Adams County “Lemon Star” barn quilt (photo courtesy of Adams County Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Ohio Life

How Ohio Launched America's Barn Quilt Phenomenon

The barn quilt phenomenon began in Adams County more than two decades ago. Today, there are driving tours across Ohio and far beyond that invite travelers to hit the road.

The concept is a simple one: Take the beautiful and colorful designs found in the rural folk art of quilting and place them on the side of barns throughout the countryside as a public art project to boost tourism. Donna Sue Groves organized the first collection of barn quilts across southwest Ohio’s Adams County in 2001. Soon after, others were launching similar public art projects. In the decades since, the idea has stretched far beyond Ohio, with barn quilt trails found as far away as California and Texas. One needs only to browse Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement author Suzi Parron’s website,, to see the multitude of routes that have grown from Groves’ idea, including more than three dozen across Ohio.


Adams County
Donna Sue Groves initially wanted to display a painted quilt design on her family’s Adams County barn as a tribute to her late mother, who was a quilter. As she talked about the idea, it was suggested she find other barns across the county to display similar designs. That seed of an idea grew into the first barn quilt trail. The initial barn quilt of the original 20 displayed across the county was dedicated on Oct. 12, 2001. Neighboring Brown County created a trail soon after. Then others did, too. “One county took the idea and then another county took it,” says Tom Cross, executive director of the Adams County Visitors Bureau. “It started right here.”

Adams County Hourglass quilt barn (photo courtesy of Adams County Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Hourglass: Many different blocks have been named “hourglass,” but this is the earliest one found. 32901 St. Rte. 41, Peebles 45660

Adams County “Windmill” barn quilt (photo courtesy of Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Windmill: Windmill is one of the oldest of the four-patch patterns. 1510 Beasley Fork Rd., West Union 45693

Adams County Bow Tie quilt barn (photo courtesy of Adams County Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Bow Tie: Based on the four-patch piecing, this pattern can vary widely in appearance based on how it is set up. 1191 Vaughn Ridge Rd., West Union 45693

Adams County Ohio Star quilt barn (photo courtesy of Adams County Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Ohio Star: Based on a very old pattern known as Variable Star, this pattern is traditionally made using two colors, but may include three. 2345 St. Rte. 247 S., Manchester 45144


Ashtabula County

Kathy McCarty invited Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement author Suzi Parron to speak to her Ashtabula County quilting group in 2013. Before long, she was painting her first 4-by-4-foot barn quilt square. “I made the first six in my garage,” McCarty says. Over the next few years, interest grew with support from the Ashtabula County Visitors Bureau. Today, there are a total of 113 4-by-4-foot and 8-by-8-foot barn quilt squares throughout the Ashtabula County Barn Quilt Trail, including on some of the area’s famed covered bridges. “We have 27 townships, and the idea was to put one in every township,” McCarty says. “But you find out you don’t plan your trail, your trail kind of plans you.”,

Ashtabula County “Flying Geese and Leaves” quilt pattern on covered bridge (photo by Carl Feather)
Flying Geese and Leaves: The Flying Geese pattern was used to point freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad to the location of safe houses. 2670 S. Denmark Rd., Jefferson 44047

Ashtabula County “Windhorse” barn quilt (photo by Carl Feather)
Windhorse: This quilt pattern was made to honor the horses at Windhorse Farm. 8984 Simon Rd. S., Williamsfield Township 44003

Ashtabula County “Community Sampler” quilt pattern (photo by Carl Feather)
Community Sampler: The quilt was conceived as a way to celebrate Geneva’s 150th anniversary as a village (later a city) in 2016. West of 81 E. Main St., Geneva 44041


Miami County

In 2007, Miami County began organizing a barn quilt trail to mark and celebrate its bicentennial. “We wanted to create a small driving tour and get maybe 20 to 25 barn quilts,” says Leiann Stewart, executive director of the Miami County Visitors & Convention Bureau. “There was just so much interest … not only from barn owners but businesses and families that wanted to support it financially.” In all, Miami County was able to plan a route of more than 60 barn quilts and hired Mexican folk artist and muralist Rafael Santoyo, who has ties to the area, to hand paint each 8-by-8-foot design on barns throughout the county. Today, 53 of those pieces still exist.

Miami County “Joseph's Coat” barn quilt (photo by Miami County Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Joseph’s Coat: This coat of many colors is a beloved scrapbag pattern. 3111 N. Rangeline Rd., Covington 45318

Miami County “Log Cabin” barn quilt (photo courtesy of Miami County Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Log Cabin: The light and dark fabric strips represent the walls of a log cabin. A center patch, often of red cloth, represents the hearth or fire. 6345 W. Versailles Rd., Piqua 45356

Miami County “Princess Feather” barn quilt (photo courtesy of Miami County Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Princess Feather: This pattern was on a quilt that was found in the historic Johnston home on this farm property. 9845 N. Hardin Rd., Piqua 45356

Miami County “Maple Leaf” barn quilt (photo courtesy of Miami County Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Maple Leaf: This pattern was selected because of the maple trees behind the farm that are tapped to harvest sap. 11163 Emerick Rd., West Milton 45383