While attending a quilt show, Regina Painter discovered other barn quilts in the area she was visiting. She (like most of us) fell in love with the idea and decided to bring barn quilts to Alabama and took the initiative to establish the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail in 2015. Remarkably, the quilt trail now consists of 32 blocks with more on the horizon.
Where are you located?
The Alabama Barn Quilt Trail is currently located primarily in Northwest Alabama. However, our goal is to expand the trail all over Alabama. We are actively working toward that goal. We have recruited volunteers in the northeast part of the state and they are seeking barns in their area to establish the trail there. We have also partnered with the Buttahatchie Barn Quilt Trail in East Central Mississippi to cooperate in an effort to grow both trails in the area of Alabama where the Buttahatchie river is located.
Are your blocks painted by a small group of artists or by each individual owner?
Initially Regina contacted the art department at the University of North Alabama to try and find an art student who might be interested in volunteering to pain blocks for the trail. She was put in touch with a student, Naomi Skye (photographed above). Naomi was responsible for painting the first six blocks on the trail.Around the spring of 2016, my mother-in-law brought a newspaper article to my wife Lisa about the barn quilt trail. Lisa contacted Regina and they discussed how she could get involved and through her I became involved with the trail. Since that time, we have combined efforts and produced 16 blocks for the trail. I draw the patterns and Lisa paints them.
We have another volunteer who joined the group in 2017. Janice Davis is an avid quilter and former president of the Huntsville quilting guild. She has painted two or three blocks for the trail.Not long ago we had a painting day where we invited several people who had expressed an interest in getting involved and we were able to finish three 8'x8' blocks in one day.
Is there anything you would like to make sure visitors don't miss?
Just off the edge of the Natchez Trace and nearby two of our barn quilt blocks is Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall. It is a beautiful memorial and an incredible accomplishment built completely by the hands of one man. It is not to be missed.
Also, just north of Florence and on the same farm as one of our barn quilt blocks is the ruins of the Forks of the Cypress mansion. It was the home of a plantation owned by James Jackson. The house burned in 1966 and only the columns that surrounded the home as well as the family cemetery remain. Notably, the Alex Haley book and later the movie "Queen" is set on this farm and is about one of Mr. Haley's ancestors.
One other thing is located on the campus of the University of North Alabama. They have the only pair of live African Lion Mascots in the country and are housed in a state of the art facility on campus. It is open to the public every day during daylight hours.
Any other suggestions for tourists to see if visiting your area?
Absolutely! Our area is filled with landmarks of historical significance and natural beauty. Tuscumbia is the birthplace of Helen Keller and her childhood home is a local museum. Tuscumbia is also the home of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Florence is the birthplace of W.C. Handy and hosts a museum at his home. Florence also has Wilson Dam which was the first dam on the Tennessee River and the first in the TVA system. The Natchez Trace passes through Alabama just north of Florence and is a beautiful drive. Florence also has the Indian mound and museum as well as popes Tavern and museum. Florence hosts "First Fridays". It is a Friday night street festival held in downtown Florence the first Friday evening of each month. There are several week-long festivals in the area including the Helen Keller and W.C. Handy festivals.
Is there anyone you would like to credit for making a special contribution?
While Regina started the trail, Dale and Lisa Robinson (photographed above) have been so instrumental in moving the trail forward. Lisa can paint anything and has researched so much about the paints and materials used. Dale developed our website, Facebook page, Google map, YouTube videos, and is the one of our group who draws all the block patterns. He is the public relations specialist for the trail. In addition, the Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development Council have given grant money for the project. Alabama Farmers Federation have also been key in supporting the trail.
Can you share the special significance or history behind a particular barn quilt?
One in particular comes to mind. The family of Walden James contacted the trail wanting us to place a barn quilt on Mr. James' barn to not only replicate a family heirloom quilt, but to honor his World War II era military service. The James family decided to use red, white and blue to honor his military service. We were honored to recreate their family heirloom quilt and place it on his barn (photographed above).
Are any other designs inspired by antique or heirloom quilts?
There are several barn quilts on our trail that we painted to replicate a block from a family heirloom quilt. We encourage prospective barn families to try and find a special family quilt that we can use as a pattern for their barn quilt block.
For other barn quilt organizers who may just be getting started, can you share how you publicize your trails?
Our trail has been mentioned in many newspaper articles, magazines and blogs. We have also been featured on two television shows. We were featured on the Absolutely Alabama and the Simply Southern tv shows. There are links to all of our articles, social media pages, maps and tv shows on our website.
Do you have any recommendations for other barn quilt trails we should explore?
I have visited my share of barn quilt trail websites and maps and I highly recommend checking out the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail website. The Google Map is extremely useful with not only specific addresses and photos, but also a little bit of history for each quilt. Dale is also active on social media sharing the latest updates from along the trail.
Besides the obvious beauty of each of the barn quilts on the trail, if you look closely at the photographs, you can appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that goes into each block. The Alabama Barn Quilt Trail website is an excellent source of information if you are looking to create your own one of a kind barn quilt. As Dale mentioned, they have done an extraordinary amount of research to determine the best materials and methods for creating their blocks. One thing that surprised me was that their blocks are painted on aluminum sheets. These sheets are lighter weight than wood and make the installation process much simpler.
If you're like me and were curious about how they get those stars so perfectly aligned on the stars and stripes quilt, there is also a slide show with step by step details on the website.
I'm also enamored by each of the designs that originates back to a family heirloom. I love that the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail encourages new members to search their own personal archives for a meaningful piece.
Thank you so much to Dale and the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail for sharing a little bit about your growing quilt trail. If you've ever visited this trail, please leave us a comment and let us know about your favorite design or barn. And if you have any other barn quilt trail organizers you think we should chat with, let us know and perhaps we'll make another stop near you!
Follow the links below for more details about the Alabama Barn Quilt Trail
Google Map: here
If you don't have a magnificent barn like those featured here, but you'd like to still add a lovely barn quilt touch to your property, be sure to take a look at our Barn Blocks. They're ready to ship and at approximately 2' x 2' they're the perfect size for just about anywhere.
To see more beautiful barn quilt photos, check out our trip through the Tillamook County Barn Quilt Trail here.
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