Barn Quilts and Stitched Quilts
on Thursday, April 29, 2021
Barn Happy (photo: Ratliff)
Little else may be as nostalgic as a handmade quilt, especially one lovingly made by a relative. For centuries, quilts have been created for milestones in life, everyday occasions, and household use. It’s this history and charm, translated into a painted quilt block, that makes our barn quilt tours so popular.
What is a barn quilt?
According to Wide Open Country, barn quilts began in Ohio in 2001 as a way to honor a loved one. Donna Sue Groves wanted to honor her mother and painted a quilt block on her tobacco barn. In turn, painted quilt blocks became so popular that rural areas became dotted with a variety of the colored squares. Many were attached to barns while others were placed on a variety of out-buildings. Over the years, barn quilt tours (or trails) have grown in popularity. Most often they’re driving tours (versus walking). According to Wikipedia, there are 43 quilt trails in the United States. Today, 42 of our 99 counties in Iowa have a barn quilt trail.
Barn Quilt Tours
In Black Hawk County, we have 14 barn quilts that form the western Black Hawk County barn quilt tour and 15 in the NEW eastern Black Hawk County barn quilt tour. These are driving tours, so buckle up, grab a snack and get ready to drive the scenic byways of Black Hawk County. The driving tour for western Black Hawk is approximately 2 hours and the drive through eastern Black Hawk is approximately 2.5 hours. Turn-by-turn directions and photos can be found at CedarFallsTourism.org and a map of the tours can be found at the Cedar Falls Visitor Center.
Barn quilt tours are not only a treat for your eyes, but also a feast for the soul; sharing the story of the painted quilts, the farmstead and the family. Most of the barn quilts are located on private property, but your travels along the western Barn Quilt Tour also include popular, public stops. In the morning, see the barn quilt at Hansen’s Dairy Farm and reserve your spot for a farm tour. Then, head northwest to Barn Happy. You’ll enjoy shopping for gifts made in Iowa, their vintage shop in the loft and their small cafe with treats, lunch and/or coffee. After lunch, drive by more barn quilts and then head to the historic downtown district for some shopping and/or a tour of the Ice House Museum and the Victorian Home.
At the Victorian Home in Cedar Falls, Art & Heirloom: Quilts of the Cedar Falls Historical Society will be on display through December 17, 2021. This year’s exhibit features quilts from the society’s collection as well as those from personal collections.
The Victorian Home is open Tuesday – Friday, 10am-4pm, and Saturday-Sunday, 1pm-4pm, at 308 W. 3rd Street in Cedar Falls. The exhibit includes whole-cloth and embroidered quilts, pieced quilts, crazy quilts and children’s quilts. The Victorian Home is within walking distance of the nationally-recognized Cedar Falls Downtown District, the Ice House Museum and the historical society’s Little Red Schoolhouse. Our local quilt shop, Crazy to Quilt, is also located just a few blocks away on W. First Street.
These are popular, must-see attractions and an opportunity to enjoy rural, American art. It’s easy to make it a weekend getaway with visits to the quilt exhibit, museums, and the Downtown District for unique shopping, local eats and nightlife. Two hotels are also conveniently located in the District.
If you’d like information about more Things to Do, Places to Eat & Drink or a Place to Stay, we invite you to contact the Cedar Falls Visitor Center at 319-268-4266 (800-845-1955). We’re open 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday - Friday. And, if you want to find additional events taking place in the Cedar Valley, visit our online calendar at CedarValley365.com.
Victorian Home (Cedar Falls Historical Society) exhibit