Ontario’s Quilting Tales & Trails

On a crisp winter night, nothing’s cozier than a welcoming, warm, quilt crafted with care. But there’s so much more to appreciate from the tradition of quilting. The unique designs and motifs showcased in this form of textile art tell a story of people and place, both past and present.

Many rural communities have gone a step further by proudly displaying their quilt designs like a crest or coat of arms. These quilts are artwork painted on large durable boards and mounted to barns and other properties such as museums, wineries, cottages, and fences. The distinctive designs pay homage to traditional fabric quilts and represent the history of their communities. Traditional and innovative at the same time, this form of community of storytelling can be appreciated anytime all year round.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the brilliant creative patterns of barn quilts speak volumes. Take a tour of these Ontario barn quilt trails and discover their stories.

BarnQuilt_PECImage credit: Destination Ontario, ‘County Apples’

Prince Edward County

The County’s largest outdoor gallery boasts over 100 barn quilts, like ‘County Apples’ at the County Cider Company (pictured above) in Waupoos.

While here:
Enjoy breakfast or lunch at the Saylor Café House Café and B&B in Bloomfield, where The Blue Butterfly barn quilt is prominently displayed. Make a reservation at its B&B to take in more sites. Near Picton, The Waring House Restaurant, Inn, Conference Centre & Cookery School, is a great place grab a bite if you’re with a group or travelling solo. Stay at the Inn to enjoy nightly musical entertainment and take in a class the next day at the cooking school.

Vibrant barn quilt block in Elgin CountyImage credit: barnquilttrails.ca, ‘Irish Star’

Elgin County

History buffs will appreciate the barn quilts that tell the story about people who settled in the region, such as the Mennonite community.

While here:
In Aylmer, enjoy a meal at the Green Frog Tea Room, a log cabin that’s on an older 54-acre property. It’s a quaint place to enjoy tea and an assortment of baked goods too. There’s also a gift shop on site so be sure to take some goodies home with you.

Barn quilt design named Rosebud in Chatham-KentImage credit: barnquilttrails.ca, ‘Rosebud’

Chatham-Kent

Travel to Ontario’s Southwest where the roots of rural life and quilt culture run deep. Choose from the East Chatham-Kent Barn Quilt Trail, Thames River Barn Quilt Trail and Longwoods Barn Quilt Trail. Or experience them all.

While here:
Combine a barn quilt trail visit with events at Pastime Pieces, a two-story barn converted into a quilt shop. Catch up on the latest in quilting products, fabrics, and inspirational project ideas.

BarnQuilt_PortHopeImage credit: Osland Farm Market, ‘The Osland Farm’

Port Hope

Explore the 23 heritage barns throughout urban and rural Port Hope that were recognized for their architectural significance during Canada150 celebration. Be sure to download the Interactive Driving Tour before heading out, great for directions and points of interest along the route.

While here:
Enjoy family-style comfort eating at Ganarascals by day, and check out featured local musical acts on select evenings. While in town, pick up essential quilting supplies at Cozy Quilts.

BarnQuilt_CavanMonaghan2Image credit: Marjorie MacDonald, Cavan Monaghan Trail, ‘Quilt Owl’

Cavan Monaghan

Local quilters, artists and craftspeople in this Peterborough County township have collaborated to produce various barn quilt installations that showcase the history and value of agriculture in the community. Self-guided walking tour maps are available.

While here:
Take a walking tour of the charming Village of Millbrook and see the barn quilts displayed by local businesses. Visit resident quilt shops Kawartha Quilting and Sewing and The Quilter’s Bolt. Get to know the community at Quilter’s Bolt, where there’s never a shortage of exciting craft activities like sewing parties.

BarnQuilt_SimcoeImage credit: County of Simcoe, ‘Mother’s Choice’

Simcoe County

Over 100 barn quilts by Simcoe County artists and farmers are on colourful display.

While here:
Make a group reservation for a quilting getaway retreat at Fireside Retreat, equipped with essential sewing and craft amenities, not to mention all the comforts of this lovingly restored home dating back to the 1830s. Stop by Thimbles & Things for quilting supplies.

Barn quilt design named ‘Northern Lights’ Image credit: Ryde Barn Quilt Trail, ‘Northern Lights’

Gravenhurst

Follow the Ryde Barn Quilt Trail to experience the history of the former Ryde Township, now part of the town of Gravenhurst. The trail’s 26 quilt sites were erected in 2014 in celebration of 135 years of settlement in Ryde.

While here:
Enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a homemade baked good at Camp Muskoka Coffeehouse in Bracebridge before heading over to Quilting in Muskoka to check out the latest patterns and signing up for a quilting class.

Vivid blue and purple design on rustic barn in NiagaraImage credit: Niagara Barn Quilts, ‘Carpenter’s Wheel’

Niagara

Although they currently have a modest barn quilt representation, community members of Niagara Barn Quilts are quickly spreading the word about their pride in the region’s rural past and present. As the group’s motto says, they’re ‘making Niagara beautiful one quilt at a time’.

While here:
The quaint village of Jordan is an ideal home base, and not only because it’s home to some of this tour’s must-sees. You can’t go wrong with the wine country dining and accommodations you’ll find at Inn On The Twenty.

GIVE THE GIFT OF QUILTS
Inspired to buy a fabric quilt for yourself or a loved one? It’s not too late to mark your 2020 calendar to attend one of the hottest quilt auctions in the province. New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale, located just outside Kitchener, takes place the last Friday and Saturday in May. It’s an event that many quilters or quilters-at-heart will want to put on their spring travel bucket list. Known for its sale of quilts, crafts and food, the money raised funds the Mennonite Central Committee’s relief work around the world.

Barn quilt trails continue to grow, transforming the barnscapes of Ontario into works of art. Visit barnquilttrails.ca to learn about all the trails in Ontario.

Please be mindful that many of Ontario’s barn quilts are on private property. Unless open to the public, please admire the artwork safely from adjacent roadways.

Main photo credit: barnquilttrails.ca