116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Although not a quilter herself, Julie Mangold became the driving force behind the creation and placement of more than 100 barn quilts throughout Washington County.
'I am not a quilter. But my mother-in-law was. And I just thought it was a neat idea,” said Mangold, 73, of West Chester.
The countywide project began in 2007. Mangold had seen articles about barn quilts that were put up in Grundy County and thought it might be a good fit for Washington County, with Kalona known as the quilt capital of Iowa. When the Washington Chamber of Commerce director decided to pursue barn quilts as a way to bring tourism to the county and was looking for someone to head up the project, Mangold volunteered.
Along with a committee of county residents that included painters, quilters and members of the local tourism group, Mangold and her husband, Terry, 74, set about identifying hard-surfaced roads that would make good routes for tour buses. They noticed that the roads went to all four corners of the county in a four-leaf-clover pattern, which gave them the idea to do four different loops and give each loop a theme. They then drove the loops and identified barns that would be ideal for a barn quilt and approached the owners.
'The barn had to be such that you could see the barn quilt from the road. … And we did not do new machine sheds, we tried to stay with older barns, wooden barns, that kind of thing,” Mangold said.
Usually, somebody on the committee would know the person who lived there. Terry Mangold was especially helpful, himself; having been a large animal veterinarian for many years, he knew a lot of area farmers. While a few people declined, 'most people were thrilled” to be a part of the project, Julie Mangold said.
The committee let barn owners choose from three or four patterns that fit with the theme of their loop, then furnished the wood, painted it and hung it for them. The group also painted and hung barn quilts in the Kalona Historical Village, city parks and schools, and at Lake Darling State Park.
The four loops - Agriculture Loop, Amish Loop, Liberty Loop and Nature Loop - use pattern names and colors that are related to their themes.
For example, the Liberty Loop uses red, white and blue colors, while the Amish Loop uses muted colors like black, royal blue and other cool colors.
A number of other barn quilts that are not part of the four loops also are on display throughout the county.
The Mangolds' home is located along the dividing line between the Agriculture and Nature loops. They decided to create their own barn quilt and designed it to represent the BueLingo cattle that they raised. Some people jokingly refer to them as 'Oreo cookie cows” for their black and white appearance.
'Our barn quilt is called a nine-patch, three across and three down blocks. And then every other one is this square that is black with a white stripe down the middle to signify the cows,” Mangold said.
They named their barn quilt 'Cows in the Pasture.” It's visible from Highway 92 on the north side of one of their machine sheds, which has helped it stay in good shape because it is not in direct sunlight.
While they live down the road from their barn quilt, 'every once in a while I'll look down and there'll be somebody parked on the road across from it taking pictures,” Mangold said. 'That's the reason it was done, the whole reason for the project. It's nice that people want to see them.”
Mangold said that while barn quilts are becoming more common in Iowa, when they first started there was definitely a learning curve to creating them.
The first barn quilts were made with a lower-grade ½- or ¾-inch-thick plywood using oil-based paint.
'We quickly discovered that they were not lasting,” Mangold said.
They found a product called marine-grade plywood that was thicker with one smooth, finished side, which worked a lot better.
'If you would drive the loops now, you would see several of them that are faded badly. Most of those are on the Amish loop, which was the first loop we did,” Mangold said. 'There was a learning curve, and we had to learn by trying.”
The quilts are made with two sheets of plywood, which together measure 8-by-8-feet. When they first started, each was framed to keep out moisture. But this also made them extremely heavy and hard to transport and place on the barns. Learning through trial and error, the committee quickly streamlined the process, putting a frame on the barn first and then screwing the plywood barn quilt onto the frame.
While the group committed to maintaining the quilts for seven years, they are well past that mark and it's now up to the barn owners to care for the barn quilts. However, the committee is looking at fixing one particularly prominent quilt on the Amish loop that was featured in a P. Buckley Moss painting but has now faded.
IF YOU GO
For maps and information statewide: barnquiltinfo.com/map-IA.html