Build a Rustic Barn Quilt

Author Photo
By Jordan Shipton, Photos Jordan Shipton

A hand-crafted barn quilt adds country charm to the outside of a home.

Back in college, I missed home terribly. I went to college to study agriculture in one of the largest cities in my state. My decorative style definitely didn’t fit the confines of the 800-square-foot apartment I shared with my roommate, mainly because I couldn’t turn it into a barn! Missing home was a definite drawback to college living, until I found a piece of art —
a barn quilt — that made me feel a little more at home in the big city.

I’d heard of barn quilts, but I never really thought of them as anything more than a giant piece of wood that hung on a barn. That is, until I saw some 1-foot-square barn quilts at the local farmers market. They were a small reminder of the country life I knew and loved, and they could easily fit on my apartment wall. Then and there, I decided I wanted one. However, the price tag didn’t sit well with my college budget, so I left the farmers market empty-handed, sure that I’d never own one because of the price, and knowing I could never make one because my artistic abilities sit right there with my ability to do backflips on a balance board — meaning not good.

Then my amazing boyfriend (now husband) stepped in. Being an engineer, he never buys anything pre-made. From kitchen cabinets to barn quilts, he can make it all. Hearing of my plight, he set about making me a barn quilt for Christmas — and I’ll tell you, it was better to unwrap than any diamond!

After we had officially hung my quilt, he took it upon himself to teach me that all you have to do to make a barn quilt is draw a straight line. So, if you can draw a straight line — with the help of a ruler, of course — then you, too, can make a barn quilt.

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a pattern you like. The internet is a great place to find quilt patterns. For your first quilt, I recommend staying away from patterns with tiny triangles and round lines — keep it straight and simple.

Now, gather your materials and let’s get started.

Prepare the Wood

Step 1: Stain the back of the 2-foot-square piece of oak plywood using an old rag. (Don’t try to use a roller, as it will dry sticky.) Let it dry completely.

Step 2: Turn the board over, and apply the outdoor primer with a 4-inch foam roller until the board is white, covering the entire surface and the edges. Let it dry.

Draw the Pattern

Step 3: With a pencil, draw your chosen pattern onto the dry board. Use a yardstick to make sure your lines are straight.

NOTE: When looking at most patterns, you can usually set them onto a grid. For example, most points and lines will be set an even distance. This is the trickiest part of the barn quilt, and it can be frustrating, but don’t give up. If you have to, pencil a grid onto the board so you can wrap your head around the pattern.

Add the Paint

Step 4: Tape out one color at a time using painter’s tape. Use a pencil to draw straight lines over edges of the tape you’ll have to cut, and follow this line with your scissors. Make sure to press the tape down firmly, and run your hands over it several times to ensure there are no gaps where paint could bleed under.

Step 5: Using a small foam roller, apply your first color of paint. Let it dry, then apply a second coat. Each color will need several coats of paint.

Step 6: Repeat the taping and painting process until all your paint colors are on the board. Let it dry completely.

NOTE: When painting your quilt, I recommend leaving a good amount of white, tan, or other neutral shade, as there is such a thing as too much color.

Seal the Project

Step 7: Rub a thin layer of wax on the barn quilt, allow it to dry, and then wipe off the excess. Repeat with a second coat.

NOTE: Some people prefer a clear coat of polyurethane or shellac, and that’s fine. In my opinion, though, regular car wax works just as well — and is much cheaper.

Display Your Barn Quilt

Step 8: Find the perfect location, and hang your beautiful, handmade barn quilt.

Materials list

  • Pre-cut 2-foot-square sheet of oak plywood
  • Outdoor stain, your choice of color
  • Old rag
  • Water-based outdoor primer
  • 4-inch foam roller
  • Pencil
  • Yardstick
  • 1/2- to 3/4-inch-wide painter’s tape
  • Scissors
  • 1-1/2-inch foam roller
  • Outdoor paint in your choice of colors (I buy the small sample sizes)
  • Car wax (the solid variety that comes in a metal tub)

Tips & Tricks

  • When adding paint to your barn quilt, never use a paintbrush, as brushes will leave stroke marks that make the final project look ragged. Use a foam roller instead.
  • Rather than purchasing multiple foam rollers, I use only one, and simply wash it out between colors. In between coats of the same color, I use a large zip-close bag to keep leftover paint and the roller damp while waiting for one coat to dry before applying another.
  • Add a new layer of wax to your barn quilt twice a year for a beautiful display that’ll last for many years.

Published on Jan 3, 2019