By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Adding a splash of color to old barns and along the countryside is a trend Sonny Nelson, of Dassel is hoping will catch on as he completes his second barn quilt.
A barn quilt uses a large piece of plywood that is painted in the pattern of a quilt square. It is then hung on barns with the objective of adding character to rural areas.
Nelson and his wife, Nony, saw their first barn quilt when they visited Albert City in northwestern Iowa for a reunion.
After inquiring about what he saw, Nelson learned about Kevin Peyton of Sac County, IA and his ambitious barn quilt project, which was part of his 4-H Leadership and Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award project in 2005.
Peyton accredits the inspiration and concept to Donna Sue Groves in Adams County, OH, who made the first barn quilt in honor of her mother, a master quilter, and to encourage economic development and tourism.
Groves started a movement known as the Northern Quilt Barn Trail spanning 20 states.
Sonny liked the barn quilt idea so much he decided to make his own this past summer, with the help of Nony.
His objective for the quilt is much the same to keep the heritage of rural communities and keep old barns from being torn down.
“In Europe, they rebuild. In America, we build it and tear it down,” Nelson said.
He also thought this might make a good 4-H project for area youth to undertake.
Nelson grew up across the street from his current residence, along CSAH 6/31 in Collinwood Township, which had originally been the homestead of his grandfather, Oscar Nelson.
He recalled in the early 1950s, when there were about 28 dairy farms just on that back road from Dassel to Cokato. Now, there are none.
Sonny and Nony completed their first barn quilt this past fall and are currently working on their second.
The first quilt is painted using the pattern Buffalo Ridge, which was published in the 1930s and is attributed to Nancy Cabot, according to a book written by Peyton’s sister, Amy, about the Sac County barn quilts. The book identifies 55 barns in Sac County that have barn quilts displayed.
For their second barn quilt, the Nelsons used the Twisting Star, which was first published by Delores A. Hinson in 1966.
Each barn quilt takes about seven days to complete; having to wait for each color of paint to dry, Sonny explained.
Choosing the right paint is also important so that it weathers well, he said.
For more information about barn quilts, or to obtain quilt squares and instructions, visit www. barnquilts.com.