Are quilting bees still a thing? You know, where folks sit around in a big circle and work on one quilt?

Growing up, I saw quilts everywhere. We had them at our house. I'd see them when visiting my great-aunts and uncles and my grandparents. But, today, when I visit friends, I don't see quilts with nearly the frequency that I used to see them.

I have an old quilt in our living room closet that I've had for as long as I can remember. My Uncle Charlie made it. He lived in Russellville and was good with his hands. He made just about anything he put his mind to making--except meals. He left that to Aunt Della and we were all better off for it.

But this quilt is enormous and heavy and almost a little too warm for even the coldest nights. I have it sealed up because I'm sure cleaning it would cost an arm and a leg, due to its size and weight.

Tom Ricketts
Tom Ricketts

Maybe it's the same size as those quilt patterns on barns we all see traveling country roads in Kentucky and elsewhere.

And since I love everything about quick, on-the-fly road trips like that, those beautiful "barn quilts" are always a welcome sight. And I suppose I've taken them for granted, having never really given much thought as to why they are there.

Well, as it turns out, it's not just a Kentucky thing. In fact, it didn't even begin in the Bluegrass State.

You know, it did occur to me that the quilt patterns we see on barns haven't always been there and I was right. They really only date back about 20 years and it all began in Ohio as a gesture of love. And, really, the tradition has roots even farther back than that, in Appalachian culture, which makes perfect sense.

According to, Donna Sue Groves' mother, Maxine, came from Appalachia. And so, to honor her, Donna created a large quilt square to hang on her barn. But then she felt that wasn't enough and "rallied the troops" to help her hang quilt squares on the facades of multiple barns along a common driving route.

That became an inspiration for others to do the same thing. And then Donna took her show on the road to Iowa and, well, the rest is history. There aren't too many roads in rural America where you won't find those cool but quaint quilt squares hanging on the sides of barns.

Thank you, Donna Sue Groves, for making my drives through the countryside that much better.

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