Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio started the barn quilt tradition in the early 2000’s when she honored her mother, Maxine, by hanging a painted quilt square on the family barn. She later partnered with 19 other barns so that pieces of the quilt would exist along a drive throughout the county. From here, the tradition of barn quilts grew.
Mark Bentley has lived in Winchester since about 1992 where he and his wife raised three girls. While his job at UCM in Bluffs keeps him busy during the daytime, one of his recent hobbies has been creating custom barn quilts. In 2007 he worked with his father and nephew to create their first 4 foot square quilt—and although he stopped making them for a while after the first one—he eventually started to get requests for more.
A woman in Concord requested the first custom order of a barn quilt, and from there, his work continued to grow. “Each one has a story,” Mark explained. “They come in different sizes, colors—some are even reversible so you can change them up when you get tired of looking at one side.”
For most custom orders, Mark usually requests about two weeks to complete the job, although sometimes it takes less. It starts with cutting the wood board down to the desired size (usually birch or MDF plywood) and then priming the board for outdoor conditions. He tapes off the design with masking tape, and then paints one color at a time. “It’s best if I can have 4-5 going at once, since a lot of the process is just waiting for things to dry,” Mark said. Most projects require 5-10 total coats by the time they’re finished.
Right now, Mark has about 26 different color options and four different sizes: 1 foot quilts are $30, 2 foot quilts are $60, 3 foot quilts are $90, and 4 foot quilts are $120. They can be hung in gardens, on houses, barns, garages—you name it. There’s a custom mounting on the back side that makes for easy hanging. For the tall barns that are too high for a ladder, Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative has been a great partner in lending a hand to hang them with their boom trucks.
Calhoun County already has a burgeoning barn quilt trail with a tour in the fall, and Mark would like to see one in Scott County as well. “Seeing the finished product is the best part,” he said. “I’m working with people in Scott County to try and get one going here, too.”
Some of Mark’s work is currently on display at Buck and Joe’s and Tipsword’s in Winchester if you’d like to get an up-close look—or you can visit his blog at bentleybarnquilts.blogspot.com for more photos and information on how to get in touch with him.