It was just about noon when we rolled into Barnesville OH looking for Karen’s Quilt and Craft Connection.
And the Quilt Shop Navigator made it easy to find.
This is Karen, who is the heart and soul of Karen’s Quilt and Craft Connection.
When she bought the store ten years ago, it was a hobby and craft store, with one table of flat fold fabrics. “Customers have been the drivers behind the growth of the store,” she told us. And customers wanted more fabric, and then more fabric, until today, the hobby and craft store looks like this:
Karen rescued the benches when a favorite restaurant in town closed and refinished them to use for her fabric displays. “People come in and tell me about the fun they had sitting on those benches and I want to say, ‘Yes, and I’m sure I scraped your gum off them,’ but I don’t.”
Above the benches, and everywhere in the shop, you’ll find an inspiring array of idea quilts, like these darling miniatures:
Or this beautiful hand-quilted antique double wedding ring:
Another delightful feature of Karen’s Quilt and Craft Connection is her friend Judy. Karen became a quilter almost accidentally. Judy, on the other hand, started out sewing doll clothes on a treadle machine and, by the time she was in high school, she was allowed to use an electric sewing machine and made most of her own clothes. Here is Judy, smiling beside one of the quilts she made for Karen’s shop:
It’s easy to find coordinating fabrics at Karen’s. She often displays them right next to the sample quilts in her shop.
Karen’s is a center for a great many charitable activities in Barnesville. In 1974, the town of Xenia OH, where Karen was living at the time, was hit by a devastating tornado which killed 33 people and injured more than 1300 others. More than 1400 buildings were destroyed as the twister plowed a path a half a mile wide through the town. Karen recalls that a church in Kansas sent quilts to comfort the survivors, many of whom had lost their homes, their livelihoods, family members, and friends. The memory of that kindness is rooted deeply in Karen’s heart. When another huge tornado ravaged Joplin MO a few years ago, Karen spurred another quilt donation project for its victims. Within two weeks, they collected over 80 quilts from their customers and quilters in the Barnesville area. Other people in town donated money to fund the trip to deliver the quilts to Joplin. Earlier this year, Karen collected pajamas for donation to the Tri-County Women’s Health Center, which offers mental health services and shelter to victims of domestic violence. And just since we visited, Karen’s joined with other businesses and quilters to make and donate the raffle quilt below to raise money for the annual 3Cs Cancer Walk.
That sense of community and caring fills Karen’s shop to the brim. She regularly features a customer’s quilt in her shop window. This quilt, made by Jill Parks, was in the window during our visit.
“Jill began this quilt in the 80’s. She didn’t know what to do with her t-shirts and began piecing them in a random design. She was so happy when she finished quilting it in 2010. She uses this as the main comforter on her bed because of its wonderful warmth.”
Karen calls her fabric collection eclectic. Her customers clamor for brights, Civil War reproductions, homespun, and animal prints. “Especially pigs,” she said with a rueful shake of her head. ” I can’t keep a pig in the shop. If a fabric has pigs on it, it just flies out the door.”
Things to Know about Karen’s Quilt and Craft Connection and Barnesville OH:
Facebook: Walnut Ridge Fabrics
What to see in Barnesville OH:
The Belmont County Historical Society maintains the Victorian Mansion Museum (532 N Chestnut St), with 26 rooms restored to their original glory. Belmont County is the only county in the state with a total of three official Ohio Byways: the Drovers’ Trail along Ohio 147 and 800, Historic National Road/US 40, and the Ohio River Scenic Byway along Ohio 7. Karen tells us that the 50th Annual Pumpkin Festival, scheduled for late September, is a fete not to be missed.
Where to eat lunch: Karen directed us down the street to Patrick’s (101 W Main St), where I had one of the best cheeseburgers I’ve ever eaten. She also suggested Annie K’s (777 E Main St).
Next time: We reach our first East Coast destination, Baltimore MD. But no visit to any city would be complete without a few quilt shops.