Barn Quilt Project of Iowa

In Iowa, quilt blocks on barns lead travelers off the major highways and back through once forgotten communities. The Iowa quilt blocks on barns have become a celebration of the participating community’s heritage while generating tourism revenue.

Quilt barn in Polk County, Iowa
Polk County, Iowa – Photo credit: Carl Wycoff

These aren’t your common quilt blocks. The Iowa quilt blocks on barns are created with paint instead of fabric scraps, but they replicate many traditional quilt patterns – something all quilting enthusiasts can appreciate as true works of art.

Iowa quilt blocks on barns range in size, but are generally 8×8-foot wooden squares painted in quilt block motifs. The colorful quilt blocks are hard to miss and they’re addictive – once you spot your first, you’ll want to keep searching for more of them!

The project began in Grundy County, Iowa and spread to other communities. Sac County, Iowa quilt blocks on barns are among the most popular. There are 55 barn quilts and 19 community quilts across Sac County, located in west-central Iowa. The museum honoring the birthplace of crooner Andy Williams hosts one of Sac County’s community quilts. The quilt block there, “Mother’s Choice,” was painted by Jackson’s 4-H club.

Chickasaw, Iowa - Photo credit: Amy Meredith
Chickasaw, Iowa – Photo credit: Amy Meredith

That’s what makes the Iowa quilt blocks on barns and at community locations so great: it became a project for the entire community. Kevin Peyton started the Sac County, Iowa Quilt Blocks on Barns project in 2005 for a 4H project. He knew he needed to get a lot of people involved if it was going to be successful. With the help of his family, Peyton started asking for community involvement.

Quilting enthusiasts advised to use primary and secondary colors for the Iowa quilt blocks on barns and to use simple lines. They selected quilt block patterns that depicted aspects of their community’s heritage – agriculture, horticulture and family. Some of the quilt patterns you’ll see on your Iowa barn quilt tour include classics like “Turkey in the Straw” and “Hovering Hawks”. To see photos of the Iowa quilt blocks on barns, take a look at You can see actual photos of the proudly displayed barn quilts. A map of participating barns and community buildings is also provided in case you are planning a trip to the area.

Quilt barn in Floyd, Iowa
Floyd, Iowa – Photo credit: Amy Meredith

Volunteers painted the blocks and the community’s rural electric co-operative volunteered its boom trucks to help hang the large Iowa quilt blocks on barns.

Volunteers also helped Peyton’s Iowa Quilt Blocks on Barns project by suggesting barn criteria. The volunteers recommended that the barns or corncribs be at least 50 years old and sit on farms that were active and attractive to passers-by. The barns were also required to be on hard surface roads and visible from both directions, making the tour easy and enjoyable for tourists.

Barns play an important role in Iowan heritage. The Iowa Barn Foundation makes grant money available to restore barns to help preserve the state’s agricultural heritage. Quilting is another part of Iowan heritage, so in Iowa, quilt blocks on barns go hand in hand.

Peyton says his idea was not an original one. He was inspired to start the barn quilt project in his own community after reading a newspaper article about a barn quilt project in Grundy County, Iowa. The Grundy project began after an extension agent there brought the idea back from a conference where she had learned about a similar project going on in Ohio.

Grundy Center, Iowa - Photo from Wikipedia
Grundy Center, Iowa – Photo from Wikipedia

If you are planning a trip to Iowa and want to drive through barn quilt country, U.S. Highway 20 is a good road to drive. Sac County starts the big barn quilt display from the west and Grundy County kicks off the display from the east.

The idea has spread to quilters and tourism leaders in other states. In addition to Iowa and Ohio, parts of Kentucky and Tennessee have also jumped on the barn quilt wagon. If you plan to make a day trip or weekend out of one of the barn quilt tours, make sure to allow time to stop at the local quilting and souvenir shops to browse mementos like barn quilt postcards, stationery and cookbooks featuring local food favorites. By making a little time to stop, you’ll get to meet the people who made the barn quilts a reality – and those people are as priceless as the community art they created.

 About the Author

Penny Halgren (, a quilting pro, has been quilting for more than 26 years. She loves all aspects of quilting enjoys sharing her knowledge with all quilters.

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