Barn quilts, Midwestern tradition, make Midcoast debut

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jun 18, 2014
Photo by: Steve Nystrom Camden Hills student Sam Feener displays the barn quilt he made in Steve Nystrom's industrial arts class.

Lincolnville — Thanks to a part-time resident and some high school students, a Midwestern tradition is getting a start in the Midcoast.

Jane Liedtke, owner of Bay Leaf Cottages, lives half the year in Bloomington, Ill. She said barn quilts — traditional quilt square patterns painted on large pieces of wood and attached to barns, houses or sheds — are very popular there. They are so popular that many areas have barn quilt trails that visitors can follow using a specially marked map, she said.

Liedtke inquired on the Lincolnville Google group whether anyone knew of barn quilts in this area. People did not know of any, but they were intrigued by the idea, she said.

Through a mutual friend, Lincolnville resident Steve Nystrom, who teaches industrial arts at Camden Hills Regional High School, heard about Liedtke's interest in bringing barn quilts to Lincolnville, and suggested that his beginning industrial arts students could make them. Liedtke created an order form that was distributed via the Google group, Nystrom obtained a discount on materials from EBS, and the project was on its way. People ordering barn quilts paid for the materials.

Nystrom gave the project to his freshman. He had put the quilt patterns from Liedtke's order form on a laptop computer, so the students were able use the digitized patterns for measurements.

“It turned out to be a supremely great project for these kids,” he said, because it allowed them to learn a lot of important foundational skills. They had to cut either a 2-foot square or a 4-foot square of plywood with a waterproof backing on each side from an 8-foot by 4-foot sheet, paint it with the background color — some had not used a paint roller before, Nystrom said — and then draw the design on the background.

They used geometry, learned to measure and plan ahead. The most important part was learning to think through how to translate the design from the computer onto the board. Sometimes they had to start over and find a different way to look at the problem, Nystrom said.

“All I want is kids to be able to solve problems,” he said.

Once the design was drawn, masking tape was put down before the first color was applied. Then that was removed and, if there was a second color, tape for it was put down. Figuring out where to tape required careful thought, he said. A frame of two-by-fours was attached to the back of each square so it can be mounted. The project, which created nine quilts, took three or four weeks longer than Nystrom expected.

Next year, he hopes to do the project again, with the students putting the designs on the computer themselves. Nystrom is slated to give a talk about the project to the Lincolnville Improvement Association Thursday, June 19, starting with a 5:30 p.m. potluck at the L.I.A. building.

Liedtke said everyone who ordered a barn quilt has been pleased with the finished product. She donated a quilt to the library and one to the Town Office. She is also eager to get more residents to put up the quilts, and said youth attending Tanglewood 4-H Camp will make some this summer. She envisions a Midcoast barn quilt trail that might eventually include several towns, and hopes it will draw visitors off Route 1 to explore other areas.

To learn more about the quilts or to order one, contact Liedtke at 505-0458 or

Comments (3)
Posted by: Rosanne Tartaro | Jun 21, 2014 07:56

What a wonderful idea ! Creative, fun and beautiful . Works of art !


Posted by: Susan Sinclair | Jun 19, 2014 05:48

I remember going to visit my grandmother in Ohio, and we could see these all along the road in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Really nice, I hope it catches on.

Posted by: Susan P Reitman | Jun 18, 2014 19:42

These Barn Quilts are beautiful and although they are not alike they remind  me of the Amish Hex Symbols I had on my home in Ohio.






















If you wish to comment, please login.

Staff Profile

Sarah Reynolds
Sarah E. Reynolds is copy editor for the Courier Gazette and Camden Herald.
Email Me

Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, ride her ATV and play word games.

Recent Stories by Sarah Reynolds