McDowell Quilt Trail

 May 22 – 31, 2015

With some regret we left Bandits Roost, it’s good leaving someplace while still having a good time. We were also looking forward to seeing The Class of 2014 again. We were all heading to Marion, NC for the RV Dreams Reunion Rally where we had all met last year. I am not going to get into all the great fun we had together ….yet!!

Quilting as you all know is my passion!!! I love the design process, picking out the fabrics, I love the feel of fabric and watching the magic happen as it is cut up and resewn back into a fabulous new pattern. While Guy and I were touring Marion on Sunday looking for a place that was open for breakfast I noticed wooden quilt blocks appearing on different businesses as well as some barns….mmm…this was getting exciting. I whipped out my camera and had Guy drive by each quilt block so I could take pictures!! I found out that this is the McDowell Quilt Trail (we are in McDowell County), so I began researching and have written a little about it for y’all and including some pictures.

Some of you know that Guy and I had made  wooden quilt block for our friends, Loren and Debbie for their red barn on Hwy 280 and one for the RV / Bus repair shop to place on their barn on 280 heading towards Alex City, Al.

Guy putting on the final touches to the quilt block


The concept of barn quilts began with Donna Sue Groves and her wish to honor her mother, Maxine, and her Appalachian heritage by having a painted quilt hung on her barn in Adams County, Ohio. Rather than creating a personal tribute, she suggested that a “sampler” of twenty quilt squares could be created along a driving trail that would invite visitors to travel through the areas looking at the quilt blocks.

While Groves is thrilled at the “clothesline of quilts” she started, she is quick to mention they are just “sprinkles on a cupcake,” emphasizing the countryside holds a pleasant surprise around every turn.

As the number of barns and barn trails continues to increase, Groves is traveling to counties around the country offering advice and support. She does it without charging. “The return I have received has been equal to ‘zillions’ of dollars in joy and happiness watching people have fun with this project,” she says.

Sol of South Creek Vineyards

Quilt trails take visitors through the countryside where barn quilts are mounted on farm buildings, on homes, along fences, and sometimes on freestanding posts. A quilt trail may include stops at galleries, farm stands, wineries and other points of interest that make the journey a day-long event.

McDowell County, Mitchell and Yancey Counties have between them, over 200 quilt blocks. Ohio, Iowa and Kentucky have over 250 in each state, and the grassroots art project continues to spread.

Railroad Crossing


McDowell Museum
Log Cabin, McDowell Museum
Browns Bow Tie


Most quilt blocks are made up of simple geometric shapes that include large blocks of color. These quilt patterns are both the simplest to paint and the easiest to spot and to enjoy from a distance. Painstakingly replicating calico prints results in a painted quilt that more closely resembles the cloth that would be used to stitch a pieced quilt. A quilt block also includes custom patterns, some are variations on classic blocks, with an added element such as an animal or a logo. A few artists have painted unique quilt blocks that could be created in cloth but are not based on existing quilt patterns. Some of the quilt blocks are designed to represent the business where the quilt block hangs.

Flutter Bye, Joanne Howle Realty
Willie's Touch
Willies Touch


First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church
Christmas Tree Farm

The pattern for a particular quilt block may be chosen for myriad reasons. Often the quilt block is a replica of a painted quilt that resides on the property or honors a loved one. A pattern may be selected because of its name; Corn and Beans is popular among farmers. Sometimes, the  quilt block is simply one whose pattern is appealing to either its creators or its owners. Each block has been named by each business or homeowner on whose building the block resides on.

This simple idea has spread to 48 states and to Canada, and the trail continues to grow. Over 7000 quilts are part of organized trails; dozens more are scattered through the countryside waiting to be discovered.

Diamonds and Gold
Diamonds and Gold, Fire and Ice Jewelery
Safe in the Sun thanks to One


Kirksey Funeral Home
The Bridge of Faith, Kirksey Funeral Home

The purpose of McDowell County Quilt Trail is to promote tourism; preserve history and help improve the economy in McDowell County. They see their blocks as community art that are connected by name or design to the history of the land, building or family that is hosting the block while bringing life to the buildings and surrounding area.

McDowell Pediatrics
The Whole Child, McDowell Pediatrics
Cats, McDowell Animal Hospital
McDowell Chiropractic Office


The McDowell County Quilt Trail  started in June of 2009, and currently there is a committee of 9 who work hard to continue the progress of the trail. Absolutely no one gets paid as they believe in what the trail can do for their community.

American Red Cross
Independent Spirit, Independent Insurance Agency


The McDowell Arts council has volunteers that construct, paint, install, create and write stories about the area and the quilt blocks.   The blocks are constructed of exterior sign board on a 2×4 frame and painted with house paint that has a life expectance of 8 to 10 years. There can be as many as 90 hours in the construction and painting of one block. It is truly a labor of love.

Pickin and Grinnin
Pickin and Grinnin

There are now over 200 quilt blocks installed around the area with more to come.

Progress – The Next Step, Arrowhead Artists League


Harvest Restrurant
Harvest Time, Harvest Grill
Tail Gate Market
Where Main Street Meets the Mountain, Tail Gate Market

This is just a sample of the interesting wooden quilt blocks around the City of Marion and Old Fort, NC. I hope you enjoyed a little of the interesting quilt blocks that are found throughout the country.

Thanks for keeping up with “The Nomads” as we continue to wander, stay tuned to find out what kind of mischief we found while we hung in Marion, NC. Y’all have a blessed day.

13 thoughts on “McDowell Quilt Trail

    1. I wish I had gotten a few more pictures. I also could not post them all. It was so much fun finding them, every time we drove I would spy another one. I ended going out on my own as I think Guy was loosing patience. Ha Ha!! He stayed home and played his “banjo”

  1. I have an antique wedding ring quilt I found at an estate sale in the early 80’s. They are so comforting to look at. I actually hung it on the wall. Thanks for the history. Pictures are wonderful.

    1. Ellen, I collect antique quilts, I just love the old fabrics. I hope you use it, thats what they are made for. If not try to refold it atleast once a month, otherwise you will get permanent creases.

  2. Sue, Your stories and pictures are awesome. I feel like I am with you. I wish I was with you. Love us, Sue

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. When we were talking about this the other day I really wasn’t getting it. Thanks so much for the pictures and the details behind them. Really awesome !!

  4. Great job on getting the pictures of so many quilt squares! I thought about it, but didn’t do it . . . and you have pictures of many that I didn’t even see!!

    1. Thanks. I had such a great time finding them. Even after I thought I couldn’t find any more one would pop up. There were so many more that I didn’t get. Oh Well just need to go back and get the rest!

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