Directions for Making Barn Quilts


Drive through many rural parts of the country and you may see large colorful quilt blocks painted on the sides of barns. These oversized works of art are known as barn quilts. The Pennsylvania Dutch began painting colorful geometric patterns on their barns in the 1830s, and the tradition carries on today. Many communities have published detailed maps showing local barns with quilts, known as barn quilt trails. Create your own modern version of the barn quilt and display it on your barn, shed or garage.

Step 1

Lay two sheets of plywood next to each other on the ground. The sheets should each measure 4-by-8 feet, and be 3/4 inch thick. The plywood will create a square 8 feet on a side. Lay 2-by-4 boards along the edges of the plywood to create a frame. Nail the boards to the edges of the plywood, holding the two pieces together. This will be the back of your barn quilt.

Step 2

Turn the wood over so that the frame is on the bottom and the smooth plywood face is facing toward the sky. Paint the entire plywood square with your background color. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly. Paint the square with another coat of background color. Allow the paint to dry overnight.

Step 3

Draw an outline of your quilt block onto the painted square with a pencil. Draw a graph of squares on the painted square first if you need to, in order to get the proportion of the blocks correct. If you have a multicolored quilt block, label each part with a different letter to indicate the color of paint to be used there.

Step 4

Paint each part of the quilt block in the correct color. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly between coats. Paint a total of three coats of quilt design paint colors.

Step 5

Nail finished barn quilt to barn siding or garage wall when the last coat of paint is completely dry. The paint color will weather as the seasons pass, making for an antique look. You may leave this look, or repaint the design every two or three years.

Things You'll Need

  • Plywood
  • 2-by-4 boards
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Exterior paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Yardsticks


  • Sentinel Online: History of the Barn Quilt
  • The Barn Quilts of Hamilton County: Building Barn Quilts Instructions

Who Can Help

  • Over 1600 quilt block patterns
Keywords: barn quilt, Pennsylvania Dutch design, Amish barn decoration

About this Author

Anne Baley is a writer and photographer living in Southeast Michigan. She has written dozens of articles about places she has discovered while traveling throughout the United States. Baley's work has appeared in a variety of online outlets, including EndlessSunday, GardenGuides and Travels.

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