In March 10 IssueBy Kim GrahamTimes Journal Reporter
American affection for quilts spans generations and has spread from beds to barns in Russell County.
Quilting culture in rural farm communities has kept us warm and fed our souls with the comfort of hand stitched family heirlooms.
It's celebrating the tradition of family farming and sharing a love for the art and craft of quilting that entices folks to put up barn quilts.
Linda and Danny Helm and Linda's parents Crawford and Lucille Gosser of Russell County decided last year to hang quilt blocks on their barns.
"I thought the barn quilts were neat," said Helm. "I told Mom, 'We need to do that sometime.'"
Linda heard about a grant that was available through Tour Southern and Eastern Kentucky to reimburse Russell County residents for materials to build the quilt blocks and began the decision making process to pick a quilt pattern.
"We knew we wanted red, white, and blue. It was just getting the pattern for what we wanted to do," said Helm. "We like the patriotic colors."
Combining the family's patriotism and her husband Danny's skills as a carpenter, the Helms chose the Carpenter's Wheel pattern for their barn.
Built in the early 1900's, the Helms family's barn was formerly used to house livestock and store feed, tack, and hay.
Now the barn is used mainly for storage and sports a brilliant red, white, and blue quilt block thanks to a family effort.
Linda said Danny drew out the pattern and had some help taping the lines to prepare the sign board for painting.
Various family members helped roll the paint onto boards creating the quilt pattern.
"We all had a hand in the painting," said Helm. "It was a good family project and we enjoyed doing it."
They also joined together to raise and attach the wooden artwork to their barn.
"We hung our quilt block ourselves with a tractor and a hay fork," said Helm.
They attached a long pipe to the hay fork, hoisted the 100 pound quilt block up to the front of the barn, and bolted it in place.
"We had a good time making the barn quilt block," Helm said. "It was fun."
Linda's parents, Crawford and Lucille Gosser, bought their Russell County farm in 1958 and ran a dairy for 25 years before they started raising beef cattle.
The Gossers' barn was built by the farm's previous owners in the early 1940's and was used as a stock barn for cows, horses, and mules.
Today, the barn is used for feeding calves and storing hay in the barn loft.
Driving around the state, Lucille Gosser took notice of all the quilt blocks going up and became interested in having one of their own.
"We had seen several barn quilts travelling around," said Lucille Gosser. "We keep seeing more all the time."
After 63 years of marriage, her husband knows her well.
"She'd drive 50 miles to look at a quilt on a barn," Crawford Gosser said.
She came by her love for quilts honestly after decades of making her own quilts.
An avid quilter, Lucille Gosser learned the art of hand stitched quilting at an early age from her mother.
She made her first quilt, a double wedding ring, when she was 12 years old and continues today to hand stitch together quilt pieces and quilt by hand using a quilting hoop.
In the family tradition of quilting, these heirloom art forms are handed down to future generations.
"I've given all my pretty quilts to my children and grandchildren," said Lucille Gosser.
Surprisingly, the Gossers did not choose a quilt pattern that Lucille Gosser had made but instead decided on a patriotic star pattern.
"I just liked the quilt pattern," said Lucille Gosser. "It's an All American Star."
There may be a barn quilt in the future that represents one of Lucille Gosser's handmade creations.
"Maybe someday we'll do a barn quilt with a quilt block Mom made," said Helm.
Still their current barn quilt has attracted attention.
"We've had several people asking about it," said Crawford Gosser.
Paulette and Donald Roy, of Russell County, liked the barn quilts so much they put up two quilt blocks on separate barns.
The couple chose a four corner flower pattern painted purple, lavender, and yellow for a white barn built by family in 1970.
The barn was formerly used to hang tobacco but is now used for storage.
On the second barn, they hung a quilt block with an Ohio Star pattern including a John Deere Tractor in the center.
Of course, they liked the Ohio Star tractor pattern because they use John Deere tractors on their grain farm tending corn and soybeans.
Paulette Roy has been quilting 42 years and can't remember how many quilts she has made over the years and she continues making quilts today.
"I just finished putting a quilt top together on a crazy quilt," said Paulette Roy.
Out on east KY80, Mickie and Fred Tarter also put up an Ohio star pattern barn quilt.
The barn was built around 1971-1972 after the famous tornado came through and destroyed the previous barn.
It was built as a tobacco barn but later used by James R. Wade, a previous owner, for cattle and as storage for a tractor, truck, or other equipment.
Mickie Tarter decided to use a simple, two color quilt pattern using red and white paint.
"I thought the red and white would look striking," said Tarter. "I thought something simple would show up well on that big black barn."
Influenced by her grandmothers, Lucy Hopper and Jessie Stapp, and an aunt in Mississippi, Tarter began sewing on her own at a young age.
"I was sewing on the sewing machine when I was nine years old and just experimented with quilting," said Tarter. "It was trial and error learning."
She said she made a nine patch quilt when she was probably about nine years old and the edges did not meet anywhere.
With her perfectionist nature, she honed her skill as a craftsperson making quilts all her life.
Her do-it-yourself perfectionism carried over into painting her barn quilt.
Tarter said she painted their barn quilt entirely by herself in their garage but did have help hanging it.
The Tarters asked South Kentucky RECC to help hang their quilt block on the barn and waited three months until an opportunity arose.
Last August, RECC had a crew in the area that wasn't scheduled so they came out to assist in hanging the barn quilt.
"Greg Hammond, from RECC did an excellent job," said Tarter.
Mickie Tarter's cousin Cindi Neathery and her husband, Chris Cottle, were in town from Ontario, Canada when the quilt block was hung and were able to join in by helping to attach it to the barn.
All families who installed barn quilts, were reimbursed for building supplies used in the process.
John Carter, Russell County Tourist Commission Marketing Manager, helped to get a corridor grant from Tour Southern and Eastern Kentucky to cover materials to build the barn quilt blocks.
"I think (the Russell County Barn Quilt Trail) is extremely good," said Carter. "We're putting together a brochure to give tourists more information about local barn quilts."
Carter said there are future plans to provide GPS coordinates so travelers can plan their route to see Russell County's barn quilts.