A barn quilt painting decorates a building at United Dreams Dairy near North Freedom, Wisconsin. Lisa Evert, who painted the quilt, operates the dairy  with her husband, Tim Evert, along with Rick and Rhonda Lehman.
A barn quilt painting decorates a building at United Dreams Dairy near North Freedom, Wisconsin. Lisa Evert, who painted the quilt, operates the dairy with her husband, Tim Evert, along with Rick and Rhonda Lehman. PHOTO BY ABBY WIEDMEYER
NORTH FREEDOM, Wis. – When Lisa Evert sees a nice barn, she sees potential for art. The Sauk County dairy woman has been painting barn quilts on wooden boards for almost a decade. She has created close to 60 works of art to date.
“They all kind of have stories which makes it kind of fun,” Evert said. “I just use my imagination (for designs).”
The first barn quilt Evert painted was a volunteer effort to help the Sauk Prairie FFA Chapter. They were trying to get barn quilts started in the area and approached Evert about painting one. She agreed but did not realize it would stick as a hobby until someone else recruited her to paint one for them.
“The FFA helped me get started, and I really started to enjoy it,” Evert said. “They have gone to great lengths to photograph so many barn quilts and have maps available at the chamber office so people can travel the county and view the rural community and its decorated barns.”
Evert and her husband, Tim, have been in partnership operating United Dreams Dairy with Rick and Ronda Lehman since 1997. The farm is near North Freedom.
In 2017, the farm expanded to include Jeff Evert, Tim and Lisa’s son, and Michael Niemann, Rick and Ronda’s nephew, in the partnership. Together and with the help of their employees, they milk around 750 cows.    
The sizes of the barn quilts Evert creates vary, but for a large building, the quilts are typically 8 feet long and 8 feet high. She uses high-quality paint to make sure the quilts hold up against the elements. The work is done in the heated shop on the farm.
Evert begins the process by painting the boards with white primer. She paints the backs also to make sure the wood is protected from the elements on all sides. Then, the design is drawn out, which involves a lot of measuring and math.
“I’ve had my husband help me with different ones,” Evert said. “I had a really hard one with circles which are hard. We actually set it up against the wall, and he helped me come up with circles with a big compass.”
After the design is drawn, Evert uses tape to achieve clean lines. She has learned that high-quality tape prevents colors from bleeding into each other. Creating an 8-by-8 barn quilt takes time because Evert only paints one color per day. Sometimes, Evert lets the paint dry for a day in between painting and before removing the tape.
Most of the quilts are custom orders. When discussing design, people bring ideas to Evert, and she modifies them to make original artwork.
“They’re all unique,” Evert said. “I try to change the pattern a little bit.”
Evert considers the color of the buildings on the farm and said little details make a big difference. For example, if a quilt is going on a dark building, Evert leaves a white border to make it pop. Another important detail is using stainless steel screws when mounting the quilts to barns.
“You don’t want to use any screws that are going to rust,” Evert said. “They would probably bleed.”
The majority of the barn quilts Evert has painted are relatively local to her. Evert said she checks on how the art is holding up when she drives by.
While every quilt is unique, some hold a spot closer to Evert’s heart because of the story behind them. Patriotic themed quilts are among her favorites to create.
“I did a patriotic quilt with an airplane on it honoring the memory of Tim’s uncle who farmed near us,” Evert said. “He was a pilot and used one of his hay fields as a landing strip and housed his plane in one of his out buildings right on his dairy farm. That was a very special quilt and is within a quarter mile of our farm.”
Another quilt Evert holds near is one she painted for the barn on the property she grew up on.
“That one is special to me because that one hangs on my mom’s barn in town,” Evert said. “She is 88 so who knows how long she’s going to live there.”
The parlor at the dairy has one of Evert’s quilts on it; however, she has yet to paint one for the barn at her home. She said the barn needs to be painted before she wants to hang a quilt, and she is also gearing herself up to paint the pattern she wants at home because it is a complicated design.
Evert said it can sometimes be a challenge when someone orders a barn quilt and does not realize the associated cost. The wooden sign boards alone costs approximately $120, and the paints and supplies are expensive as well.
“I kind of run into trouble when people don’t want to spend a lot of money on them,” Evert said. “I don’t use cheap paint, and mine are holding up pretty good.”
While a lot of her barn quilts have been donated or gifted, Evert said she is happy to have a creative outlet.
“Now I drive around and I’ll see a barn and think that barn needs a barn quilt,” Evert said. “Some barns just should have them.”