Schoharie County

Blazing a trail of barn quilts

Judith Brunn typically makes her quilts from fabric, but recently, she switched to wood.
The second block of the Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail at Brunn Farm in Seward on Sunday.
The second block of the Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail at Brunn Farm in Seward on Sunday.

Judith Brunn typically makes her quilts from fabric, but recently, she switched to wood. High on her rustic, red, post-and-beam barn hangs an8 by 8-foot wooden quilt block emblazoned with the colors of autumn. She, her husband, Michael, and other volunteers worked together to create the eye-catching Harvest Star block, which will be on display as part of the Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail.

The Brunns’ quilt block, which was celebrated Sunday at a gathering at their farm beneath fiery-colored maples, is the second to be unveiled along a colorful trail that organizers hope will include 40 different giant-sized wooden quilt blocks displayed on barns and historic structures throughout the county.

The blocks will be admired by way of a self-guided tour.

Ginny Schaum, chairwoman of the effort, said she already has 20 sites lined up, including The Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie, an old mill in Richmondville and an as-yet-undisclosed site visible from Interstate 88.

The first quilt block to be unveiled — a crazy- quilt-style one — hangs on Betty Pillsbury’s purple barn on Coon’s Road in Huntersland.

Schaum, who has a background in fashion design, was inspired to spearhead the quilt trail effort after seeing a 12-by-24-foot collage painted by volunteers on the building that houses the Artisan’s Gallery in Middleburgh.

“I was talking to Bill Morton, who started that project. He thought it would be better for tourism if people had more than one thing to see,” Schaum said.

Now she’s on a mission to give them plenty to look at.

“It’s just the second block, but we feel like we’ve done a lot because we only really started the project in April,” she said.

Once 20 quilt blocks are ready for display, the group will print up an inexpensive paper brochure that maps the locations. Once 40 blocks are completed, a fancier flier will be created, a website designed and connections made with tourism agencies.

$250 a block

Each wooden quilt block costs about $250 to create, but those who agree to hang one on their property aren’t expected to foot the entire burden, Schaum said. Hosts must contribute in some way though, either by donating money, assisting with construction or by helping to paint.

To help defray costs, the group is selling magnetized mailbox covers that feature a New York Beauty quilt block design, for $25 each.

The Benjamin Moore Paint Co. has agreed to donate all of the paint necessary to complete the first 20 blocks for the quilt barn project. Each one takes between a gallon to a gallon-and-a-half of primer and four quarts of paint, Schaum estimated.

The Brunns, whose farm is on Franklin Bellinger Road, have gone above and beyond the call of duty for the project. In addition to the Harvest Star block, they’ve created a 4 by 4-foot Autumn Leaves block for a second barn on their property.

The block will be changed with the seasons. A Christmas Star block has already been painted, and ones for spring and summer are in the works.

“In agriculture, what I’ve always enjoyed is the revolving seasons. You have different labors,” said Michael Brunn, who raises beef cattle and grows hay on the farm, which is nestled in a scenic spot between Cobleskill and Sharon Springs.

His wife, who has made hundreds of conventional quilts in her day, said she’s not sure she really likes this new paint- and wood-based quilting method.

“It’s nothing like sewing, but I still enjoy looking at it,” she said with a smile.

cutting into time

The quilt barn project is cutting into Schaum’s quilting time “big time,” but she said the effort is worth pursuing, because it will bring visual art and tourism to the county and put a spotlight on a craft that’s sewn tightly to the region’s history.

“I think it’s just the tradition … And it’s so dynamic too,” she said, of quilting. “When you think back that the early quilts were just made out of feedbags that sugar came in, or flour, or whatever produce people were getting, and now quilting is a really expensive thing. The fabric costs about $12 a yard.”

The quilt barn project has been enthusiastically received, and not just by the typical quilting set, Schaum said.

“It’s not just a female thing,” she noted. “Because of it being paint and wood and construction, I’ve been amazed at how receptive the men have been.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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