Just when you thought life couldn’t get much sweeter than a scenic drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, something pretty spectacular catches your eye along the main highways and country roads in the mountain towns in North Carolina. First you notice them on the sides of the barns along your route. Then you see them hanging proudly on schools and shops. And soon you realize there are dozens of structures along the picturesque pathways that are beautifully adorned with these brightly painted quilt blocks, each with their own designs and their own unique stories to tell. Welcome to the Quilt Trails of North Carolina, the largest Quilt Trail in the United States.
The collection of colorful mural squares that embellish buildings along this trail are painted to look like quilt patterns and serve as a reminder of cozy wintertime quilting events that brought early Appalachian communities together and preserved their rich heritage through textile art that celebrates life in NC mountain communities. Each quilt block has its own unique pattern, design, and color scheme that connects it to the land, building, business, or family showcasing it.
The idea of quilt trails was originated in 2001 by Ohio’s Donna Sue Groves, who wanted to honor her beloved mother, Maxine, a celebrated quilter, and her Appalachian heritage, by displaying a beautiful quilt-patterned block on her barn. This simple act of love inspired Groves’ neighbors to join in, and the practice spread from county to county, state to state, and soon a cross-country community was born. Since 2001, quilt trails have sprung up in 40 states across the United States and Canada.
The largest span of painted quilt blocks can be found in the western mountain towns in North Carolina, where hundreds of participating families, businesses and organizations extend across six counties that make up the WNC Quilt Block Trail, with the highest concentration of blocks located in Yancey and Mitchell Counties.
Managed by the Burnsville-based non-profit, Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina, the project publishes driving maps for all the trail routes and provides printed Tour Guides with information about each of the blocks on display and the stories they convey. As Barbara Webster, Executive Director of Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina says, following these maps and guides to find each of the quilt blocks is “like an Easter egg hunt.” Trail visitors have fun going out on the mountain roads and finding their way around, guided by the colorful quilt blocks that brighten the trails.
One of the most popular stops along the famous quilt trail is the award-winning sundial quilt in downtown Burnsville, NC, which was installed on March 19, 2010 in observance of the 100-year anniversary of standard time zones, which went into effect on March 19, 1910. This commemorative quilt block is known as “the largest vertical sundial in North Carolina and the only quilt block sundial in the world,” and it actually displays the local solar time for both Eastern Standard Time and Eastern Daylight Time. This must-see attraction is displayed on the side of the Yancey Common Times Journal building just off the town square in Burnsville.
With more than 30 quilt blocks in downtown Burnsville alone, there’s plenty here to fill an entire day of quilt finding while learning each of the stories their unique designs tell. But with so many more to see along the lovely Appalachian drive, trail followers will want to branch out and enjoy the quilt trails that wind through the beautiful mountain towns in North Carolina. There are nine distinct driving routes throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains that lead to a variety of barn quilts along the WNC Quilt Block Trail. And the trail is growing every day as more and more families, businesses, and other notable landmarks add quilt blocks to their own buildings and barns.
On May 17, The Coves Mountain River Club joined in on the tradition by hanging two commissioned quilt blocks on the Round Mountain Ranch barn. Using colors and patterns to beautifully blend images of majestic mountains with free-flowing river waters, the design evokes all the natural wonder and charm of The Coves. The quilt blocks are named ‘Windows to Heaven’. Nature lovers know a home that offers both mountain and river views is an exceptional find. That’s why The Coves didn’t have to think twice when deciding on quilt block designs that represents that rare and wonderful mountain-river combination.
Now imagine yourself enjoying it daily from your custom-built rustic mountain home with a spacious open floor plan on a private lot adorned by lush mountain foliage. Or better yet, come see for yourself why life at The Coves is as comfy and inviting as a favorite family quilt.
We can help you plan your visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains to enjoy the WNC Quilt Block Trail. And stop by The Coves to see our very own painted quilt blocks and the glorious mountain and river views that its artwork proudly represents.
If you’re exploring the area for the first time, ask for our 84 page Complimentary Magazine which provides information about living in the foothills.