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Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail Preserves an Artform and Tells Stories

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Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Quilt square on back of old barn surrounded by trees
The flower basket design is from a quilt by Rebecca Defoor and is on a barn in Westminster.

Every square in every quilt tells a story.

The story often is told through the generations, with many never suspecting the meaning behind clever designs or beautiful applique.

Now, you can see larger-than-life quilt squares painted on wood and hoisted on barns, houses and storefronts - just about any flat surface in Upstate South Carolina - and learn the stories behind them.

Quilt block hanging on wall
The Bridge to a New Beginning block was designed by Walhalla high school students.

The Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail has hundreds of giant quilt squares on display throughout Anderson, Oconee, Pickens and Greenville counties.

Behind each quilt square is a story that tells the history of its origin and why it is meaningful to the quilter or the owner. Sometimes the finished work represents a team effort, such as in the case of A Bridge to a New Beginning, which was created by Walhalla students to represent their new high school. 

Woman holding quilt looking at painting of a quilt block on table
Quilter Martha File holds up the original quilt next to a square-in-process that is now a part of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail.

Led by Aiken native, Martha Files, the organizing group for the quilt trail first met in 2009 and hoped to have 10 quilt blocks produced and in place by the semi-annual Festival of Quilts in 2010. More than 250 blocks later, the trail represents the rich artistic heritage of quilters across the region. Read more about its history here

For visitors, the quilt trail is a glimpse at an age-old art form, one that was an important part of social life for women before they were in the workforce in large numbers. In African-American tradition, quilts told Bible stories or recounted seminal events in history.

Sidewalk signage in downtown Walhalla for Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail
Walhalla is home to a number of the painted quilts featured in the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail.

The best way to see some of the quilt squares is to use the interactive map and/or consider the suggested itineraries found on the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail website. The fine folks there can even help create a customized map for short or long driving tours of the trail.

Page Ivey
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.