living traditions. Quilt making has always been not only an artistic form of expression, but also a democratic one. Whether practiced by the privileged, who could afford the finest fabrics, or those of limited means, who recycled feed sacks or burlap for their materials, quilts offered a view into the social, cultural and economic history of the state. 

Quilts have been a part of North Carolina culture for hundreds of years. Examples from the turn of the 19th century have been documented and others created even earlier are present in historical records. The Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina honors this history and tradition by reproducing colorful patterns drawn from traditional quilts on painted wooden panels placed on the sides of barns.

With sizes as large as eight by eight feet, viewers can experience the colorful panels in the   context of the rural communities from which they come. The patterns displayed on these panels feature homespun names like Old Maid’s Ramble, Duck’s Foot in the Mud, Turkey Tracks and Temperance Tree.

The Madison County Arts Council, in partnership with the Blue Ridge Heritage Initiative, HandMade in America and the N.C. Arts Council, created the first quilt trail in western N.C. in 2004, which today features more than 30 quilt panels. Similar support made it possible for other arts councils to create quilt trails. There are more than 100 panels on display in Mitchell and Yancey counties — see the patterns and where to find them on this map.

The Avery Arts Council highlights 23 of more than 60 quilt panels on its Avery Quilt Trail. There is a quilt trail in Watauga County, and the Ashe Arts Barn Quilt Project sponsored by the Ashe County Arts Council features 31 quilt panels on its website.

If you’re passing through the area and have a limited amount of time to explore the quilt trail, the column to the right offers a quick half-day tour of five quilt panels within a few miles of each other. All of these panels are on barns close to the road for easy viewing and photographs.

Continue your exploration of N.C. quilts at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem and at the N.C. Museum of History and Gregg Museum in Raleigh.

 

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The North Carolina Arts Council is a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.
Susan Kluttz, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor

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Ashe County Arts Council's Top Five:

red barn with red, yellow and green quilt pattern
1. Delectable Mountains

(Map #7)
This was one of the first barn quilts in Ashe County and was painted by the Ashe County High School art classes. The barn quilt project showcases community and school involvement with the arts.

white barn with yellow and green quilt pattern
2. Pine Tree

(Map #6)
The barn owners chose the pine tree pattern to represent the Christmas tree industry in Ashe County. This is a working barn and is home to horses, cows and donkeys. Make sure you look for the baby donkey in the pasture!

3. Crown Variation
(Map #5)
This barn quilt is on a working Christmas tree farm. In the spring you can see new trees being planted; in the summer, tree trimming; and in the fall, harvesting.

red barn with yellow, blue and red quilt pattern
4. North Carolina Star
(Map #3)
This barn quilt was painted by two ladies who were inspired by the barn quilt project. Many more have been added to the neighborhood.

5. Flint and Whetstone
(Map #1)
This barn quilt brings visitors to downtown West Jefferson and the farmer’s market. The barn and open sheds in the farmer’s market are alive with vendors and buyers from April to December.