ARLINGTON – The Stillaguamish Valley is home to a patchwork of agricultural fields and a tapestry of culture that gives the region its character.
Shawna Gould, president of the All In Stitches Quilt Guild, and a band of volunteers want to share that rich heritage with community members and tourists, and they’re working to create the Stillaguamish Valley Barn Quilt Trail as a colorful way to make those connections.
The trail would essentially be a self-guided driving tour of folk art displays on local barns.
“Barn quilts are a beautiful way to preserve an important piece of the Stillaguamish Valley’s agricultural heritage, and represent a boon for rural tourism,” Gould said.
“Our goal is to highlight the history of the art form of quilting, our historical barns and centennial farms of the Stillaguamish Valley, from Camano Island to Concrete,” Gould said.
The first 8-by-8-foot metal quilt block was attached to a rustic barn at Biringer Farm, 21412 59th Ave. NE, and visible from busy SR 530.
Their barn quilt will be unveiled at the farm’s annual Strawberry Fest this weekend from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
The quilt square is a modified carpenters block with an added strawberry design. This 1920 barn, built by Carl Thompson, a native of Norway, remained in operation as a milking barn and hay and grain storage until it was sold to John Klein, whose family currently rents it to the Biringer family.
More historical information about the barn will be highlighted in the upcoming tourism brochures and interactive online links.
Dianna Biringer agreed to host the first barn quilt on the trail. She hopes it takes off and catches on with other farmers.
“I really liked the idea,” Biringer said. “My husband Mike and I are pretty progressive in our business, and I didn’t hesitate.”
Biringer said the design concept came from city of Arlington Recreation Manager Sarah Lopez. A grandmother in Louisiana gave her permission to use the barn quilt design, which features a strawberry as the central focus in the pattern.
“Even though we’re growing a lot of different berries at Biringer Farm, we’re still best known for strawberries,” Biringer said.
Gould said Hazel Blue Acres and Garden Treasures are already interested in becoming stops on the trail and putting customized barn quilt squares on their barns.
Gould said the barn owners have a big say in the design that they choose, but she and her group can help.
“If they’re looking at a few ideas, we can help them, but they choose the sign and the size,” she said.
The Stillaguamish Barn Quilt Trail received a Snohomish County Historical Preservation grant and city tourism grant to help get the project off the ground.
The Pioneer Museum is the trail’s sponsor and one of the many community organizations working on the project.
Gould hopes to have 10 barn quilts up by the end of December.
A barn quilt trail is a series of wood or metal quilt square attached to barns, along a route, to emphasize historical barns, quilting and the culture of the area.
The barn quilt movement is said to have been started by Donna Sue Grove in Adams County, Ohio in 2001. She wanted to honor her mother’s love of quilting, and painted her barn quilt.
Barn quilt trails are now In 46 states and Canada. Washington boasts a popular barn quilt trail in Kittitas County and Ellensburg, and Skagit County has one as well.
Gould believes that the community will respond well to the concept. With the city’s fondness for public art and incorporating color in otherwise neutral spaces, a splash of color and eye-catching patterns on the sides of old barns should fit right in.
Gould lit up when sharing that Suzi Parron, a teacher, lecturer and author of the books, “Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement” and “Following the Barn Quilt Trail” will be stopping in Arlington next year after a stop in Olympia, where she will teach a workshop. Parron travels full-time in her RV, holding workshops and speaking to quilter groups and others.
The trail will be promoted on the Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce’s website at http://www.stillyvalleychamber.com
Marilyn Enright sat in on a couple of trail planning meetings, and attended the installation of the first quilt square at Biringer Farm.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing for community development and cohesiveness, or a feeling of belonging to the community,” said Enright, health and wellness coordinator at the Stillaguamish Senior Center.
Enright doesn’t quilt, she said. “I’d rather get a root canal than sew, but we have more than a few skilled quilters and needle workers who attend the center that are interested in this kind of folk art project.”
The center also hosts bus trips and tours that would make traveling to see the barn quilts an interesting venture, Enright said.
“I think it will also be fun for people who have been in the community for a long time, and know some of the history of the farms,” she said.
Want to be a stop on the barn quilt trail?
The group is looking for barns to host the quilt squares. Contact Shawna Gould for a barn quilt trail application, or if you have any questions or would like to be part of the committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org.