Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

A Different Kind of Quilt

Monday, August 06, 2012

Have you ever been driving through the country and come across a barn with a quilt pattern painted on it?  They are rare, although there are several here in mid-Missouri and they seem to be making a comeback in popularity. 

To me, they are a part of my childhood memory.  For my 6th birthday, my grandfather bought me a dappled pony named Charlie - a precocious little guy that loved to eat apples out of my hand.  Charlie couldn't live in town with us, so he had to stay at a family friend's farm and we'd visit him every weekend.  Atop the entrance to the barn that Charlie called home was a quilt block that I had helped paint after we helped our friends build their log cabin on the property.  To do this day, I think that was one of the best summers E-V-E-R.

Interestingly enough, barn quilts have been around for a loooooonnnnnng time.  They're thought to have been started in Pennsylvania by immigrants from Europe over 300 years ago.  Paint was expensive then, so a smaller decorative painting was a cheaper way to decorate and it provided a great way to help travelers find certain families or businesses.  In the mid 1800's, when paint became commercialized and less costly, barn painting and decorating actually became a career for many folks.  These artists started using folk designs and geometric patterns and many borrowed from traditional quilt patterns.  The barn quilt was born!  And it's been dotting  the American landscape ever since.

Now our little 10' x 12' barn is no match for those full-sized barns dotting the countryside, but that doesn't mean that it still can't be styling, right?  So I decided I would spend the beautiful afternoon yesterday painting my own scaled-down version of a barn quilt for Cranky Puppy Farm.


Let's start with materials.  If you'd like to make your own barn quilt, you'll need the following:

  • Your block pattern (I printed mine on my inkjet)
  • A piece of plywood or something to paint your quilt on.  We didn't have any leftover plywood, so I picked up a 2' x 2' piece of 3/4" plywood from Lowes.  Cost: around $12.00.  If you don't have plywood, you could use repurposed 1x's or pallet wood.  Just make sure that whatever you choose is suitable for outdoor use.
  • Painters tape or Frog tape
  • Ruler
  • Exterior primer
  • Exterior paint in the colors of your choice
  • Exterior polyurethane or spar varnish
  • Paintbrushes

Did you know there are a dizzying array of quilt block patterns?  If you don't believe me, try putting "quilt pattern" into Google images.   I wanted to find something I could use at least 4 different colors on, but not too fussy since it would be small, but also not too easy or plain-looking.  I settled on a pinwheel within a star with blocks on the four corners.  I'm sure this pattern has a name, but I wasn't able to find it.  (Anybody know?)

Step 1. Draw out the pattern.

My pattern consisted of 8 x 8 mini-blocks.  Since my plywood is 2 ft. square, this translates into 3" squares.  After I primed the plywood with two coats, the first thing I did was to draw out the grid.  Using the ruler, I then drew out the rest of the pattern.

Step 2. Use tape to mask off the first color.

Now you have a choice as to which color you want to start with.  I decided to start with the color that had the most area on the pattern.  The next step is to then outline that area with blue painter's tape.  Since the lines are on the plywood, it's easy to figure out where the tape goes.

TIP #1:  Now that I'm done, I'd actually recommend Frog Tape instead of blue painter's tape.  It seems to seal better so you don't get paint bleeding under the edges.  Mine wasn't bad, but I did have a couple of places that I had to go back and touch up with a fine tip paint brush. If you've got fine points in your pattern (as with my star and pinwheel above), it might be easier to mask off part of it, paint, then mask off the rest and paint again.

Masking off the first color.
My first color was burgundy. This is the same paint color on the body of the barn and I also used it on the door to the chicken coop.  This was leftover paint so it didn't cost a thing.  We use Behr Ultra for all our exterior painting, which is both primer and paint all-in-one.

Tip #2: Watch for mistinted "oops" paint at the hardware store and get it cheap.  In this case, Ace Hardware was giving away free quarts of paint on Saturday to the first 40 customers, so J. and I each snagged a quart. I didn't have to buy any paint for this project!

The pinwheel in the center was tricky, so I actually painted it in two steps (I'm getting ready to do that in the picture above.)  It took 3 coats to get good coverage, since I was going over a light background.

At this point, I have a couple of tips for you:

TIP #3:  Paint at least 2 coats of each color, painting one direction the first time and the opposite direction the second time.  This will ensure you have even coverage.

TIP #4:  Do you know to keep the paint from bleeding under the tape?  Start your brush on top of the tape and then brush onto the area to be painted.  If you do the opposite, you're brushing the paint against the tape edge and it's more likely to bleed.

Tip #5: Pull the tape off once you get the second coat on there.  It will be less likely to pull paint off with the tape if you pull the tape off when the paint is still wet.

Step 3. Remove the tape and let dry.  The repeat step 2 for the other colors.

Once you get one color done, move on to masking and painting the next color.  I was painting on a hot summer day, so it didn't take long for each coat to dry and I finished this in a day.  If you rush it too much, putting tape on top of fresh paint could pull it off, so be patient!

Here's the finished product.  Well, almost.....

Burgundy represents the barn, green for the garden, and yellow for the sunshine.

 I think I'm going to change one thing on this barn quilt before I'm finished.  The white doesn't stand out enough in the center pinwheel, so I think I'm going to outline the outside edges of the white with a thin burgundy line.  It won't take long to do that at all.

Even though I primed and painted the edges of this plywood, I still don't trust it to be exposed to the weather.  I'm going to let the paint dry and then go over the top of the whole thing with some clear exterior polyurethane.  Then the next step will be put a frame around the edges with some simple 1" x 2" pine.   With J.'s help, it will be gracing the barn wall later this week.   I promise some before and after pictures so you can see it on the barn.

What have you been up to?


  1. Wonderful! I love the quilt blocks on barns :) We are very lucky to have quite a few in our neck of the woods...northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. I found a driving tour of quilt blocks when we visiting the Cheese Making Museum in Monroe, WI last summer and have been wanting to go do that sometime. Maybe when the little chicks are big enough that I can turn the heat lamp off :)

    I love your idea and can't wait to see it on your barn!

  2. I love barn quilts. We have a lot of them in Iowa. I started making one for my barn but keep getting other projects that need to be done first so I haven't finished it. Thanks for the inspiration. And for sharing at the All Star Block Party.


  3. Ah, you teased me with the quilt-pattern painted barns - where are the pics? I've never seen one here in Cali ~

    Popped in from Time Travel Thursday.


  4. This is beautiful! I love finding new blogs on linky parties...marking this to favorites to come back and visit! :)

  5. Charming. Really. I live in Iowa so I know exactly what you are talking about. I think they are such a welcoming happy touch . Thanks for sharing yours on BeColorful this week.

  6. Love your barn quilt. Everytime you look at it you will have wonderful memories of the childhood summer. Can't wait to see it on the barn. Thanks so much for sharing with Share Your Cup. Could not see where to follow you. The name of your blog is too cute!

  7. I haven't, but I have seen them painted on pine boards. This is so beautiful! I may have to "copy" you on this one ;)

  8. We're surrounded by farmland where I live, so barn quilts are quite popular here. I hope to post about some of those nearby soon.

    Thanks for linking your pretty project to Time Travel Thursday. I hope you'll join the fun each week. Be sure to stop in tonight to see yourself featured.

    Liz @ The Brambleberry Cottage

  9. We have started a barn quilt driving tour in Cannon and Rutherford Counties in middle Tn. We do not have an old barn but I am anticipating putting a barn quilt square on the end of our fairly new barn. Am thinking about a Dutch Doll design as that is my favorite quilt.


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