Farm Horizons, Oct. 2016

Barn quilts: displaying the fabric of rural Carver County

By Starrla Cray

Art, history, agriculture, and family traditions are all rolled into one with The Barn Quilts of Carver County.

Made for barns, not beds, the 25 “quilts” are 8-by-8-foot wooden panels painted with colorful quilt-patterned artwork.

Janet Fahey, owner of Barn Quilt Tours, LLC helps groups see the quilts and learn about the history of Carver County.

“It’s really exciting, because we’ve attracted interest from all sorts of groups,” Fahey said, explaining that book clubs, churches, quilting groups, art councils, and history clubs are among the tourists.

“One of the most interesting groups I had was the Model A Ford Antique Club in Minneapolis,” Fahey said. “They drove their cars during the tour.”

Most of the time, groups organize a bus for transportation. At each stop, Fahey shares information about the farm, the barn, and the quilt.

“I know the area very well,” said Fahey, who grew up in rural Cologne and now lives in Norwood Young America.

One barn on the tour is a business called “At the Farm” in Waconia. Fahey said that stop is always fun, because it includes a renovated walk-in hayloft with antiques. Often, participants will enjoy a homemade lunch there, eaten on antique china.

Another popular stop is Deardorff Orchards in Waconia, where tourists can browse the apple gift shop or try wine samples.

An open-air art gallery

The idea to feature quilt-like artwork on barns began in Adams County, OH, with a woman named Donna Sue Groves, as a way to honor her mother’s Appalachian heritage. Instead of stopping with a personal tribute, though, Groves and community organizations worked to install 20 quilts along a driving trail welcoming visitors to the countryside.

The idea spread, and now, barn quilt trails are in 48 states and Canada.

This unique open-air folk art gallery came to Carver County in 2011, with the help of project founder Naomi Russell. A grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council assisted with the cost.

Since then, 25 blocks have been installed. Quilt patterns are chosen by the barn owners, and often reflect a family heritage or heirloom quilt.

Local artist and business owner Suzanne Thiesfeld was the artistic director for the project, and Minnesota Valley Electric Coop donated the manpower and equipment to install each 250-pound quilt block.

Fahey said there has been a “sizeable” number of requests from other barn owners in Carver County to have a quilt placed on their properties, as well.

She is researching the possibility of adding more quilts, and said people can contact her if they have questions: barnquilttours@embarqmail.com or (612) 382-4512.

Schedule a barn quilt tour

From May through November, Janet L. Fahey of Barn Quilt Tours, LLC gives group tours of the 25 Barn Quilts of Carver County. A typical tour includes views of seven to nine quilts. Route options include:

• The Applique Loop – Nine quilts in the Waconia and Cologne area

• The Thimble Loop – Seven quilts, in the Waconia, Victoria, Chanhassen, and Chaska area

• The Stitch Loop – Nine quilts in the Waconia, Mayer, and Norwood Young America area

• Tailored Tour – May be easily arranged to meet group preferences

Tour participants learn about the history of Carver County and the story behind the quilt patterns. Most tours include lunch, as well as stops at other attractions, such as area wineries, breweries, orchards, or creameries.

Cost varies depending on tour length. For details, contact Fahey at barnquilttours@embarqmail.com or (612) 382-4512.

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