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For an exceptional combination of folk art and back-road scenery, follow a quilt barn trail from Bonham, the Fannin County seat, northeast of Dallas.
Perhaps you remember a “crazy quilt” stitched together from unmatched pieces of fabric by one of your relatives. Quilts sometimes follow the Texas Star pattern, one of the designs you’ll see on this tour.
The concept of the quilt barn started in the Northeast and Midwest, where folks enlarged quilt blocks from bed size to barn size. Once the design was final, they painted the design directly on the building or attached full-size sections to create monumental folk art on their barns and other structures. When multiple structures in an area feature such artwork, it forms a trail. Recently, quilt barn trails began to appear in Texas.
The Fannin County Quilt Barn Trail owes its existence to Patti Wolf, who, after retiring from her career at Merck pharmaceutical company, helped establish a volunteer effort to contribute to the community. In 2012, she visited the Bonham Public Library and found photographs of quilt barn trails in other states. Wolf immediately thought about how Texas is home to a population of talented quilters and speculated that quilt barns would be as scenic as bluebonnets by the roadside. She proceeded to round up farmers and townspeople to create vibrant quilt block designs for tourists and locals to enjoy.
To take advantage of the vision realized by Wolf and her crew, stop by the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce to pick up an information packet that includes a list of 50-plus quilt barns sites in Bonham and around the county. You also can visit Fannin County’s website to download the list of locations for the quilt blocks and their titles, which include Card Trick and Goose Tracks.
Most visitors begin their tour of the quilt barn trail with a 30-minute walking tour around Bonham. You’ll find blocks of Starry Night, Contrary Wife and Amish Diamond. Amish Diamond is an intricate design painted in navy blue with a white background, and it looks like it was inspired by a Dresden china dinner plate.
While walking around Bonham, notice the community’s architecture, including the buildings that house Granny Lou’s Bed and Breakfast and the Carleton House Bed and Breakfast. Both businesses combine comfort with nostalgia and are decorated with distinctive quilt blocks on their buildings. Look for attorney Michael Evans’ office close to the square for the Bow Tie quilt block.
After your walking tour, allow an hour for the driving tour. Look for the perfectly aligned geodesic block on the side of the Fannin County Multi-Purpose Complex, with its white background and autumnal colors of yellow, orange and brown. Watch for a double-sided quilt block on Texas Highway 78.
Once you’ve seen the quilts, check in with Tim Meek, longtime Bonham resident who learned about quilt blocks from his sister, Connie Estes. Estes’ interest in quilt barn blocks inspired Meek to re-search quilt barn trails and create his own quilt block.
He used duct tape to define a design on a 4-by-4-foot plywood panel. “I like the contrasting colors of the yellow and bright blue,” he says. “We had fun making the block, but hanging the dang thing took a little more effort than I expected.”
The tour—which the creators bill as the largest quilt barn trail in Texas—winds through Fannin County and lets you enjoy Bonham and tiny Ivanhoe, as well as the rural scenery along the route. The colorful quilt barns stand as testament to an emerging creative tradition and the community’s spirit.