All posts by Carl Feather

Grant applications accepted now through April 30, 2015

The Ashtabula County Barn Quilts Steering Committee is accepting applications for barn quilt grants now through April 30.

These grants, up to $500 each, are being made available through the Steering Committee to owners of heritage barns in Ashtabula County. Other recipients that could qualify for these grants include historical buildings, museums, libraries and modern barns with strong visual appeal and in high traffic locations.

The Civic Development Corporation of Ashtabula County is funding the project, which will provide grants for at least 12 new barn quilts this year. Up to $500 per quilt is available to help owners purchase the materials paint the quilt themselves or hire a contractor to paint and install the quilt. The barn owner must comply with painting, construction and installation standards adopted by the committee and agree to maintain the quilt for at least 10 years. The quilts will be listed on the trail and in the 2016 Visitors Guide.

For more information, download the application and criteria sheet here in pdf form, or call 576-3768.

Quilts already installed or in process are not eligible for this program.

Artistic Woodworks

jeffThe Ashtabula Wave, an online newsletter, has a feature story about Jeff Scribben and his Artistic Woodworks business.

Jeff serves as technical adviser to the Steering Committee and has painted at least 10 of the quilts on the trail. His craftsmanship, hard work and willingness to take on some tough tasks, including hanging our first 8×8 foot quilt, have been a huge blessing to our steering committee.

Jeff and his wife, Rachel, have four children. They volunteer throughout the community in a number of ministries and nonprofits that are making a difference in Ashtabula County. He recently took the huge step of going into business full time, that is whatever time is left over from his volunteering work and part-time job with Habitat for Humanity.

Visitors Guide features barn quilts

visit guideThe Ashtabula County 2015 Visitor’s Guide has just arrived, and it features a lovely Williamsfield Township barn sporting a new barn quilt!

The Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which publishes the guide, has included the county’s barn quilts on its covered bridges and wineries tour map. The Barn Quilts Steering Committee looks forward to working with tourists and the ACCVB this summer as we welcome our guests to this new tourist attraction.

The guides are available at the ACCVB office on Austinburg Road, and at participating members throughout the county.


We’re on the map, in the book

Ashtabula County’s Barn Quilt Trail will be part of the 2015 Ashtabula County Visitors’ Guide map that directs tourists to our wineries, covered bridges and other attractions.

We thank the Convention and Visitors Bureau for including us and devoting a page to the trail in the guide. The steering committee of this all-volunteer project has worked hard to get the trail up and running in 2014; in 2015, we will work on promoting the trail and expanding it to include more heritage barns and sites, and more large quilts.

In the near future, the committee will announce competitive grants available in 2015 to purchase/build/paint 8×8 foot barn quilts on these heritage sites.

Meanwhile, enjoy the more than 40 quilts that are already on the trail. If you have guests in from out of town this holiday season, be sure to share the quilt locations with them by having them visit this site and download our beautiful, new map!

Also, the steering committee recently learned that our trail will be included in a new book by Suzi Parron, who wrote the original barn quilts book (Ohio University Press). A photo of the Graham Road/Benson family quilt has been selected for the book!



burkholder2Barns and Thanksgiving go together like turkey and stuffing.

Come to think of it, barns are probably even more emblematic of Thanksgiving than turkey, because they represent the storehouse, the bounty, the sense of having come full circle the fourth Thursday of every November.

A year ago this Thanksgiving, Ashtabula County did not have a Barn Quilt Steering Committee. Co-founders Chris Angerman and Kathy McCarty were pitching the idea, dreaming and researching, but the trail seemed years, rather than months, away.

Thanks to a group of very dedicated volunteers, the trail is a reality. More than 30 quilts will be on the Visitors Guide map when it is printed in January 2015. We have a quilt on a covered bridge, and plan to add more. We have quilts at art centers, on gift shops way out in the country and on garages where grandpap fixes the bicycle, sharpens the lawnmower blade and paints another barn quilt. We have one at an apple orchard that’s been around for nearly 90 years, and on a winery that is a leader in Ohio’s wine industry. We have them in just about every corner of the county, and we are working with property owners throughout Ashtabula County to add more in 2015.

Our steering committee has pitched the concept at 4-H carnivals, historical society festivals and fish fries. We adopted the Graham Road Covered Bridge for the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival and raised more than $700 by selling hot dogs, cider, popcorn and apples. This money will be used to promote the trail and perhaps sponsor quilts at public locations. Because we have to earn every dime we spend, the committee is quite frugal with its funding. BTW, thanks to the Ashtabula Arts Center for being our fiscal agent.

While we are giving thanks, I must recognize some folks who really made it happen for us at the Graham Road Covered bridge event. Thanks to you, we turned a profit and got a lot of attention:

  • Jeff and Rachel Scribben, who made sure we had hay bales, coffee pots, camp stove, tables, chairs and so much more. Without you and your lovely family, this event simply would not have happened. Thank you also for being our technical adviser and helping us get that first 8-by-8-foot quilt hung on the bridge.
  • The Benson family, which came out in numbers for the quilt dedication, provided cake for the crowd and assisted with the installation. That quilt is on that barn thanks to the farm equipment that was provided, and the expert operator, Susan Benson. Thank you!
  • Our musicians, Bob Turner from Ashtabula (actually, Preston County, W.Va., native who took the wrong turn and ended up here); Andre Debevc, who made our Sunday  morning so enjoyable; and the bluegrass group from Trumbull County. You guys were awesome!
  • Bob Benson, who was at the bridge earlier than any of the volunteers, setting up the power cord and making sure we had everything we needed. Bob, I hope to have one-half the energy you have when I am 92!
  • Carl J. and Cossette Feather. Although not members of the committee, they donated their time hauling firewood from Austinburg and a fire ring from North Kingsville so we could cook hot dogs over a wood fire. Actually, it was they who cooked the dogs, both days, with help from their grandson and granddaughter-in-law, Aaron and Kristi Feather, and great-grandson, Mason, on Sunday. Thank you for your expertise and patience, for being able to handle multiple dog orders at one time and cooking them to order.
  • Scribblers Coffee in Geneva gave us a generous donation of coffee! Thank you. It made the mornings bearable; that first pot at 7 a.m. Sunday was especially appreciated by the volunteer who slept in his car at the bridge Saturday night!
  • Cold Springs Orchard, Austinburg. The cider was perfect, as were the apples! Thank you for sharing your gifts of the land with our committee.
  • Covered Bridge Gardens, Jefferson. The Prochkos brought a special popcorn blend to the table for our event. Our guest loved the popcorn, and the birds appreciated the lost kernels!
  • Spouses of the committee members, who gave up our company on a beautiful October weekend in order that we could make this event a success.
  • The Ashtabula Arts Center, for handling our proceeds and expenses as fiscal agent.
  • The Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau, for supporting us with printing, banners and a table!
  • The Covered Bridge Festival Committee, for allowing us to sponsor the bridge. Thank you Ginger for all the hard work you and your group put into this effort.
  • Visitors who stopped at our bridge, gave a generous donation for a hot dog, bought merchandise and took the time to learn about barn quilts.

We, as a committee and individuals, have much to be thankful for this November. We are blessed beyond measure to have come together and become friends through this group. We often hear of a lack of cooperation or vision in Ashtabula County. That has simply not been the case with this group. We were determined to make this happen, and each person contributed their skills and resources to making this vision a reality.

Why not consider becoming a part of our effort?

Buying a barn quilt

You don’t have to build and paint your own barn quilt, although we highly recommend it because the activity can create family memories and add another layer to your story.

That said, there are numerous sources for ready-to-hang barn quilts. For those who want a customized barn quilt — a specific pattern or color scheme — Artistic Woodworks (855-2459) offers a complete barn quilt service, from design to installation. This cottage industry is based in Ashtabula County and its owners, Jeff and Rachel Scribben, serve as technical advisers to the steering committee.

Ash/Craft Industries in Kingsville Township offers ready-made quilts in their garden shop. Please note that in order to be on the trail, your barn must have a barn quilt of at least 4×4 feet.

You may find builders advertising barn quilts on Etsy, eBay or Craigslist. Please make sure that, if you want your barn and quilt to be on the trail, you confirm that the quilt you are buying meets our standards for priming, materials and paint. The steering committee reserves the right to reject any quilts that do not meet those standards.

Ready-made quilts are typically less expensive than customized products, and there is a reason for that. Consider the extra work that goes into making a custom quilt. The artist first meets with the client to discuss the barn’s story, nail down a pattern and select the color scheme. Rarely are all the colors in his or her stock of high-quality exterior paint, so a trip to the paint store and tinting of one more cans of paint are required. This paint is expensive, typically $15 to $20 per quart.

There will likely be phone calls and visits during the painting stage as the artist keeps the client informed of the progress. And delivery of the barn quilt, even installation, may be offered as part of the sale price.

With ready-made or stock barn quilts, the artist reduces his or her investment in time and materials. This often results in a reduction in price of 25 percent or more.

A barn quilt, like any piece of art, is an investment. Having a custom quilt with a unique color scheme that tells a story specific to the barn is akin to buying an “original” piece of art. Purchasing something that is ready made is like buying a print of the original.

Every consumer’s sense of value is different; to some, the 25 percent premium for a custom quilt is a bargain. For others, it is a deal breaker. That’s a gray area the the steering committee cannot address. However, because sustainability is essential with any tourism attraction, we will make certain each barn quilt meets our criteria for inclusion. Beyond that, the decision is yours.

How did barn quilt trails get started?

Here is an excellent, short history of the barn quilt concept, as related by Donna Sue Groves in an interview and posted on the Quilt Alliance blog. The Appalachian roots are interesting. Many of Ashtabula County’s residents trace their families back to Appalachia and the great migration that occurred from the Southern Highlands to northern cities in the 1940 and 1950s. Further, Ashtabula County is part of the Appalachian Regional Commission; essentially, in economic terms, we are Appalachian, according to Congress. We have many reasons to have a barn quilt trail here …


“The quilt barn project is a project, or it was an idea, a concept, that probably was birthed about the same time that I watched my grandmother’s quilt and when we would go visit them in the Roane County, West Virginia. During road trips with Mother and Dad, my mother created a car game to keep my brother and I quiet. Since we grew up in West Virginia you can’t play the typical license plate car game when you’re traveling on the back roads of West Virginia, because all you saw was West Virginia license plates. So Mother created a car game and we counted barns. If it was a certain kind of barn, you got two points; if it was another kind of barn, you got three points; if it had outdoor advertising on it, you got a bonus of ten points if you could read it. Barns like “Chew Mail Pouch” or “See Rock City” or “RC Cola,” all kinds of outdoor advertisements. Red barns were higher points. The game led to discussions and questions about the barns, “Were they an English barn, were they Welsh, German and what the purpose of the barns was?” It became a history and cultural opportunity for my mother to engage my brother and I, and my father too, in conversational teaching moments, whether I knew it or not, and they were exciting. I looked forward to seeing barns. And then as a teenager, we traveled through Pennsylvania, where I was first introduced to the German, Pennsylvania Dutch barns with their hex signs which had the most colorful, wonderful, geometric designs on them, and they were worth fifty points in our car game and that was pretty exciting.

So, as you can see, I was imprinted with the love of barns, as I said, and then imprinted early with quilting and the designs. Both were a major part of my childhood and represented my culture and heritage and my love of home and family. In 1968 we moved away from West Virginia, and moved to the flatland of Ohio, and then eventually the path took my mother and me to southern Ohio, to Adams County where we bought a farm that had a barn on it. So, I finally had a barn that actually belonged to us. One day as mother and I stood looking at our barn in 1989, it was a tobacco barn, and I, not knowing that people actually grew tobacco and dried it in barns was surprised to see how it differed from the barns of my childhood. I didn’t understand about tobacco barns because we didn’t see those in West Virginia or in our travels. I said to Mother, ‘This is the ugliest looking barn I’ve ever seen in my life! It needs some color, and I think I’ll paint you a quilt square on it someday.’ Well, that promise or that outburst became a continuous promise from 1989 through the years, until the year 2000. Friends of mine, Pete Whan with the Nature Conservancy and Elaine Collins, the Economic Development Director in Adams County approached me and said, ‘Donna, your mom’s getting older, and that’s really a great idea, you wanting to create a quilt square for her and paint it on the barn. Pete and I will volunteer to help you.’ And I said, ‘Great. I think that if we’re going to do one, we should consider doing a bunch of quilt squares, because I think we can create a driving trail and people will come to Adams County to drive a trail, to see our barns with quilt squares on them, and ultimately that will create economic opportunity. Our quilters can sell wall hangings and quilts based on these quilt squares, and our artists and photographers can make note cards, and we can have t-shirts, and our potters will make coffee mugs, and we can raise money which will help everybody locally.’ And they said, ‘Oh, how can we do that?’ And I said, ‘Well, we need to form a committee and create a plan of action.’

So we did, and our first committee meeting was in January of 2001, in Adams County. My mother was part of that committee. Several business owners, a couple of barn owners, someone from the Chamber of Commerce and the Travel and Tourism Bureau, there were about ten, twelve of us, sat down together and created this model on how we would create a driving trail. Our goal was to hang or to paint three quilt squares on barns in 2001. We applied to the Ohio Arts Council and received funding for our first three quilt squares, and someone on our committee, Judy Lewis who owns Lewis Mountain Herb Farm, volunteered that she wanted to have the first quilt square and she wanted it dedicated at her festival in October 2001. We all agreed that that would be fine. Mother had researched traditional old quilt square patterns, we tried to be very conscientious about copyright with the concern that we did not infringe on artists or designers of any quilt patterns. So Mother came up with about thirty-five squares, and we voted on twenty, the committee, that we wanted to do. The reason we chose twenty quilt squares to develop a quilt trail, a driving loop, was because mother said that twenty quilt squares make up an average size bed quilt. We felt that the trail needed a beginning or it might go on forever.

So the end of the beginning of the story, or the end of that story for the moment, is we hung our first quilt square October 2001, at the Lewis Mountain Herb Fair, with an attendance of about 10,000 to 15,000 people. Then the story was out. The press picked it up. An adjoining county, Brown County, Ohio, called and said, ‘We love it. How do we do it?’ Tennessee read an article in a local magazine. They called and wanted to know how to do the project. Iowa wanted to duplicate the project. I spoke at a conference in Nebraska. Pat Gorman from Iowa was there and heard me talk about the trail. When I got back home, Pat called me and said, ‘Donna Sue, Grundy County may not have all of the bridges as Madison County but we have the barns. How do we do the project?’ So Pat and I collaborated. I went out two or three different times to work with Grundy County and help them to get a good start. And the rest is history. Now we’re up to about twenty-two states, and twenty counties in Ohio. I’m very proud.

Want to learn more about Donna Sue Groves and barn quilt trails? Check out the trailer for the documentary Pieced Together, to be released in 2015. You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website.

First 8×8 quilt on barn is up!



The barn quilt pattern used by Lynn Moore is based upon a family quilt made by her grandmother.
The barn quilt pattern used by Lynn Moore is based upon a family quilt made by her grandmother.

Pierpont Township is once again the site of a new 8-by-8-foot barn quilt.

Douglas Moore raised the quilt on a metal barn earlier this months. The farm is located at 4963 Caine Road, Pierpont.

Doug’s wife, Lynn, painted the quilt with assistance from Chris Angerman, a trail co-finder.

Lynn Moore took up quilting in 2013, after retiring as a teacher. Her friend, Jerilyn Bell, gives her lessons. An Ashtabula Harbor native, Lynn has a family heritage of quilting. Her grandmother, Gussie Mevada Daily, made quilts and gave one of them to Lynn’s mother, Ellen Marie Updegraff, who willed the quilt to Lynn. The quilt is dated 3.14.1914 and there are initials “E.D.” on one corner, a reference to Lynn’s mother.

As with many former dairy farms in the county, Moore’s Farm once was a dairy farm and has been converted to grain. They grow hay for the horse farm market and store the bales in a Shenango Steel building.

A second farm building, which includes a small milkhouse, is used for storage. Lynn’s farm tasks included taking care of young cows, and she used the stalls in the Shenango Steel building for that purpose. A single window on the south side of the building dates to the summer of 1988. The summer was brutally hot and Lynn had her husband create the window so the animals would have some relief.

Continue reading First 8×8 quilt on barn is up!

First 8X8 quilt goes up on Graham Road

Standing with the new barn quilt at the Graham Road covered bridge are (from left) Kathy McCarty, Bob Benson and Jeff Scribben.
Standing with the new barn quilt at the Graham Road covered bridge are (from left) Kathy McCarty, Bob Benson and Jeff Scribben.

Ashtabula County’s barn quilt trail got its first 8-by-8-foot barn quilt the evening of Sept. 8. It also got its first barn quilt on a “barn over a river,” the Graham Road covered bridge.

A crew of volunteers, led by Jeffrey Scribben on Artistic Woodworks, installed the quilt on the covered bridge, which is the centerpiece of the Ashtabula County Metroparks park on Graham Road. The bridge was moved to the land in 1971 when a new bridge replaced the ailing structure. Robert and Helen Benson donated the land for the park, approximately 1/3 of an acre.

Graham 5

The quilt was placed in honor of the Benson family, who were selected the design and color scheme. At 92, Bob Benson continues to maintain the park by mowing the grass and keeping an eye out for problems. His grandfather helped erect the bridge on Graham Road in 1913. The bridge had been relocated from another site farther south, where it was washed out in the great flood of 1913.

The Ashtabula County Barn Quilt Steering Committee funded the barn quilt through donations and fundraisers. It was painted by Karen Rose, a member of the steering committee, and Kathy McCarty, trail co-founder.

The crew that raised the quilt was led by Scribben, consultant to the steering committee. He was assisted by Jerry Rose, Doug Moore, Jim Kujanpaa and Frank Bradish.

Susan Benson provided and operated the heavy equipment needed to install the quilt.
Susan Benson provided and operated the heavy equipment needed to install the quilt.

The hero of the project was Susan Benson, Bob Benson’s niece, who donated the use of a fork-lift crane. Susan operated the equipment, which allowed the team to ease the quilt into place while three men inside the bridge used ropes attached to the top of the quilt to keep it from flopping around.

The quilt will be dedicated 2 p.m. Oct. 12, during the Covered Bridge Festival. The steering committee is serving as the chair for the Graham Road bridge and will have information and fundraisers available during that weekend.

The Graham Road covered bridge is located in Pierpont off Route 7 or Stanhope Kelloggsville Road. It is at the west end of the road and the south side.

Bob Benson and his family selected the pattern for the barn quilt, called "Benson's Bridge."
Bob Benson and his family selected the pattern for the barn quilt, called “Benson’s Bridge.”

Photography by Carl E. Feather / Feather Cottage Media