Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Greene County Quilt Project

 You've all seen these, I hope. Beautiful rustic barns in the countryside, displaying huge painted quilt squares. I (of course) have always loved driving by these, wondering how they got there and who designed them.

Recently I was visiting my hometown for a few weddings. On our way back to Bellbrook from Columbus, Art and I decided to take the back way through the country, since we don't get to see much lush, green farms out in California (just wineries, boo hoo, boo hoo!). At a stoplight in Xenia, I looked over and saw this beauty:

 I said, "Look, Art! That's an Ohio Star quilt square! By an Ohio courthouse! Aren't you so inspired??"

Ok, so Art doesn't share my love for traditional, crafted quilt squares. But I just thought it was so unique that what I usually see on the sides of barns was smack dab in the middle of the county seat.

Then, a little serendipity happened. Out of the blue, seemingly, my mom suggested going to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which happens to be about 20 minutes from where my parents live. I have been there a billion times, naturally, and my life is generally overloaded with Air Force business, so when I'm home it's usually not someplace I think to go. Art was back in California at this point, my mom took the day off work, and my stepdad was about to start a new job and had some vacation time, so it seemed like a great day to go.

The first thing we saw when we got there was a huge quilt made up of all the active USAF bases. Quilts everywhere!

It's hard to see because the lighting in there wasn't ideal, but see the square that says "XL"? That's our old base, Laughlin, and the one directly to its right is our new base! Pretty neat, eh?

In the very back they had a whole exhibit all about the U-2, including on the of the old models hanging from the ceiling. Ugh, does my husband have the coolest job, or what? Every time I saw someone looking at the exhibit, I got all puffy chested and proud. Gross.

But seriously. So cool.

Anyway, we stopped to see an IMAX movie while we were there, and I noticed a lady holding up this brochure and studying it:

Seriously, quilt squares everywhere! On the way out of the theater I saw the same brochure and grabbed it. And wouldn't you know it...

(Image via www.greenecounty4-hquiltsquaretrail.org)

My Xenia courthouse quilt square was in there! Along with many, many others... 42 in all. All quilt squares, all built and painted by hand, all on showcase around the county where I grew up.

So let me pause for a second. I'm ridiculously proud to be from Ohio. I think it's the best place in the entire world. I really do. I love living in California, and I love bouncing around with the Air Force, but Ohio will always be where I came from. Greene County is a largely rural, but beautiful county just east of Montgomery County, where Dayton is, so it's close enough to all the "stuff" to be convenient. You can drive down a back road in Greene County for miles and see nothing, and it's still a place where people wave to you driving by. It's really special to me, naturally, and so when I found out about this quilt trail, I had to see it.

The next day, I dragged my mom all around the entire county looking for these squares. We didn't get to see all of them, but I was able to snap photos of most of them. An idea was born, and one that will take me a long while, but one that I'm really excited to announce.

I'm doing a Greene County Quilt Project. Each month, I'm going to study one of the quilt squares on the trail, come up with a pattern, and create it. I'm going to make an effort to contact each of the 4-H clubs that designed the squares to let them know what I'm doing, and get a little more information about the design, the people that did it, and what it took to get these squares painted and displayed. I want to honor the traditional quilting techniques that many of these squares are made of, and I also want to acknowledge some of the modern design genius that went into them. If I do exactly one block a month, this project will be a 3.5-year commitment. I hope to get it done sooner than that, with maybe two or three squares in the months where I have time.

The fabrics? You'll have to wait and see exactly what I've chosen, but I decided that rather than stick with the colors of the original design, I will coordinate the fabrics to make a more cohesive end product. But, because I love ya, here's a sneak peak:

(Image via www.fabric.com)

(Image via www.fabric.com)

I can't wait for you to be on this journey with me! 

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