Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina

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What is Quilt Trails All About?

by Barbara Webster, Executive Director


We are a non-profit corporation, but I like to call us a community benefit corporation. We

are doing several things that I believe benefit our communities enormously. The most

obvious thing we are doing is putting up painted quilt squares on barns and buildings.

Each of those squares is a history repository. The blocks tell the story of the site where

they hang, so in a way we are giving a voice to the land and the buildings, in addition to

the families who host some of the blocks. Finding the blocks and learning their stories is

a great way to discover the counties and to learn their histories. I like to think of the

blocks as mirrors of who we are.


The side effects of putting up these blocks are benefiting the community. The more

blocks that go up, the more reasons there are for visitors to come see them. We now have

one of the highest concentrations of quilt blocks in the country and because of that we are

seeing an increase in tourists visiting the area. Each of those visitors is spending money

while they are here and that money goes to local businesses and their employees, and

indirectly to the entire county because of the tax revenues being generated.


Another benefit we have realized from these quilt blocks is the creation of several new

jobs in the area. Two Mitchell County residents now have increased income because they

are making the pins and magnets that are being sold in our Gift Shop. Two Yancey

County residents now have part time jobs because of the Gift Shop. And at least six

artists in both counties have seen an increase in their revenues because we are selling

things they make in our gift shop. We also pay a bookkeeper, installers, and I am paid

through corporate sponsorship from Mountain Lifestyle Communities.


Additionally, we are bringing positive publicity to both Mitchell and Yancey counties.

Stories about the project have appeared in Carolina Mountain Living, WNC Magazine,

Our State magazine, Carolina Mountain Life, The Charlotte Observer, the Mitchell News

Journal, The Avery Post, The McDowell News, Smoky Mountain News, The Atlanta

Journal-Constitution and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. We have also been

featured on WRAL TV, WLOS TV and My40 TV, and in radio spots sponsored by the

NC Dept. of Tourism in 6 states. These stories have helped increase positive perceptions

of Mitchell and Yancey counties, and they have brought us new tourists.


These new positive perceptions of our counties, along with the increased revenues and

jobs have all happened because we have told the stories of our residents through the

simple act of hanging painted quilt blocks.


Because I’m a quilter I have seen the power of a quilt to bring comfort and delight and to

trigger deep emotions and feelings. So it is especially satisfying to me as the Director of

this project to see the power of the quilt magnified so enormously and to see it still work

its magic. Our communities are richer and kinder because of this project, our self-esteem

is a bit higher, because, let’s face it, we are all proud of these blocks and what they

represent. We are discovering the many things we have in common, that help us realize

we belong to a community that values family, hard work, education, creativity and

resourcefulness. These are all values we can be proud of. Shining a spotlight on these

values is one of the many things the quilt blocks do. It makes me proud to belong to this

community.


If you would like to help paint the blocks or write the stories, we’d love to hear from you.

Call us at 828-682-7331. Or come by our Gift Shop at the Burnsville Chamber of

Commerce to get a block application or sign up for one of our many projects. There you

can buy the maps and tour guides that tell the stories. You can also buy maps and Tour

Guides off our website and download a block application.

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