Sharon Kistler holds up a smaller version she made of her barn board quilts. Photo by Linda Grismore
“I got started barn board quilting when I lost my job as a lab tech at Clarke County Hospital,” began Sharon Kisler.
“We had been up to Story City to my son’s graduation. While passing through we saw barn quilts everywhere, they were gorgeous!”
Having been artistic in high school, but never having really painted before, Kistler decided to give barn board quilting a shot.
Her very first one hangs on their barn across the road from their house. The 8 by 8 painting displays bright orange, blue, red and yellow circles in a circle on a black background.
After having done a few, Kistler found she needed to clear coat them several times to protect them from weather damage.
“The first ones have some weather damage because I didn’t clear coat them,” said Kistler. “It seals the edges so the moisture doesn’t get in.”
Kistler said she uses house paint to paint the barn quilts. She has basic colors of red, blue, green, yellow, white and black. If she wants a different color she mixes it herself.
“I usually go with a pattern my customer wants,” said Kistler. “We may work around with color to found out what works for them. I have done a couple as Christmas presents. They have said, ‘well they like these colors’, so I work with that. A lot of times I work with people through e-mail or texting and stuff.”
When asked how people hear about her and her barn board quilting, Kistler replied, “I have been putting my barn quilts on Facebook.” She has a page called Barn Quilts by S Kistler that you can go into and see her work.
At this point she has done 14 barn quilts and has donated one to a little boy with MD for a benefit and two to the Mormon Trail Booster Club to auction off.
The average size of a barn board quilt is eight feet by eight foot and costs $500. A four by four is $150 and a two by two is $100.
“As a rule I can do a four by four in a week, if I don’t have my grandbabies,” laughed Kistler. “I prime my board, I usually go anywhere from two to three coats of primer then I use four coats of paint and two to three coats of clear coat because I do want them to last. I usually go pretty heavy on the edges, because that is where your moisture gets in. Your boards aren’t perfect, so they may have a hole in there, so I want to make sure the hole gets full.”
Kistler said she uses three quarter inch ply board for her barn board quilts, with one side usually being a lot nicer than the other. “The ply board and especially the paint aren’t cheap anymore,” admitted Kistler. “The paint runs up to $40 a gallon.
“I have really enjoyed doing them and coming up with a pattern. The two that are on our barn I came up with the patterns myself.”
Kistler said she draws a grid on paper. She doesn’t have a pattern, she makes her own. She gets a lot of her ideas from websites and said one called Clinton County Barn Quilt Trail is a great site to go to. “They have tons of barn quilts in their area and they post them.”
Asked if she had ever done any real quilting, Kistler admitted she hadn’t as she didn’t like to sew.
When people go to Kistler for a barn quilt, they have designs with them they want done. “The first one I did was for Judy Philbrook, the wife of my art teacher in school,” said Kistler. “He didn’t do barn quilts and she is a quilter, so she came up with a pattern and the colors.
“I did it on paper. Since she lives in Indianola I sent it to her. I would do one and send to her and she would say yes or no and we went back and forth until we figured out what colors worked for her. She kind of had an idea, but we changed some. Hers was what is called a mariner’s compass and hangs on their garage.”
“A four by four fits nicely above a garage door,” said Kistler. “Since there aren’t so many barns around here anymore.”
Kistler said her neighbor, Pat Dent loved it so much she wanted Kistler to make her one. She did the same pattern, the mariner’s compass, but used different colors, as she doesn’t like to make identical barn quilts. The quilt is displayed on the Dents’ shed.
Asked if she paints very many flag patterns, Kistler said, “A few, I have painted flags on pallets and on LP tanks
Having a bunch of paint left over from a project, Kistler decided to paint her LP tank. The neighbors saw it and they liked it so they had me do theirs too. I get lots of compliments on them.
When she is making a barn board quilt, Kistler said she is working on them all day long. She gets the priming done then draws out the pattern on the board. She puts a coat of paint on and lets it dry, doing this for all four coats.
“I am working on it all day long,” said Kistler. “I put a coat on and as soon as it is dry I come down and put another coat on doing it all a section at a time until I’m done. I enjoy them, it’s a challenge some of the patterns have been a challenge to get them on the board. I just have to measure and figure out how to make it look right."
Asked how she transfers the quilt design to the board, Kistler said, “I draw it all out on paper first. Once I get it all drawn out on paper, then I draw it on my board. I have my squares, which are a foot by foot on the four by fours. When I do an eight-foot, which is two boards, that’s an even bigger challenge, but I enjoy the challenge."
Kistler said she has learned by doing, over time finding out more paint, more protection makes them last longer. She also said she really enjoys working with the people to find their patterns, to find their colors. She draws it out with colored pencils on paper to see if that is what they want before they get started on the painting.
When asked if she would like to go back to being a lab tech, Kistler said, “Not really, there is too much politics involved anymore. You can’t treat your patients like patients. A lot of the people I knew would want to sit and visit, but you can’t do that anymore, because they want you in and out! Well that’s not why I went into the field, I wanted to spend time with them and that’s what they need.”
Being a 22-year cancer survivor, Kistler said after six months of chemotherapy and six months of radiation she knows the importance of patient care. “I am a firm believer that attitude makes a big difference, so I could relate to my patients.
When Kistler, mother of Caleb and Zachary Kistler and Cheyene Williams is not busy making barn board quilts or caring for her grandchildren, she and her significant other, Jay Williams, Jay Williams Construction do spray foam in houses. When she is not busy with that, she sells eggs from the chickens they raise and in her spare time, makes home made noodles to sell.
Kistler admits she really enjoys making the barn board quilts, but would like to do more of them. “I know there are still old barns around. I drive by and see a barn and I think to myself, that needs a barn quilt,” laughed Kistler.
If you would like a barn board quilt made by Kistler you can call 641-414-4312 or go to Barn Board Quilts by S Kisler on Facebook.