Burnsville, N.C. — Stitched into the wrinkles and ripples of Western North Carolina, more than 140 "quilt blocks" blanket the sides of barns and buildings in six contiguous counties, with the highest concentration in Yancey and Mitchell Counties.
Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina, the non-profit corporation that runs the project, has about 250 volunteers who paint, write stories and install the “quilts.”
"The project got its start in Ohio when Donna Sue Groves put a block on her barn to honor her mother. From that simple act, the project has spread to 24 states," according to the group’s Web site.
Visitors can view the quilts on nine different driving trails. The Quilt Trails Gift Shop in the Yancey County Chamber of Commerce in Burnsville has a driving map.
Each quilt block is connected by its pattern name to the history of the land, the building or the family, according to the group.
More than just sign-boards and paint, these patches have a purpose. The Quilt Trail has become a community-wide project.
"I can't go anywhere now and see a blank barn without wishing we could put a quilt block on it,” said Barbara Webster, executive director of Quilt Trails. "Quilting is big heritage and there's hardly a family here that doesn't have a quilt somewhere in their family.”
Tourists can spend an entire day wrapped in stories.
"We have the highest concentration of quilt blocks of anywhere in the country,” Webster said. “This (quilt) is called the Witches Star. The woman who requested it says her husband calls her a witch as a term of endearment."
Many of the blocks are painted to resemble family quilts.
"The family that founded this school, a woman in the family made this quilt and she still has it and it's in great shape. The school used to teach students how to grow tobacco, and they learned the entire process, from growing it to hanging it in the barn to cure,” Webster said.
For more information, visit the group’s Web site, call 828-682-7331 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.