AUTRYVILLE — Kellie Tew used a sander to polish a large piece of wood inside a big red barn in rural Sampson County. In a few weeks, she’s looking forward to adding layers of colors.
“I love to paint and I like to see the finished product,” she said about producing barn quilts. “The start to finish is really cool to me.”
As the owner of Tew Barn Quilts, it’s something she’s done for awhile.
It began several years ago while enjoying the mountains in West Jefferson.
“In Ashe County, there’s like hundreds of barn quilts,” Kellie said.
On the way home, Kellie decided to make one of her own. After posting it to Facebook, the request rolled in.
“I just started doing them for friends, but now I’ve done 70,” she said. “I just loved them.”
After the boards become smoother through a sanding process, four layers of storm coat primer are spread across the board. Next, her husband, J.D., makes the design using a precise measuring process. Then Kellie adds four to six coats of paint on each color.
From start to finish, it takes between two and three weeks for the final masterpiece.
“We let each coat dry for 12 hours at least,” Kellie said. “When it’s humid, we have to let it dry for 24. In the winter, it takes a really long time.”
Tew Barn Quilts works hard not to duplicate designs, she asserted.
“A lot of them mean something to the people,” Kellie said. “It’s like a tattoo — you don’t want the same person to have it.”
She’s currently working on five orders for barn quilts, which can be hung many places such as barns, homes, buildings, dog houses and garages.
“I’ve had people who didn’t have a place to put it, so they put it on their privacy fence, so you can see it from the road,” Kellie said. “There’s all kinds of places you can hang them.”
The designs come in various sizes including 2 feet by 2 feet, 4-by-4, or 8-by-8.
“I’ve done them all they way up to 12 foot,” Kellie said, while mentioning a design of the American flag.
Kellie finds time to create quilts when she’s not handing administrative duties at Freedom Biker Church, a place of worship for motorcyclists connected through the teachings of Jesus Christ. J.D. was responsible for establishing the first church in Clayton. There’s now 13 and he’s a pastor for the organization. Spreading the gospel to fellow bikers keeps Kellie and her husband busy, so they’re OK with the current workload for barn quilts.
“We have 485 members at our church, so right now this is where I would like to keep it,” she said. “But I would love to retire and do this full time. This is what I love to do. We’ll wait and see what God has in store for me.”
Her love for making barn quilts has spread through teaching. others
“I want other people to do them too,” Kellie said about helping a couple more people. “The more that are up, the prettier the county is going to be.”
Kellie is also lending a hand to the Barn Quilts of Sampson County project by offering a discount for orders submitted through the program. One of the goals is to provide a reference guide to quilts in the area. The project is a collaboration between the Sampson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Sampson County History Museum, Cooperative Extension Service and Sampson Arts Council. In addition to her love for the project, she appreciates how the practice spread beyond the mountain area.
“It’s really popular and it recognizes American folk art,” she said.
She believes it’ll attract more visitors too.
“I think it’ll bring people to the county because people follow those trails,” Kellie said. “It’s so pretty. It really brings beauty to these old barns.”
For more information, visit www.tewbarnquilts.webs.com or the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BarnQuiltsbyTew.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.