Vibrant Communities


Kentucky Quilt Trails: History



There is a quality about quilts that evokes a feeling of comfort, of home and family. Quilting is a tradition that thrives in Kentucky, not as a nostalgic reminder of days gone by, but as a vibrant part of community life. Grandmothers still sew quilts for grandchildren; quilters still get together to share patterns and gossip; family members still cherish the quilts that were made for them by loving hands. In the past, quilts might have been seen warming a bed, gracing a couch or flapping on a clothesline, but with the advent of the Kentucky Quilt Trail, images of quilts now blossom as bright patterns on the sides of weathered barns and other buildings across the commonwealth.

The Quilt Trail project began in Adams County, Ohio, when Donna Sue Groves, a field representative for the Ohio Arts Council, decided that she wanted a quilt square painted on her barn to honor her mother, a lifelong quilter. Donna Sue shared her idea with friends in the community, who offered their help. They decided that if they were going to paint one quilt square on a barn, they might as well paint 20 and create a driving tour to attract tourists to their rural community. The project was such a success that word of it traveled quickly, and soon other communities were contacting Donna Sue asking if they could join in the project. Donna Sue offered her eager support.

The Quilt Trail project has taken deep root in Kentucky and spread quickly. The first square in Kentucky was painted and hung in Carter County by local volunteers with support from the Gateway Resource Conservation and Development Council. The project has spread as a grassroots movement with each community introducing its own twist, painting quilt squares not only on barns, but also on floodwalls, craft shops and restaurants. Volunteer leaders and painters include extension agents, teachers, school children, senior citizens, homemaking clubs and tourism committees. The local utility company often provides a bucket truck and workers, who hang the quilts on barns, delighted to be part of this heartwarming community project.

Kentucky painters often include quilts in their landscapes. Many Kentucky literary artists weave the imagery of quilts throughout their stories and poems as symbols of family unity through hard times or as an expression of the connection that Kentuckians feel to their home-place.

Reflection quilt design
"54’ 40” Or Fight"
Photo by Patricia Brock,
Kentucky Crafted artist
Grayson County Clothesline of Quilts

Graveyard Floodwall quilt design
"Graveyard Quilt"
Photo by Nancy Osborne, Community Scholar
ABC Quilt Alley, Boyd County

Dresden Plate quilt design
"Dresden Plate"
Photo by Ralph Tyree, Kentucky Crafted artist
Clark County Quilt Trail

Star of David quilt design
"Kentucky Star"
Photo by David Toczko, Kentucky Crafted artist
Hardin County Clothesline of Quilts





Star Variation quilt design
"Star Variation"
Photo by Jaap van der Oort,
Kentucky Crafted artist
Buffalo Gals Quilt Trail,
Scott County
Sunburst-log cabin quilt design
"Log Cabin Variation"
Photo by David Toczko,
Kentucky Crafted artist
Breckenridge County Quilt Trail


Page last updated: June 18, 2018
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