December’s Ohio Star quilt block is for my daughter, who was born this month 5 years ago. I transformed the traditional quilt block to represent a ladybug, or ladybird. My nickname for my firstborn is “Ladybird” and I’ve called her this since she was an infant.
I was raised in a family of 6 children and we were nicknamers. Everyone had a long list of nicknames. Mine included Mush, Melly, and Tessie Lou. As if written in my genes, creating playful monikers for my kids comes easy to me. Without even thinking about it, “Ladybird” slipped out of my mouth one day as I talked to my daughter while changing her diaper.
I didn’t even really know what the name meant. I was aware that Hank, of “King of the Hill,” had a dog named Ladybird and that Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife went by “Lady Bird.” So, I suppose the name was buried somewhere in my subconscious, to be excavated by something about my chunky baby. It wasn’t until my daughter’s nickname was established that I learned “ladybird” is another term for ladybug.
When starting this quilt, I knew that I’d make a block for each of my family members, my husband, my son, and my daughter. Brainstorming ideas for my daughter, I thought of ladybirds and ladybugs. I decided I’d make a ladybug-colored block, much like I did my cardinal block. Researching ladybugs, I learned that it’s Ohio’s state insect! C’mon, how perfect is that? This block is doubly Ohioan! And, the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden website reports the insect is “officially named the Ladybird Beetle.”
In my mind’s eye, I see a ladybug with black polka dots on red. But, when I Googled images and studied one that I found in my yard, I realized they have white spots on their heads. That’s why the top points of the star are done in white. I replaced the solid center block with another block of quarter square triangles. This adds to the “polka dot” look.
This was a fun block to put together, since it represents my daughter who I delight in so much. It’s also the last block for this quilt! I can’t believe it. Next month, I will have lived in Ohio for 11 years. And, early next year, I hope to share with you progress on this quilt—the assembly of the top and quilting!
November’s Ohio Star quilt block represents winter in Southwestern Ohio. The clouds seem to get thicker and heavier in winter. They hold a spectrum of gray hues and deposit sometimes a lot of snow and sometimes not much snow at all. November is the continuation of October: cooler months that welcome me outside.
Now, I will admit that I fudged this block a bit. I rarely see snow here before Christmas. Winter doesn’t even make its official entrance until December, and sometimes it doesn’t feel like winter until January. But, if you’ll remember, January’s block was for my husband whose birthday is that month. December’s block (spoiler alert!) will be for my daughter who has her birthday that month. So, November gets winter.
For this block, I was inspired by snow-heavy clouds, and the deep gray color tree trunks seem to take on during this season. I chose two shades of gray fabric. Each with cloud-like, curvy, swirly patterns. It reminds me of going for a hike along the Little Miami River in the middle of winter. Crunching along a snow-covered path and pausing at the river’s edge. Watching my breath swirl in the cool air, mixing with snowflakes lazily drifting down.
If you have a keen eye, you’ll see that the center is the same Charley Harper fabric from April’s Ohio Star quilt block. If you look back at all my Ohio Star blocks, some fabrics are repeated. I did this for two reasons: to add a bit of consistency in this wildly varied quilt and for economy. Why go shopping for a particular color of fabric when I can find it in my stash?
Can you believe this project only has one more month? I can hardly believe it myself! It has been so much fun to reflect on my 10 years of life in Ohio and I’m going to treasure this quilt—not only because it’s one of my firsts, but because of all the stories I’m stitching into it!
A couple of weeks ago, I finished the top to my Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt, the quilt inspired by my obsession with pineapple motifs. Because I have an eye for everything pineapple, my mom sent me a couple of pineapple block templates. I made a mini pineapple quilt as a study to see how the block worked and whether I liked it or not. Well, I loved it and jumped right in.
I wanted to do the block in colors that make my eyes pop. I started with leftover fabric from my mother-daughter matching outfits and some fabric I already had in my stash. After making my first block, I decided that doing less than 4 blocks at a time was too tedious. (There’s a lot of cutting and sewing involved in a single block!) So, I made 4 red and aqua blocks.
I felt like I needed one more batch of blocks. Digging around my stash, I found the perfect combination of purple and lime green. Again, eye-popping colors.
Because I was working with limited yardage of each fabric and I didn’t want to introduce yet another color, I added a border of contrasting fabric to two sides of each block. Then, I arranged the blocks until I was happy with the layout. I added more borders as necessary to give it a finished look. As you can see, I worked from left to right, top to bottom, so the blocks on the right and bottom have more borders of the same fabric.
I think I’ll machine quilt it with a large grid and diagonally. It’s not as large as I would like it to be—it’s a throw or large baby size—but after making 13 pineapple blocks, I’m ready to set my templates aside. I can’t wait to keep working on it, but I have other quilts I want to finish first!
Inspiration for the color palette of a new quilt project can come from a variety of sources. I recently gave color selection some thought after I heard a fellow quilter lament that she had a hard time selecting and coordinating fabrics for quilts and that she ended up just using a lot of bundles of coordinating fabric. And, you know what? There’s no shame in that game! But, I think one of the easiest, eye-pleasing sources of color inspiration is designed objects, like clothing, beauty products, and furniture—anything that has been thoughtfully designed. That is, a designer (or team of designers) have spent a lot of time thinking through and trying different colors for the object. These objects are anything and everything, like packaging, clothing, etc. They’re readily available—pretty much everything you purchase or use on a daily basis has been designed. The colors used for a quilt project don’t have to match the designed object exactly. The colors on the object are for inspiration, not for copying, so this isn’t a meticulous way to go about choosing colors. Once you start seeing the colors used on everyday objects, you’ll discover there are endless sources of eye-catching inspiration.
First, designed objects have been, well, designed. A lot of thought and study went behind choosing the best graphics, colors, and words for the item. A shampoo bottle, button-front shirt, cereal box and more have all been carefully designed. This includes the colors that were and were not included in the design. The designer spent countless hours finessing the colors before it ever got into your hands. Even if it is something as simple as a candy wrapper, the person who designed it knows their stuff. They’ve studied color before and every other facet of graphic design. I know becuase I have worked at a design agency and sat through many meetings where just the right color was selected. Trust me, they’ve put thought into every detail, especially the color. So, why not use an object that has been professionally designed as a source of color inspiration for your next quilt?
These objects are everywhere. If you’re a quilter, or a crafter/creator of any sort, you have a sense of style. Chances are, if you head to your closet, vanity, or even your pantry, you’ll find an item that you love simply for its design. I’ve bought boxes of tissues because I liked the pattern on the box! You don’t have to go to a specialty or high-end store to find things you love—head to the beauty aisle of your grocery store and you’re sure to find a tube of hand cream with colors that speak to your taste. But, be forewarned, just because someone spent time designing it, doesn’t mean it is “beautiful.” Sometimes designers take a specific approach not because it’s eye-pleasing, but because there’s already a brand of shampoo with a green bottle sold in stores. Or they have to put “VALUE PACK” in giant, bright red font smack dab in the middle. (I speak from past work experience here!) Choose your inspiration carefully.
Finally, the fabrics chosen for a quilt that are inspired by a designed object don’t have to match exactly. Inspiration is a starting point, not directions to be followed or the quilt will self-destruct. Plus, there’s no way to ever find the exact match of colors, even if you’re a fan of solids and love using those little bitty swatches to plan colors. But this is one of the joys of creating: the freedom to break the rules, follow your gut, and find joy in it all.
I recently made a set of four quilt blocks for my Dazzling Pineapple Patch Quilt using color inspiration from a designed object, specifically a nightshirt I recently purchased. I’m a function over form kind of gal when it comes to my nighttime attire. I found a Liz Claiborne night tee on clearance at JC Penny. I liked it first for the function: a loose, comfortable silhouette in a soft jersey knit. The pattern of the fabric was icing: a tropical print in navy blue and pink-salmon colors. I found this color combination to be surprising. I’ve never thought to pair navy blue and pink. But, a designer at Liz Claiborne thought to put them together! So, when I needed a second colorway for my pineapple quilt, I decided to use this nightshirt as inspiration and purchased fabric in similar colors. As you can see, the colors in my blocks don’t match the shirt exactly (I don’t think my iPhone capture the true colors of the shirt either). That’s okay. The quilt blocks have a similar eye-popping effect as the shirt.
Next time you’re stumped choosing colors for a quilt, use a designed object as inspiration. These objects are meticulously designed by a person who makes a living putting the principles of good design into practice. And, these objects are all around us! From home décor to the wrapper on a granola bar. Precision isn’t a requirement. Use the designed object as inspiration and feel the freedom of not having to use exact color matches. You just may find yourself using colors and combinations you’ve never thought to before!
I made October’s Ohio Star quilt block represent the colors of the changing leaves because I love this season in Southwestern Ohio. It’s not just the changing landscape, it’s also the changing weather. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, the heat of the summer is hard on me. Also, the bugs and insects that thrive in the heat are hard to handle. (There are very few large creepy-crawlies in Alaska—and there are no snakes!) Fall in Ohio brings cooler temperatures that welcome me outside.
Also, I consider this block my husband’s second or “real” block. While January’s block represents him, those shirts, his work shirts, aren’t really him. But fall? That’s him. We met in August after I had been in Ohio 8 months. Our first months of dating were spent taking advantage of the season: we went on a hike almost every weekend. We went kayaking. We went biking. When we went out to dinner, we ate outside. The cool weather made it comfortable.
Every year since then, I am reminded how much fun it is to get outside with the ones you love. There’s the color show that the trees put on and the fun of discovering acorns, black walnuts, buckeyes, and Osage oranges, all things falling from trees right now.
These days, I don’t have too much time to go on long hikes and bike rides, but I have stumbled upon another joy of fall: mulching leaves. I firmly believe that leaves are not trash; they’re just future dirt. Since we got an electric lawn mower (so much easier to use than a gas-powered mower), I have taken over leaf duty. Instead of blowing them to the curb for pick up, I run the mower over the yard every time it gets covered in leaves. It’s satisfying to see the transformation. Also, it’s like going for a walk—repetitive work that gives my brain some downtime to just wander. And, while it’s a good exercise, since it’s cool, I don’t turn into a sweaty mess.
Making this quilt block felt natural. The fabrics came straight from my stash. Some were borrowed from previous months’ blocks, which will lend some consistency when I put the quilt all together. I wanted to include as many hues as possible to capture the variety displayed in nature during this season.