On the Trail
David and Ruthann Kerns on the road.
The Kerns show off their quilt scrapbook..
Quilter Ruthann Kern grew up on a farm in Iowa, and according to her husband, David, “barns are in her blood and she never met a barn she didn’t like.”
She enjoyed taking pictures of barns whenever she found one that piqued her interest. David’s career in the U.S. Air Force took them all over the world, and even after he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and took up a second career as an academic teaching ROTC and aviation technology, the nomadic couple took advantage of every opportunity to pack their bags and visit other places.
When Ruthann and David both retired for good in 1999, their “bucket list” included visiting all the countries they’d never been to before. Wherever their travels took them, Ruthann would seek out barns to photograph, even in remote places around the globe. After they completed their must-see international destinations, they starting touring around North America.
Imagine Ruthann’s delight then, when on a road trip to Colorado to visit their son, she and David happened to stop at a highway visitor’s center and she saw a brochure featuring picturesque barns in Sac County, Iowa. As if that weren’t enough, each of the barns was adorned with a quilt block.
The brochure detailed Sac County’s contribution to the American Quilt Trail, a public arts movement started in 2001 by Donna Sue Groves (see Quilt Raising) that has spread throughout the United States and Canada. “That brochure just jumped out at me,” Ruthann recalls. “It combined two of the things that interest me most—barns and quilts!”
And so began what has become almost a second career—albeit a fun one—for the now Illinois-based Kerns: following the American Quilt Trail and photographing the structures on which the quilt squares are placed (mostly barns, although some squares can be found on other iconic architectural elements).
Beginning in September of 2006, Ruthann and David visited those Sac County quilt barns, followed by the quilt barn trail in Grundy County, Iowa. Since that first foray, they have “done” trails in Minnesota, Ohio, Georgia, Colorado, and Nebraska, and have plans to visit those in Southern Wisconsin, Northern Indiana, Montana, Oregon, and California. They attended the Quilt Trail Gathering, held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the movement in its birthplace, Adams County, Ohio, in May of 2011.
According to David, “It’s not just about the quilts and barns. Most folks who have a quilt square on their barn are eager to talk about it, because there is a story behind every one of them. We have met and gotten to know so many wonderful people. Sometimes just finding the quilt squares is an adventure in itself and that is part of the fun for us. I love to drive and Ruthann loves to navigate and we’ve gotten to test our GPS skills. It’s amazing what can be a treat when you are retired!”
And what to do with all those photographs? Why, scrapbook them, of course! Ruthann had long been making scrapbooks of all their travels, and she was still working on documenting the last of their international trips when they began following the Quilt Trail.
Deciding she needed help, Ruthann hired the couples’ daughter, Kris, an “excellent scrapbooker” in her own right, to take on that task. Ruthann and Dave brought Kris’s handiwork with them to the Quilt Trail Gathering, to the delight of all in attendance.
In June of 2011, the Kerns celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary by returning to Adams County, Ohio to photograph some additional quilt squares that have been added to the Trail there. They were joined by Nina Maxine Groves, the mother of both Donna Sue Groves and the Quilt Trail Movement itself, who acted as their guide as they continue to pursue this new chapter of their lives: following the Trail.
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Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here