Barn Quilts and Other Distractions

I thought I would share with you some of the distractions I cooked up this winter when I was house-bound and limited to a wheel chair.

Imagine for a moment you were in my shoes. The surgeon has told you that you must not put any weight on our leg for three months. For the most part you use a wheel chair inside the house. Ramps are needed to get from one room to another. Your chair does not fit into the bathroom and you can’t climb the steep steps up to your bedroom and your closet.

If you must leave the house you rely on crutches or a walker. Ugh crutches. I hate hopping. I hate pulling myself up using just my weak arms and shoulders. The palms of my hands stung from pushing down on the rubber padded supports. I was terrified of falling whenever I attempted those two steps at my front door. Parking lots with ice and sloping pathways were another nightmare. At first I couldn’t even climb up into Warren’s truck. I’m lucky he is such an industrious handy guy. He built me a beautiful big ramp. Once in the truck I loved the drive. I loved being out and about seeing the fields and countryside again. I rarely got out of the truck unless I had a necessary medical or physio appointment. It was just so much effort. For the first time you notice that the world is filled with narrow and heavy doors you can’t open. There are steps and stairs everywhere. Obviously life is easier if you just stay home and don’t try to move out of the chair.

How do you pass the time? TV is always an option. I read many, many books and magazines. Preparing things in the kitchen had its limitations. I usually got half way through my recipe and was overcome with exhaustion. Just the effort of gathering all of the ingredients out of the frig and cupboards was an achievement. Everything was out of reach including the kitchen sink.

I enjoy painting. In an effort to give me something to do, Warren carried my large drafting table down from the loft and set up all of my art supplies in a corner of the living room. I had a particular project in mind. I wanted to paint myself a barn quilt.

I had never heard of a barn quilt before this winter. Our local Baxter Arts Centre advertised a workshop to create these wooden painted art installations. I was intrigued. Barn quilts are colourful murals hung on the side of a barn or any farm building. They have to be large and bold. The best ones are visible even from a distance. They are made of large sheets of ply wood and painted to look like a traditional block design quilt. My community of Prince Edward County was hoping to start a Barn Quilt Trail. These quilts will be hung on barns throughout the County and maps issued. Tourists will be able to drive around and view these huge outdoor paintings from the road. Similar projects have been successful in Ohio and southwestern Ontario. I really wanted to create my own.

The Baxter Arts Centre had ten scary steep concrete steps leading up to the front door. There was no way could I attend the workshop. Luckily, Warren came to the rescue. He cut me a 48” x 36” inch piece of ply wood and I started this project in the living room. First the board was primed white. Then I spent several days researching quilt designs online and learning the history of quilt patterns. I discovered I loved the star patterns. Some of them had wonderful names: the Brian Rose Star, the Blazing Star, and the Smoky Mountain Star. Eventually I decided on an eight point star design.


The next step was selecting my colours. Painting your own barn quilt is not cheap. I wanted the quilt to have five analogous colours (beside each other on the colour wheel) all with similar values. Using the Benjamin Moore paint web site I was able to view all of their external paint options and play around with different combinations of colours. Eventually I selected a royal blue, a sky blue, a sea green/blue, and a soft violet. $ $ ching, ching $.

Masking tape and a long straight edge ruler were critical tools for this project. After I had drawn my eight pointed star, I masked out the area for the first colour. I painted on one colour at a time and left the paint to harden for at least a day before I pulled off the masking task. Then new tape was applied for the next colour.



It progressed slowing. Since I was working in my living room I was paranoid that my furniture, carpet or hardwood floors would get damaged. The paint cans were opened and poured in the kitchen and then I had to wheel myself backwards through two doors, over a threshold and across a rug to the drafting table. All this while balancing my supplies (paint tray and brushes) on my lap. Sometimes I had to circle a sleeping dog or two.

Ta dah …… My finished barn quilt.


Installed on my garden shed. Nice eh?


The other activity that kept me occupied this spring was planting my garden seeds. Unfortunately my wheelchair wouldn’t roll through the solarium doors. I have to hop off and lift it over the threshold all the while staying on one leg. It was quite an effort at first but as my leg improved I gained confidence. The solarium was lovely and warm. It allowed me to be “outside” in the sun yet in a safe environment. No ice or snow and a panoramic view. It really lifted my mood and was well worth the effort.
My many little sprouts of heritage tomatoes, peppers, cleome, morning glory, and dill.

Green house 2014

Looking back over those fifteen weeks I have few regrets. I see it as a once-in-a-life-time opportunity. It offered me a break from life. I had lots and lots of time to relax, think and do absolutely NOTHING. I had visitors almost daily. My neighbours were amazing always checking in on me to ensure I was safe and not wanting. Many old friends drove out from the city to show their support and keep me company. Warren was absolutely wonderful. He stepped up completely with the dogs. It became his job to rise early. He got their meals. He was the guy who got up countless times throughout the day to let them out, let them in, let them out again. He showed more patience than I have ever seen in him. Warren built me two wheelchair accessible ramps and fixed up the downstairs shower to accommodate my needs. For fifteen weeks he as done all of the shopping, all of the house work, and 85% of the cooking. This was all done without complaint.

Now that I am almost through this whole ordeal, the way I see it, I’m one lucky lady.

Libby sleeping

About westlakemusings

In 2013 my husband and I retired. We bought an old pre-confederation house out in the country. This blog is about our new world in the country as we explore all of life's possibilities.
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4 Responses to Barn Quilts and Other Distractions

  1. I’ve never heard of barn quilts. That’s beautiful. I really like the pattern and colours you picked.

  2. Donna says:

    I love it..especially using your garden shed as a backdrop. And congrats, you overcame the barriers put before you to accomplish your vision.

  3. Pat Dubyk says:

    WOW – what an amazing story and what challenges you have had this winter. There is real therapy in art and your barn quilt is great. I am the Coordinator of the PEC Barn quilt trail and we would be so very happy to post your design and story on our website and the Ontario website, with your permmission of course. Please checkout our website at Hope to talk to you again soon. Pat

    • Thank you Pat for your kind words of encouragement. I am honoured to be included beside the other lovely barn quilts of Prince Edward County. By all means post my crazy story. I’m just happy it is all over with now and I am walking again. What a long winter.

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