(Scroll down for barn quilt video)
ASHTABULA, Ohio — Ashtabula County Barn Quilt Trail is celebrating its 100th barn quilt to be installed in just four years.
Barn quilts tell a story, a story of the land or the family, a story about how it was acquired or hung, said Carl Feather, a writer, filmmaker and photographer who also works for the county as the lodging tax administrator.
It all started in 2014 when author Suzi Parron, who has written two books about barn quilts, spoke to a local quilter’s guild, sharing photographs and stories about barn quilts. Guild members Kathy McCarty and the late Christina Angerman fell in love with the idea and wanted to bring it to Ashtabula County.
They organized a steering committee and McCarty painted the first six quilts in her garage.
“I understood the grid system,” she said. “I had never been a painter, but I pulled my car out of the garage and set them up, there was hardly any room to move.”
She, along with Angerman and the rest of the committee, worked to find people willing to hang them on their barns.
“It hasn’t been easy — there were days when Carl or Chris and I would just get in the car and go for a drive, looking for barns to put quilts on. When we found one, we’d stop and talk with the owner,” said McCarty, who worked for Millennium Chemicals for 35 years before started her own quilting business.
The average size is 8 by 8 feet, but they have accepted some as small as 4 by 4 feet for the Ashtabula trail.
Every quilt tells a story, said McCarty. One such story is the 8-by-8 foot barn quilt on a Britton Road barn in Williamsfield Township honoring the memory of Angerman.
It was painted by Gary Tabor, Williamsfield Township barn quilt artist. The pattern selected for the barn quilt was “churndash,” one of Angerman’s favorites.
There are six barn quilts at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds, each representing a different part of the fair — 4-H, FFA, Farm Bureau and OSU Extension.
The Finnish heritage in the area is also reflected in several quilts.
“There was a large number of Finnish people from around the 1920-50s who bought farms in the area and restored them, creating a lot of dairies.”
It is these stories, the heritage, and the art of quilt making the committee set out to preserve.
To help the barn quilt expansion, the steering committee applied for and received an Ashtabula Civic Development Corporation grant. This grant was for $12,000 and helped them get several 8 by 8 foot barn quilts hung.
The money from the grant also allowed them to run their own grant program, where barn owners could apply for a grant to assist with the development and installation of a barn quilt.
For a barn quilt to be placed on the trail, owners must make a 10-year commitment to maintain the quilt and barn.
The Ashtabula Barn Quilt Trail Steering Committee wants to make sure tourists see a quality quilt that can hold up to the weather. Their website, www.barnquiltsashtabulacounty.com, lists specific standards for the materials needed and best practices in creating a barn quilt. You can also find a page for each barn quilt, a photo and a brief story, along with an application to be part of the trail.
The Ashtabula Tourism Bureau has been a partner, adding the barns to its tourism maps and advertisement materials.
“We are finding if it has a significance to them, they become great advocates for the trail,” said Feather, about the barn quilts and their owners.
Barn quilts began in 2001 by Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio. She created the first barn quilt to honor her mother, Maxine, and her Appalachian heritage.
Since then the idea has spread, creating hundreds of trails. There is a national map listing trails at www.barnquiltinfo.com.
One of the great selling points of a barn quilt, is that it available 365 days a year, unlike other tourist attractions, Feather said.
They have witnessed tourists from Montana and Wisconsin who have come to Ashtabula County just to travel the trail.
There will be a celebration to honor the 100th barn quilt installation Nov. 20.
At the celebration, there will be the premiere of a documentary film about the trail, developed by Feather, The Story Quilter’s Threads.
The hour-long documentary tells the story of the county’s barn quilt trail and individual quilts.
The event is from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 20 at The Lodge and Conference Center at Geneva-On-The-Lake.
“The barn quilt trail is itself a great story, considering that it was created by two fabric quilters passionate about their art and heritage,” said Feather. “Their enthusiasm for creating a trail resulted in a grassroots effort that has motivated dozens of property owners to either make or commission a quilt.
“Many of these people are not quilters and had never heard of barn quilts until Kathy McCarty and the late Christine Angerman sold them on the idea.”
Feather began filming the project in March and worked on it throughout the spring and summer.
Barn quilt exhibit
The Lodge and Conference Center will host a barn quilt and exhibit of photos from the trail beginning Nov. 20 and running in its lobby through early April.
The film will play alongside the exhibit, which is open to the public.
The film will be available on DVD at the celebration for $20, as a fundraiser for the trail.
Lake to river. The Ashtabula Barn Quilt Trail Steering Committee continues to support the spread of barn quilts.
Trumbull County now has a barn quilt and McCarty and Feather hope the trend continues.
“We’d love to make a trail from the lake to the river,” said Feather, referring to Lake Erie and the Ohio River.
He notes all the historical connections that tie these counties together.
“These counties have a strong history including the 1818 turnpike, the stagecoach trails and the Underground Railroad connection. It only makes sense to connect the agricultural history as well.”
More on barn quilts
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