The Country Threads Barn, 6-9-2020

From this May 1, 1979 (minus the two lean-tos)

and this

to this today.

My neighbor, Darlene, stopped to introduce herself in 1979 because she wanted to see the crazy stupid people who bought this rundown place!

My then husband Russ and I moved in on May 1, 1979 and started cleaning up the place never dreaming it would become the site of a very successful business. Trash, weeds, garbage, mice, rats, insulation, buildings – it was all an overwhelming mess. Here is an aerial view in 1974 before our previous owners bought it.

Here’s the machine shed and granary that you can pick out in aerial picture. Behind the machine shed is the building that became the quilt shop, an old chicken house – you’ve heard that saying about Country Threads, haven’t you? Iowa’s only quilt shop in a chicken coop! Haha!

They tore down buildings and left them in a pile, added entryways on to the house that were nothing but trash – cement poured lower inside the furthest corner so that all the water ran in – those kinds of things. I couldn’t even begin to explain all the mess I moved into from a very sweet little two bedroom rambler in Clear Lake. After Russ brought me to see it, I cried all the way home.

We moved in and started cleaning – everywhere. (I might add here than Russ was a long distance trucker and gone all week leaving the cleanup to me, my mom and even my Aunt Charlotte helped.). By the winter of 1981 we started remodeling the house – that’s another story – too big to get into. Here’s the winter of 1982.

You can still see the machine shed but the granary has been taken down – the interior grain bin lumber became the subfloors in the house.

Jordan and several other goats came to live but what I want you to notice is the ladder leaning against the barn. To the left at the top of the ladder was a circular hole that I had to reach through to unlock the barn door on the inside and then swing myself to the left and hang on tight to launch myself into the haymow.

This picture is taken from the inside with that little door open – see all the loose hay and pigeon manure?

When we remodeled the house, we built the other garage where the granary had stood.

Then eventually the old machine shed was torn down.

It wasn’t until the mid ’90’s that I started really working on the barn. Connie and I started Country Threads in 1981 and I had gotten a divorce in 1991. Connie and Roy moved to Garner in 1979, too, when Roy opened his dental practice here. A friend introduced Connie and me and the rest, as they say, is history.

The next installment of the barn story will be the cleanup inside the haymow. From the cleanup to this type of event will take a few more years. But it was worth the wait!

Don’t miss tomorrow’s continuing saga of the Country Threads Barn!

73 thoughts on “The Country Threads Barn, 6-9-2020

  1. Danna

    What a transformation with a lot of blood, sweat and tears! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Carol Garner

    Love your story and history, excited for part 2. Thanks for sharing your interesting life.

  3. Sharyn Resvick

    I was lucky enough to attend a retreat in the barn many years ago. We worked on a project from the book, Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!

  4. Jan from SW Iowa

    Thank you for the full story. I didn’t join / follow / buy from Country Threads until the ’90s. Always a joy!

  5. Diane Bauer

    I have always LOVED your barn. I’m a country girl at heart, should have lived on a farm, with a barn, and lots of animals. But beyond that, that flag. Oh, that flag!! Thank you for sharing the history of the barn’s transformation!!

  6. Barb from Pa

    What fun to read the beginnings and see all the pictures about Country Threads. It sure sounds like a new quilt book could be built from these memories.

  7. Carla

    I didn’t cry all the way. We hadn’t found a place to live when we had to relocate quickly one time. But those tears just poured down my cheeks that day as we traveled the highway. A few days spent in the new to us town. Unhappy, the available approved housing, in a place we weren’t happy about being assigned to be, was disappointing to say the least.
    We did luck out to find something decent a few weeks later when we returned with our boys. We survived the five years we lived there. Good times, memories, new friends and some great experiences.
    Thank you for sharing the beginnings with us who weren’t able to visit you while your shop was opened.

  8. Gayle in Tennessee

    I love hearing the story of Country Threads. Can’t wait for the next post!
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Debbie Miller

    What a transformation! I can’t imagine doing what you had to do to get into the hayloft. The little dog on the table in the last picture looks like Hazel with brown spots!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Debbie Miller – that little white terrier was Janey! Oh, I loved that little dog! Killed on the highway. Devastating to me.

  10. Carolyn Boutilier

    Thank you for sharing the pictures and stories.
    Carolyn b Shenandoah Valley VA

  11. Janet

    One of my favorite birthdays was spent in your barn. It was a spring sale my BFF and I use to love to attend. Great memories.

  12. Diane and Squeak in Central Ohio

    Holy cow, or holy goat! That is a lot of work! Thanks for showing the beginnings of your farm and the quilt shop. So interesting to see! What we did in our youth, huh!!! Can’t wait for part two😃😃. It is 81 at almost 11. PM.

  13. Deb Bayne

    I remember the chicken coop very well indeed. And the classes you held in the barn – with sleep-overs.

    Oh, if walls could talk!

  14. Martha Engstler Gettysburg

    Even though I was only at your shop twice I think back and feel so privileged to have found you and found punch needle. I love Iowa and this experience was special. Also found Coulter which was my maiden name.

  15. Kathy Schwartz in SW MN

    Barns of that era were just wonderful. It looks like our barn. Where you have that great flag, we have a holstein (of course) cow. I hope our barn stands forever, so do the baby calves that reside in there.
    Thanks for sharing.

  16. Barbara C

    Thank you for bravely telling your story and the farm’s. So difficult but so good to help others cope.

  17. Julianna

    I like your red House best, although the original is beautiful. I’m just a red girl 😁

  18. Sue in Oregon

    This story is fascinating! I, of course, had no idea of all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into your farm. You are really something! Can’t wait to hear (see) the rest.
    The finishes from the post before this one are So-o-o nice.

  19. Jeanie S, Central IL

    Oh Mary, I had no idea you had to go through so much to make it what it is today! So much hard work; I am in awe.

  20. Margaret in North Texas

    What a neat story–yes lots of hard work, looking forward to the next chapter!

  21. MaureenHP

    Thanks forshating the story and photos about how Country Threads came to be. You really worked
    hard transform it!Maureen

  22. Anonymous

    Hi Mary,
    I hope all is well. I love this story. Coming to the barn for the quilt retreats were some of the best times of my life. Thank you!!
    Michelle King

  23. Patricia Bradford

    Thank you so much for the story behind Country Threads. I love hearing how it started.

  24. Mary Ann

    I always wished I could come to your shop if I lived closer. The history is amazing, the end result even more amazing. Thank you for sharing, looking forward to more.

  25. Mary

    Love reading your story. We fixed up an old farmette. Very similar. Great memories.

  26. Pat Smith

    What a great story! My family lived in Ottumwa and wherever my husband and I were living, we came out to visit in the summer. I was very interested in Winnebagos even then and came up to Clear Lake to visit my cousin who lived there in the summer. My cousin’s husband and I both loved Winnebagos and went to Forest City to go through the factory many times and see their latest and greatest rigs. I had one or two of your quilt books and decided to try to find you near Garner—no GPS in those years. I did find the farm, but no one was around. I wandered up to the barn to see some quilts hanging, but I had no idea where the quilt shop was. I was wandering up to your front door to see if that might be the shop when you caught me and told me that was your house and the shop was out farther back. I went to the back and fell in love with the quilt shop. I was never there for a quilt camp, but I bought many of your books and made several of your quilts. I came back many times during visits to Ottumwa in the summers. One time I came and I was horrified to discover you were closing and retiring. I must have bought every pattern you made as I have a large box with them in it. If I lived another hundred years, I’d never get them all made! As much as I love Iowa, I’ve never been able to live there, but am glad I have 2 cousins who still do.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Pat Smith – and if you were approaching the house, I was likely rude to you and I apologize. There were always people walking in my door – we thought we had enough signs but no and it did get very annoying – I’m glad you continued on to the quilt shop and gladder yet that we met over coffee!

  27. Jan P Jaqua

    What an amazing history, and beautiful transformation!(plus much hard work)…..Jan

  28. Renee Arnett

    I’m enjoying reading about the history of the barn. I attended my first Country Threads Quilt Camp with friends in 2000. Great memories!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Renee – tonight I post all those camp pictures! Wish I had been able to see into the future because I’d have taken more. I’ll bet you can find yourself in a picture!

  29. PJ

    How fun to hear n see the history of you n Country Threads, I loved that it was a chicken coop!! You as I have said before are certainly the Energizer Bunny, by your story you have always been n still are !! What you accompanied over the years is wonderful ! Thanks n will wait for the rest of the story!! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️

  30. Jean

    WOW! WOW! WOW! Its an understatement, but you sure have put alot of blood sweat and tears into your place to make it such a charming home! I am in awe!

  31. Donna Jean

    Thank you!!!
    You’re the best part of my morning breakfast.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Donna Jean – I’d rather have a stack of pancakes and a side of bacon! Haha!

  32. Jean

    Oh my gosh Mary! What a story. I attended a class in the barn when I lived in Mason city. It was a blast. I still have the quilt. Can’t wait for another barn segment.

  33. Connee

    Love the history you are making and the story that goes with it. I joke with my husband that you are the sister I never had. I can relate to so many of your stories. I also love every animal and the joy and pain that goes along with them Keep the stories coming they are a bright spot to every day

  34. Kathy in western NY

    I am glad I grew up in the day and age of remembering playing in barns and valuing them as well. I knew one girl who built her own little library in the loft and I was in awe with the wooden boards for shelves and her books on them. Beautiful buildings, just as spectacular to imagine being built in the days before power tools. This is such a nice memory for many ladies who attended your retreats. Such an enjoyment to read your blog posts.

    1. Marcia Rocheleau

      Fun story to g hv ear and the pictures are great. I miss my visits to your wonderful shop and beautiful farmstead. I used to rendezvous there with my aunt from Eagle Grove. We both grew up on the farm and both quilt so it was perfect. We spent a lot of time enjoying all your animals after shopping!
      Thank you for all of that ❤️
      Eagan, MN

  35. Debbie Archer

    I loved hearing your story. I wondered how it all started. I was fortunate to see your shop one of the last weekends you we’re open. I was visiting my son and his family in Forest City. My son found a pattern he loved. I had him pick out the fabric and that was my first pieced quilt. We loved the area so much we moved to Forest City 1 1/2 years ago.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Debbie Archer – are you any relation to the Archers from Archer, IA?

      1. Debbie Archer

        I don’t know if we are related or not. My husbands people come from Tn.

  36. Angie from Baltimore

    When I read your posts I feel like I am across from you at the table drinking tea. I am so glad I was able to visit your shop when the fireworks convention was in the area. Good memories

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Angie from Baltimore – and I remember those fireworks conventions – the most spectacular fireworks I’ve ever seen!!

  37. Kay Crandall

    I remember seeing your first patterns in a quilt shop and thinking “GARNER?? That’s close to my home town!” My mom and I would always make the trip to your shop when I would come to visit her. I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend one of your camps, but I did take three days off of my teaching job to come to Iowa for the Brannock and Patek workshop in the barn – can’t remember the year, but it was fun.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Kay Crandall – the pictures of that workshop will be in tonight’s post – loved finding them!

  38. Lois Ann Johnson

    Thanks for all of the historical photos and memories of when the farm was first “yours.” I only visited your shop one time, probably nine or ten years ago. I was on a trip to Clear Lake with some friends; they knew about you and wanted to stop and shop. That was a lot of work getting the house/barn/farm ready for living. Good thing you were a lot younger! Weather has definitely taken a turn; it is almost cold outside today here in Humboldt, Iowa. A blessed relief from the heat and humidity we had over the weekend. My Bailey just fell in love with my son (Steve) when he was here for a visit this weekend. I think she is missing him now. We don’t have many visitors. Looking forward to more photos of the early days.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Lois Ann – I loved the picture of Bailey and Steve – too bad he is so far away! I can’t believe I’m going to say this BUT I’m going to close some of my windows!!!

  39. Judith Ann Jaques

    I do not live on a farm but I did have a business at on our property in town. I had a greenhouse flower shop and my Tom used to get so mad when people came on sunday, to the house entrance,to see if I could– please —sell them flowers. I was closed on Sundays.
    wonderful pictures of your lifes work. Love it all.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Judith Ann – there was one instance that a family (with lots of nerve) brought their sack lunches out to enjoy the yard, etc. – as if this were a public park!!! Oh, I could tell you some stories!

  40. Kathy Zuehl

    I am loving this story! Even though I have lived in this area for all but a year and a half, I remember the chicken coop before it was the quilt shop. Susan has some things stored in there at one time??

  41. Patricia Pratt

    I loved this, Mary, and the pictures are amazing! What a wonderful story you have to tell.

  42. Pat in Michigan

    Mary, I am really enjoying your story about the barn and how Country Threads came to be. I can certainly understand the work it took to bring your farm to life. We also purchased an old farmhouse and buildings in Michigan.With 3 young children it was a real commitment. We torr down buildings, remodeled the house, fenced the fields and worked endlessly on projects. But in the end, there’s no place like it! The kids will always have memories of growing up and helping here.
    The DD finishes are really beautiful . The old homestead is a great finish too. Looking forward to Part 2. Thanks

  43. Diane in Maryland

    Mary, this is a lot of fun to read and see the pictures! You have really made it all lovely!

  44. Gail Anderson

    Oh the work you have put it over the years. Love the pictures and you have many memories over the years……… Love this! Thanks for sharing.

  45. Nikki M in Tx

    Loved the pictures & the Country Threads history lesson I am so sorry that I never got to Iowa to share in the shop experience.
    I am sure a lot of blood, sweat, & tears were in the transformation, but it is most obvious that a lot of love was also involved.
    The country, farm, land, ranch life, whatever you refer to it as life is not easy, but those of us that live it find it rewarding. Never envisioned myself anything but a city gal but now cannot imagine life any other way.

  46. Jo in Wyoming

    That’s amazing…work, work, work. I can’t do ladders! No matter how hard I try, I can’t come down. Without a hand rail, 2 steps and that’s it. You climbed up that thing, oh! The snow storm, must be the wind blowing off the corn field causing so much drifting.
    You deserve a very peaceful retirement after all that. No wonder you enjoy the porch and a beer. Look at that view.

  47. Linda baker

    Love looking at your pictures, especially the snow scenes. The barn reminds me of times I spent in a barn at my great uncle’s. My dad would help them milk cows and I could explore all I wanted while we were there. They never had running water or indoor plumbing in their house, and Aunt Maggie cooked on a big black wood stove. Kids today don’t know what they’re missing, do they, lol.
    Lots of work, but oh, the memories.

  48. Felicia Hamlin

    Wow, Mary! I had no idea, that was a mess you had to work with and clean up. I was at your places just a handful of times. I still have fabric that I bought at your place and I pet it now and then. The wind has been horrid. Take care.

  49. ChristieB

    Thanks for sharing the history of your place. Glad I made it over to Country Threads a couple of times. Loved your barn, even though the loft was empty at the time we visited. I always say that if I win the lottery, I would convert our barn into a quilt retreat. But first, I have to buy a lottery ticket! We are grain farmers and don’t use our barn any more since we got rid of all our sheep and the kids (grown adults now) didn’t have 4-H and FFA calves in there. Boy, that’s been 20 years ago already! Hate for it to just sit empty. Do store the lawn mower and Ranger in there and some other small equipment. The cats love it out there! Looking forward to the rest of the story!

  50. Charlotte Shira

    WOW! What an interesting history of the barn and your home! I love your red barn. So much hard work went into that history! Love the pictures. Thank you!

  51. Janice Brown

    Mary, It is an amazing transformation of your property. Thank you for taking the time to sharing this history with us.

  52. Janice Hebert

    So interesting to read about the beginnings of your homestead. I am late reading this, haven’t been on computer in a day or so. We’re building a run for the chickens. I’m so happy to see all of the old pictures! Jan in MA

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