Quilting has long been a tradition woven into the communities of Appalachia. Quilts kept people warm on cold winter nights, but they also provided a reason for communities to gather, share, and give. Quilts grew to symbolize love and connection, and these aspects of the quilting tradition inspired the barn quilt square tradition. These works of art are designed using exact patterns or inspiration from quilts. The designs are painted on wood panels and installed on barns. Many families work to design their own quilt squares using patterns from past generations or themes from family history.
Connecting the quilting tradition to barns is natural in many ways. Farming—particularly tobacco—was a way of life for generations of western North Carolinians. The barns that stored and dried tobacco aren’t used in the same way these days, but they continue to tell the story of the people of this place, especially when ornamented with custom barn quilt squares.
Those looking to travel the Avery County Quilt Trail can get a map from the Beech Mountain Visitor Center. Once on the trail, visitors can experience barn quilts in a number of environments. One loop of the trail covers Beech Mountain, the highest town east of the Mississippi River. A second loop winds through the valleys and rivers of the Banner Elk and Newland areas. A third loop explores Newland, Crossnore, and Linville. The brochure lists more than 40 quilts to find, but as the barn quilt tradition expands, more and more are added all the time!
Visit the website or call the Beech Mountain Visitors Center for a map to explore the trail.