Here's the scoop! A year ago when my cousin John helped me photograph a few family quilts at our yearly reunion in Indiana County, PA we started dreaming and scheming about this idea. I happened to mention to John that someday I would love to display all my beloved quilts together outdoors. I have selfishly hung on to almost every one of my quilts all these years with that dream in the back of my mind. John's response to my self-conscious confession? "I think we could make that happen - we could hang them on the barn!" And so I tucked that hope away in my heart, not sure if it would ever come to pass.
Fast forward one year: I was still longing for the opportunity to do an outdoor display of all my quilts, but knowing it would be a tremendous amount of physical labor that would NOT involve me, I knew John would need to take the lead on this crazy hair-brained idea. Guess what - he did!
We both felt like Mr. & Mrs. Noah. Believe me, there wasn't a whole lot of enthusiasm for the project initially! Cranky comments were flying all around: "Do you realize how high the peak of that barn is?!" "You don't even have a ladder that reaches that high!" "Someone could fall off a ladder and get hurt!" "You shouldn't be doing this without a cherry picker, which you DON'T have." "This is way more than what I was expecting." "Maybe we could hang a few quilts for you...." "You won't have room in your car for all those quilts, will you?" "What if a storm blows up, especially since there's been a lot of thunderstorms lately?" "You do realize we're going to have to take all these back down again?!" "You want to do all of this in one day??!!" And then there were the appropriate concerns: "Are you sure the nails won't damage the quilts?" "What if they get dirty?" There were also the maybe-we-aren't-going-to-be-able-to-pull-this-off questions: "What if someone does get hurt??" "What if this is way more work than we envisioned??"
But John held fast to the dream. He didn't care how much work, time, or risk it meant; that wasn't the point. He kept saying, "In 100 years, people are going to think this was a really great idea when they look back at the pictures," especially since the quilts would be hung on the barn that was built in 1887 on the family's Century Farm. And, we both agreed that since neither of us weren't getting any younger, and if we were serious about doing it, we should aim to do it this year. Of course the weather needed to cooperate, so it continued to be a loosely-held dream, right up to the very last minute, especially since the weather forecast was calling for storms.
On Saturday evening, we spread out the graphed chart and barn measurements, looked at each other and said, "So, are we going to do this or not???" I believe it was my nephew's wife Sasha who finally turned the tide for all the naysayers when she responded, "We can do this - I think we should go for it!!" Suddenly, there were some willing volunteers, and it was decided that it would be a go for the following morning.
And so a wild dream and crazy hair-brained idea became reality!
It was a TON of work for the guys, but they soldiered through hanging all 32 quilts. At the end of the hanging process that went far more smoothly than anticipated, John gave me a sweaty high-five with tears in his eyes, and I knew in my heart that we had accomplished "the good works that God had prepared in advance for us to do." *
It was a very meaningful experience for me too, especially since this was the farm where my mother grew up, and my mother was the one who taught me to sew at a very, very young age. I have such fond memories of my grandmother and her depression-era quilts too. I often wonder who I would be and how different my life would look had I never learned to sew and love it so much....
I believe quilts are meant to be seen and viewed, not to be tucked away and protected from harm. And guess what? My quilts survived being hung on a barn all day just beautifully. I think they had been dreaming of this event, just as I had. Surely they longed to be viewed from a distance as a collection. And I think they were thrilled when my cousin's little daughter Haley studied them carefully and considered the fact that maybe her grandmother could help her make a quilt.
OK, enough dialogue from me. Here are the pictures!!
The guys started hanging the quilts first thing Sunday morning.
My cousins John and Jerry were the climbers and hangers, while my brother-in-law Paul and nephew Eric manned the ladders.
Since my yo yo quilt couldn't be hung, I asked John if he happened to have a painted vintage chair that we could use. This is what he found in his old furniture stash in the barn!! After a little cleaning, it was the perfect quilt prop.
In fact, it ended up coming home with me, along with a matching table and three more chairs!!!!
:) :) :)
Some more photos:
And a few more of that fabulous chair and my beloved yo yo quilt:
After lots of family photos, some lunch, and what seemed like way too little time to enjoy my quilts, it was time to take them all back down! Of course, taking them down was a much quicker process than mounting them, and with many hands, it went quickly.
My younger sister Alison, sister-in-law Nancy, and older sister Renee were on the catching and folding crew. Renee inspected the quilts for any soiling (only one of the baby quilts needed a bit of laundering!). My brother Bryan is in the background assisting with the ladders.
And yes indeed, all my quilts fit in my car trunk. In fact, there's room for more!
We saved this Broken Star quilt for the end so we could get some pictures of it all by itself on the barn.
Wouldn't it make a great design for a painted quilt for the Barn Quilt Trail?! In fact, my cousin Jerry came across this article on line when he came home. I'm thinking we could work on painting it together next summer at our reunion. I'd love to lobby for it, but I think I had better take a back seat on crazy ideas for a bit until everyone recovers from this event!
Thanks, everyone, for all your hard work, and a special thank you to John, a true modern-day Mr. Noah.
The only way I know to express my gratitude to my Creator for blessing me with the love of sewing and quilting is to keep stitching and keep sharing it with others, and so that's what I plan to do until my dying breath!
Note: The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show has been held every year on the second Saturday in July in the town of Sisters, Oregon since 1975. I've been fortunate enough to experience it two times now; it is the most inspiring event a quilt lover could ever hope to attend. Hundreds of quilters risk hanging their quilts outdoors because they understand the sacred responsibility of sharing their quilts with others. I knew if the little town of Sisters could manage to hang over 1300 quilts for a one-day quilt show, certainly our family could pull together to hang 32 of my quilts, and they did. The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show did indeed come to Indiana County, PA!
33 quilts displayed: 32 were hung, one was displayed on the chair.
Time it took to take down all the quilts: 30 minutes.
Expenses: $1.35 plus tax for a pack of 18 x 1" wire nails
All quilts were completely stitched by me over the past 24 years with the exception of two quilts that were long arm quilted by Kathy Olkowski of Ennis, MT.
All quilts belong to me except for two: The Broken Star quilt at the peak belongs to my cousin Fred (I made him the quilt almost 20 years ago in exchange for a beautiful Tiffany lamp.), and the small I Spy quilt belongs to my nephew Ricky.
*The scripture reference above is from Ephesians 2:10 (NIV):
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.