By Sue Moore
“Women buy into quilt trails and men buy into the barns and farms,” Suzi Perron says while describing why this movement is catching on throughout the US.
She should know as the author of a book titled Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement, with a second edition in the making. That is why she was paying a visit to Kitch and Hugh Rinehart, the founders of the Vicksburg Quilt Trail. She saw a photograph of the barn quilt on Kathy Shook Mitchell’s barn at South 42nd St. in Fulton, and right away knew it was exactly the image she wanted to feature on the cover of her 2014 calendar.
Perron applauded the Rineharts for setting such high standards for the barns they have recruited to hang art on to make up the Vicksburg Quilt Trail. Perron cites the family involvement that Kitch has encouraged. The quilt has more meaning to both the viewer and the individuals displaying it. “It’s quality not quantity that makes for a successful quilt trail,” Perron believes. She has been documenting this art form for the last five years. This has meant viewing over 3,000 quilts and hundreds of trails throughout the United States.
Although quilts are as old-fashioned as they come, the idea of a Quilt Trail first originated in southern Ohio, east of Cincinnati, through the vision of Donna Sue Groves in 2001. She hung a block on her barn to honor her mother who had an Appalachian heritage. “Groves had a vision, got the people together from the Arts Council, sold the idea to the farms in her rural area, and saw the inspired project become a reality,” Perron explains.
This spawned so many other trails that Perron now has the official book on the movement and is writing a second one. It was Groves who got her started, proclaiming that she wanted Suzi to tell her story even though they did not know each other officially until they signed a contract for the book with Ohio University Press.
Perron was an English teacher in the Atlanta school district up until the end of 2013, when the success of her writing endeavors hit her square in the face with a “Wow, I can do this!” revelation. That is, go on the road to promote the book and calendars, plus make some dollars on the side by speaking at the many quilt clubs and guilds along the way.
She and her significant other purchased an RV and set out on the road a few weeks ago. Calamity came quickly, however, as their vehicle caught fire on I-94 outside of Michigan City, Indiana last week. Soon they were visited by police and fire equipment, and ultimately were a day late getting to Vicksburg as their RV had to be left in Elkhart for repairs. From here, they headed out to Canada and many places beyond to spread the word about the beauty of quilt trails.
Perron says she will be talking about Vicksburg’s trail because she likes the brochure that gives each quilt owner’s reason for choosing a particular design with the meaning explained as well. “There is a wonderful sense of community in Vicksburg’s trail, beautiful barn yards, great color and design in each one,” she notes. “Quilts used to be the essential comfort it