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Creating a Barn Quilt Block
The process for creating a barn quilt block begins with a host barn.
Barns come in all shapes and sizes. Most older barns were framed with wood. The exterior was usually covered with wood, or corrugated steel. In recent years steel frame barns have become very popular.
There are a few things to consider with regard to the barn.
The space available to display the block . This will dictate the size of the finished block.
The exterior covering of the barn. Different materials can present challenges that must be addressed prior to attaching the finished block to the barn.
The height of the point where the block will be attached to the barn. This will determine number of people and what type of equipment needed to safely attach the block.
The materials that make up a barn quilt.
We use composite aluminum sheets
for our barn quilt blocks.
Initially we used 4' X 8' sheets of exterior plywood for our barn quilt blocks. After some research and advice from the Boonslick, MO Barn quilt trail and others, we decided to make a change to 4' X 8' composite aluminum sheets. The aluminum is already painted when we get it which is a huge benefit. It is designed for the sign industry and is extremely durable. It is significantly lighter and at only 3 millimeters thick, it is much thinner and easier to handle than plywood. One person can easily handle a sheet of the aluminum. There are really no negatives with this product.
Our trail uses PPG PITT tech industrial acrylic enamel paint.
We want our barn quilts to last, so we put a lot of time and research into finding the very best paint product to use. We talked to a lot of people, other barn quilt trails and have
spoken to representatives at different paint companies. After careful consideration we decided to use the PPG product
and thus far we are well pleased with our choice. It
comes in several colors that can be tinted to any
shade you want and has proven to be easy to
Choosing a pattern
We encourage barn owners to find an heirloom family quilt and pick a pattern based on a block from the quilt. It makes their barn quilt unique and much more special.
The family may also decide not to use an old quilt as their pattern. We will help them choose an acceptable pattern using examples available from
Once a pattern is chosen, it's time to pick the paint colors to be used in the block. We work with the family to coordinate appropriate color choices. Families can choose to remain true to the colors in their block or change it up according to their individual preference.
Choosing a size for the barn quilt block
The area available on the barn to hang the block will usually determine the size of the block we create.
With that said, we use either a 4' X 4' of an 8' X 8' size for all of our barn quilt blocks. There are
a couple of good reasons for this. Mainly we do it because the metal we use to make
the blocks comes in 4' X 8' sheets. If we keep it simple and limit the sizes to only those
two, we have no scrap material.
Here are some of the drawing tools we use.
It's time to draw the pattern on to the metal sheets
Patterns range from very simple to extremely complex and can be very
challenging to draw. To be sure there is always math involved! There are
a few computer programs out there specifically suited to use for creating quilt blocks. We use Electric Quilt, Microsoft Publisher, and Adobe Photoshop to aid us in the design process. .
The tool we use most often is the ruler, or aluminum straight
edge. We have them
in 12" to 8' sizes.
Other patterns like the Dresden plate pictured above left and the fan pictured below left require the use of a tool specifically designed for drawing circles. The degree scale pictured far left is absolutely invaluable for this. Still others like the Grandmother's flower garden pattern pictured far right and the patriotic star pictured below required the use of contact paper patterns and home made stencils to draw the specific shapes and ensure their proper placement.
The painting process
Since we have begun using composite aluminum there is no need to prime the metal first. It comes to us already painted and covered with a protective film that peels off. We use scotch blue painters tape and Yellow Frog Tape to mask the individual shapes in each pattern and 3" mini rollers and various artist brushes for touch up. Click on the slideshow below to see a block from start to finish.
These are the composite aluminum panels.
The protective film must be removed prior to prep and painting.
The block is done and it is time to mount it to the barn. The exterior covering of the barn will make a difference in the materials you will need to attach the finished block.
Hanging the finished barn quilt block
Sometimes we are fortunate enough to find a barn host family that has a tractor with a front end loader that we can use to help mount the Barn Quilt Block.
More often than not, we use extension ladders to mount the blocks. The fact that the composite aluminum sheets are so lightweight is a big plus. It makes a difficult job so much easier.
Some Barn Quilt blocks have to be mounted up high like the one pictured to the left. Ladder safety is extremely important!
Also barns with metal exteriors like the barn on the left may require the use of wood strips or a wood frame to space the block over the corrugated ridges.
Whatever equipment you use to help mount the block, use it safely!
Here is an example of the screws that we use to attach the blocks to the wood barns. They are exterior grade, have a wide flat head and are available at major hardware retailers.
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