Two local barn quilts, part of a colorful nationwide trend, greet motorists near Strasburg and milkshake fans at the Elizabethtown Fair.

Massive signs decorated to look like quilts, they’re placed on the outside of barns, sheds or other buildings.

Glen and Brenda Book hung a custom 12-foot-by-12-foot Mylar quilt sign at their farm at 655 Strasburg Pike after discovering the idea during a trip to Holmes County, Ohio.

The Elizabethtown grange painted a 4-foot-by-4-foot wooden block “quilt” for the fair.

Brenda Book, who has quilted with friends and the Red Rose Quilters Guild for 30 years, spotted the outdoor versions during that Ohio trip. She fell in love with them. The couple found a barn quilt trail map for that area and tracked down the unique signs.

She never forgot that quilt trail.

For her birthday several months ago, Glen offered to have a custom-made quilt created for their own barn.

The couple found a Bird-in-Hand sign maker willing to create a Mylar plastic barn quilt for them. Brenda sketched a design on graph paper, deciding on a Farmer’s Daughter pattern in honor of the couple’s three daughters and including red to match part of the barn.

The Books’ quilt could begin to fade in seven to eight years. The design might only last 10 to 15 years, shorter than many fabric quilts. But still, she feels the time and effort to create it was worthwhile.

“Of course all of my quilting friends had to come see it,” Brenda said.

She hopes their colorful barn quilt will inspire other residents to create their own versions. She suggested a new barn quilt trail could be organized specifically for the Lancaster area.

Barn quilt history

According to barnquiltinfo.com/history, Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio, came up with the idea of barn quilts as a way to honor her mother, Maxine. Groves worked with the Ohio Arts Council to expand the concept to 20 “sampler” quilt squares that visitors could find by following a map through the countryside.

Today, organized barn quilt trails can be found in 48 states and Canada. Those 7,000 quilts don’t include barn quilts created by individual farm families like the Books.

PA Grange quilt blocks

The federal grange has a Heritage Quilt Trail, according to Matt Espenshade of Bainbridge, master of the Elizabethtown Grange.

The local grange hung its quilt block in 2012 in full view of fair attendees who were waiting in line for the group’s famous milkshakes.

The grange trail includes quilt blocks — the same concept as barn quilt signs, Espenshade said, but not always hung on barns. The blocks often appear on Grange Halls or in fairgrounds.

Espenshade said the federal grange sent a blank wooden square for the Elizabethtown Grange sign. After researching patterns, the Elizabethtown group decided on a quilt pattern called Aurora Borealis, and painted it in the national grange colors of gold, white and national blue.

The current Grange Heritage Quilt Trail is limited to works placed by state granges, according to Stacy Bruker, Pennsylvania State Grange public relations and membership director. Individual grange members, she said, are welcome to apply.

  • Beyond Lancaster County, the nearest quilt square on the grange trail can be found at 345 Old Limestone Road, Oxford, Chester County.

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