They’re speckled all across the Tillamook Coast. From Neskowin to Manzanita, colorful blocks of patterns can be found hanging from barns, businesses and on the side of homes; woven together like patchwork. Only they’re not woven with needle and thread, but with a story.
The Tillamook County Quilt Trail is a self-guided tour helping to preserve the culturally diverse heritage of the area and simultaneously connecting it to Tillamook’s strong relationship with quilting and textiles. It was started in 2009, when the first 13 blocks were placed alongside historically-significant buildings, including the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center on Wilson River Loop.
Now, nearly a decade later, a total of 107 hand-painted blocks have been lovingly placed all over the Tillamook Coast. It’s even been featured in in the books “Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail,” by Suzi Parron and Donna Sue Groves, and “Barn Block Traditions: Exploring the American Quilt Trail with 55 Blocks and 20 Quilts,” by Jane Wickell for being the very first of its kind on the Tillamook Coast.
Quilt Trails, which are popular on the East Coast, never made it further west than Nebraska before the Tillamook County Quilt Trail was created. The originators of the trail were seeing an insurge in visitor traffic to the Tillamook Coast and wanted to give them a way to enjoy the picturesque landscape and draw attention to the area’s history – particularly the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.
“Originally, we wanted to create another tourism opportunity that was focused on something other than our natural resources,” recalls Suzanne Weber, a member of the Quilt Trail Coalition.
They started with the first 13 blocks placed on dairy farms, before expanding to other areas of the county. A walking version of the trail, called Walk our Blocks, is also available, winding amongst the historical buildings in downtown Tillamook.
Each block takes several days to create with half a dozen people working on each one. From the quilt pattern design, to the engineering, to the measuring, cutting, hammering, and then adding layers and layers of paint in precise patterns – each block is a work of art and a labor of love.
The Tillamook County Quilt Trail is kept alive by a dedicated group of volunteers, who maintain the blocks to ensure they are still in good condition, and accept any new orders.
“We are still getting businesses who want a quilt block on their building, and we are still painting new ones all the time,” Weber says.