‘Miss Phyllis’ barn quilt brings smiles to Patterson Farm

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2018

MOUNT ULLA — As she watched an army of eight men hoist the third panel into place Tuesday morning, Elsie Bennett acknowledged it took “a lot of prayer and a lot of math” to create this particular barn quilt.

“It’s a lot to undertake,” Bennett said. “I got a ‘wow’ out of Cotton Ketchie, so I knew I had done well.”

Bennett designed and painted the latest barn quilt for Patterson Farm on Caldwell Road, and its 12-by-12-foot size makes it the largest barn quilt in Rowan County.

So say people closely associated with the proliferation of barn quilts in Rowan — enough that Ketchie’s photographs are part of a “Barn Quilts of Rowan” 2019 calendar.

Driving tours also have been conducted on occasion for people who want to see the barn quilts up close, especially in western Rowan. Pam and Susan Bostian have done the vast majority of barn quilts in the county.

The biggest barn quilt promoter has been Adele Goodman, who has worked closely with and encouraged Bennett’s artistry.

“I told her to go big or stay home — so she did,” Goodman said.

Go big, that is.

Most of the larger barn quilts in Rowan County are 8-foot squares.

“Adele is ready to go 16-by-16,” Bennett said, smiling.

Artist Elsie Bennett watches as the barn quilt she designed is installed. Jon C. Lakey/Salisbury Post

Barn quilts are not cloth or fabric. Instead, they are geometric designs painted on plywood that is framed in and attached to the side of a barn or outbuilding.

The installations are a lot more involved — just ask Patterson Farm’s Joe Owen and his crew Tuesday — but the barn quilts are sort of hung like pictures on a wall.

Exterior latex paint is used, and the designs get a clear-coat finish to protect them.

The Patterson Farm quilt is called “Miss Phyllis,” in honor of Phyllis Graham Patterson, mother of Doug Patterson.

Michelle Patterson said the sunflower type of design is appropriate for her mother-in-law because it expresses longevity, vibrancy and energy.

“Hopefully, it keeps us farmers going,” Patterson said.

“Miss Phyllis” has nine different colors, and Bennett said it already is being planned for the cover shot for a 2020 calendar on barn quilts.

The three panels bolted together to form the whole design weighed at least 450 pounds total.

“It’s going to make me smile,” Michelle Patterson said of being able to see it every day. “It’s going to give me energy.”

Bennett and her husband, Brian, delivered the big panels Monday night on the back of hay wagons.

The Bennetts own West Rowan Farm, Home and Garden in Bear Poplar. They worked on the barn quilt in the store’s warehouse.

“Miss Phyllis” is attached to the place where Patterson Farm Inc. Market & Tours has a barn theater. Children learn about farm animals here and the kinds of things you can see on a working farm.

“It’s hard finding a barn that can hold something that big,” Bennett said.

Bennett already has been asked to design and paint a second barn quilt for Patterson Farm. That 10-foot square will be attached to the market building. The middle part of its design will allow for interchangeable colors, depending on the market seasons.

Also on Bennett’s barn quilt agenda will be an 8-foot square for Chris Hoffner’s dairy farm and three 6-foot-square panels for the front of the Cooperative Extension Office in Salisbury.

Elsie Bennett is relatively new as a barn quilt artist. She started a class for painting 2-foot-square patterns last fall, and she has had close to 300 people take the class at her store.

“Then she started painting larger ones, so she’s really taken off,” Goodman said.

Bennett did the purple iris barn quilt that hangs on the side of the Mount Ulla Post Office in honor of Minnie Sue Gray, who was a beloved member of the community.

On the front of her own store along N.C. 801 in Bear Poplar, Bennett created the 8-foot-square quilt in tribute to the late Roselind “Ronney” Steele.

On the Graham Road side of the store is a patriotic 4-foot-square quilt called “Sweet Hearts,” saluting the military.

Bennett says she is self-taught and her creative process involves a lot of thinking, praying and finding inspiration.

“I don’t want to make a barn quilt that looks like everyone else’s,” she said.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.