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Quilt block project seeing slow spell

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By Amber Coulter

Martha Thomas’ two barns both sport a star-shaped quilt pattern painted onto two 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of plywood.

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Thomas, who is on the committee for the Hardin County Clothesline of Quilts Project, loves stars.

She knew she wanted star shapes to be present in the patterns she put on her barns near Elizabethtown, so she hit upon the “Kentucky star” and “farmer’s daughter” patterns to depict in larger-than-life detail.

“I think they add tremendous visual appeal to a barn,” she said.

Such patterns have been painted by volunteers since 2007. The finished works are transported and mounted onto buildings throughout the county by Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation volunteer efforts.

But as participants prepare to celebrate completion of the project’s 60th quilt block, members are dealing with a lull in participation and orders for new blocks.

Amy Aldenderfer, county extension agent for horticulture, thinks the slowdown has occurred because the project has always depended on word of mouth to draw interest.

There is usually a rush in the spring, about four or five each month, to order blocks in addition to standing orders that come in during the winter for Christmas presents.

Painters usually end the season with a painting party to finish up the orders.

This year, one or two orders have trickled in each month since the spring. There were about 10 orders left over from winter, but painters have only two more blocks to finish before they’ve completely met the demand.

Aldenderfer said the project, which is part of a national effort that began in Ohio, is important to the community because it draws attention to the rural areas of the county and the roots of area families.

“It’s really a way to introduce people to the countryside so you’re not just wandering around looking aimlessly for these buildings,” she said.

The county extension office has brochures available pointing out quilt block locations.

Some participants use squares their family members have quilted to inspire their plywood block, and they’re popular gifts to give family members on special occasions, Aldenderfer said.

“A lot of them go on barns, and a lot of people in the county have the traditions of pioneers that they’ve done for four, five or six generations, and quilting is a part of that,” she said.

Quilt blocks cost $200 to cover the cost of materials.

Painters try not to repeat blocks they’ve already made, but buyers can use a computer program that shows them free blocks that aren’t copyrighted from which they can choose.

Thomas said participants can use more help because there are only four active painters.

They also can use a larger space to work than the room where they work at the Hardin County Extension Service.

Thomas joined the project after being approached with the idea as a member of the Hardin County Homemakers.

“It seemed exciting to me to be involved with something that took shape right before your eyes, and it’s just a tremendous pride to drive around the county and know that I took part in that,” she said.

That sense of accomplishment also drew Maxine Warnshuis to the project. She is now head of the painting committee.

“There’s just something about watching them come together and be finished and hung on a barn or another building that’s really satisfying,” she said.

Warnshuis thinks the blocks beautify the landscape.

She hasn’t found a place yet on her property to put a block of her own, but she plans to do so eventually.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.