South of Glenwood near Pacific Junction sits a big white barn. The barn has been a staple of Southwest Iowa for more than 100 years. It’s leaning a bit, but the people in the community still know about it. The barn, and the farm it sits on, belongs to the Lincoln family.
This barn got an update in June when Susan Lincoln and her friend, Marty Shull, painted a barn quilt.
A barn quilt is a section of wood that has been painted with various colors in a pattern that looks like a quilt block. According to Susan, barn quilts were originally created to cover unpainted areas of barns.
Shull, a graphic artist, became interested in barn quilts through her daughter, Katy Anderson.
Anderson, of Fairfield, is one of the coordinators for the Historic Hills Scenic Byway in southeast Iowa. Through her work, she has photographed many barn quilts.
“I think what attracts me about them is there’s an artist part of me,” Shull said. “I do crafts and I have painted before. There always has to be an outlet for the artistic part of me.”
Shull likes barn quilts, but didn’t have a barn; Susan had a barn and thought creating a barn quilt sounded like fun. Together, they decided to take on this decorating project.
“We talked about it last winter,” Susan said. “Marty said, ‘I’ve got enough time,’ so we planned it for June.”
Shull lives in Northwood, but comes to Glenwood every eight to 10 weeks to visit her mother, Mildred Wamburg. Shull often stays with Susan and her husband, Dennis. The two friends started on a Monday in June with a box of crayons and paper. The quilt block pattern - Lincoln Star - was decided upon easily. They tried many different colors for their quilt block, and eventually hit the right combination.
“When we saw the green and yellow, we knew that was it,” Dennis said. “All our equipment is John Deere, so it’s all green and yellow.”
Along with the green and yellow, black dashes are included on the pattern for two reasons.
“One is, it looks like stitching,” Dennis said. “The other is that the yellow represents corn to us, so the black dashes might be corn rows.”
Once the pattern and colors were decided upon, the two friends traced the pattern on graph paper and primed the plywood that was going to be used. Then, 12-14 hours of painting commenced.
The paint is official John Deere paint. Dennis went to a farm implement store and specifically asked questions about what types of materials the paint could be used on to make sure the quilt, once painted, would last.
It needs to last – because it is very heavy. The quilt itself is made from two pieces of ? inch tongue-in-groove plywood and is reinforced, with framing on the back. Dennis estimated that the quilt weighs 150 pounds.
On Thursday morning, the paint was dry, and the quilt was ready to be hung. Dennis rented a man-lift and a Bobcat, and started hanging the quilt on the barn at 8 a.m. Three hours later, the family stood back to admire the two friends’ handiwork.
The project cost about $350 to $400 in supplies, but the barn quilt is priceless to the Lincoln family, as the barn itself is the source of many memories and much pride.
“Those cold winter days, you’d actually want to milk cows and feed the horses, because it was warm in there,” said Dennis’ father, Dean Lincoln.
Susan and Dennis have lived on the farm for six years, since Dean and his wife, Margaret, retired from farming and moved to Glenwood. Dean and Margaret had lived on the farm since 1950, when Dennis’ grandparents, Roy and Mae Lincoln, retired to Pacific Junction.
Whenever anyone asks for directions to the house, Dennis and Susan say “It’s the one with the big white barn.”
Now, the family can say it’s the big while barn with the green and yellow quilt on it. Just as a quilt is a source of comfort and love, this plywood quilt is a source of comfort and love for Shull, Susan, and Susan’s family.
“This truly was a project of passion,” Susan said.