May’s Ohio Star quilt block is a cardinal, Ohio’s state bird. I didn’t choose a cardinal because of that status, but because I love spotting these birds. I don’t recall seeing a cardinal until I moved to Ohio.
The males’ bright red color is hard to miss. Regardless of the season, seeing the vibrant flash of a male cardinal is a treat. Cardinals have distinct characteristics—head crest and bold orange-red beak—so it’s easy to identify the lady cardinals even though they are a dull brown-red color.
That’s what I’m learning while I reflect on my 10 years in Ohio. The things I like best about the area aren’t especially significant or symbolic or unique. In fact, a lot of them are commonplace. But, I think that’s important, because if I can enjoy every day, then I can enjoy every year.
This block gave me a bit of trouble during assembly. I had a minimal amount of the solid red fabric, so I had to be careful with my cutting. (If you look closely, you might spot a sliver of selvedge.) And, I couldn’t 100% follow the Ohio Star tutorial that I’ve been using. I started there, but quickly realized I needed to break out the seam ripper. I also cut some triangles before they were stitched. It worked out, though. This will probably be my most radical Ohio Star quilt block. I relied heavily on my creative license, but the 9-patch of 4 quarter square triangle blocks and 5 solid blocks is there. The only thing I would do differently is maybe angle the left most block in the middle row. The cardinal is looking a little blocky.
You sure as heck didn’t think I was going to leave Charley Harper out of my Ohio Star quilt, right? Of course, his art is my inspiration for April’s Ohio Star quilt block! As a Cincinnati icon, his work is delightfully everywhere.
Do you remember that huge book by Todd Oldham? It was published in June of 2007. I moved to Cincinnati in 2008. Todd Oldham was/is a design prophet. This 2007 The New York Times article reported his selection as creative director for Old Navy, just after creating hip products for brands like, ahem, Target. When you’re in your early 20s, like I was, you think Target is the epitome of hip design. Todd Oldham shining a “teeny flashlight” on Charley Harper’s work, was no small thing. Enter adoring fans, like me.
You don’t need anyone (even Todd Oldham or Lisa Congdon!) to tell you to like Charley Harper’s work. Take one look and you’ll be mesmerized. I love the geometric shapes—the simplification. So, you can bet your buttons that during the beginning of my tenure in Ohio, I was excited to discover Charley Harper’s Cincinnati roots! When I first moved here, I noticed a distinct lack of hometown pride. Sure, Cincinnatians seemed proud to have been born and raised here, but they had a “it’s just Cincinnati” attitude. Look, Cincinnati is tucked into the corner of the state—commingling with Northern Kentucky and Indiana. The Tyler Davidson Fountain will never be as luminous as our western neighbor Chicago’s Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean”. Cincinnati will never be NYC cool. (As if there was ever a chance, I’m sure some NYC-ers would snicker.) But, Charley Harper is pretty awesome—and on a national level. He’s not just locally known. And, that’s something to be proud of. Heck, who cares if anyone else knows about Charley Harper? His work is so widely appreciated in this town, you can find it in a lot of places. You’ll find a mural of Homecoming (Bluebirds) downtown. (Go downtown Cincinnati to see a lot of great murals.)
Head to Winton Woods and you’ll see his artwork in the park.
Swing by the John Weld Peck Federal building downtown to see an amazing tile mosaic.
See? Everywhere. And, I for one, am not mad about it.
Last year, Birch Fabrics came out with a new Charley Harper collection: Western Birds. I knew that I needed to incorporate this fabric into my Ohio Star quilt. But, I’m going to be honest, I was late to the game to purchase this fabric, so it was kind of hard to find. And, the patterns are pretty large scale. Not so ideal for a 12” 9-patch quilt block (so I have learned). Before stitching the 9 squares together, I was majorly hesitating. As in, I was going to scrap the entire block. I figured I would only stitch it together because I had all the squares cut out.
Then, I figured I could needle-turn appliqué one of the birds onto the front. I’m still not 100% pleased with it. I wanted it to be leafier—to have the alternating trunks and leaves create the feeling of lush trees. Yup, that did NOT happen. BUT! I’m happy enough with it to keep in my Ohio Star quilt and to share it with you! Sometimes, it’s not a win-lose situation! Huzzah!
My Ohio Star quilt block for March represents how spring arrives in Southwestern Ohio. It’s no secret that January, February, March, and I don’t get along. Long nights, cold weather, and post-holiday blues mean that even the consolation prize of my birthday and Valentine’s Day don’t cheer me up. But, sometime in March, I start to gain hope.
For me, this timing is unique to Cincinnati, Ohio. For sure when I was in Alaska, I had to wait much longer—April, quite possibly May—for the signal that warmer, brighter days were ahead. In Atlanta, the winter felt like a blip on the calendar. Fall and spring were such drawn out occasions, that I was never really sure that winter had occurred. Atlanta’s spring began early in the year, giving summer a head start: enough time to heat up into scorching temperatures. In Cincinnati, March ushers in the hope of spring. I’ve seen snow here during this month, this year included, so it has the potential to come in like a lion and out like a lamb. But, a promise is still made.
It is around this time that mornings are noticeably lighter (before the time change) and the evenings last longer (after the time change). The daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses send out green shoots, if not flowers. The thermometer climbs. The birds are chirpier, issuing the official announcement of their return.
Unrelated to nature, or maybe it is, Lent begins and usually some portion of it is in March. That means Friday church fish fries and Easter candy in the grocery stores. Not that I claim to be Catholic (or any other religion), but I have grown to enjoy and support the fish fry at the nearby Catholic church, taking advantage of their drive-thru for one dinner during the season. I also can’t resist Easter candy.
So here is my block. The single green triangle is meant to be like a spring flower pushing through last year’s mulch. I chose purple, because I like it. Ha! It was a new challenge to use the same color in three tints and shades. I bought those batiks at my local quilt shop, The Quilter’s Studio of Loveland. The light purple was a fat quarter my daughter slipped into my basket at Joann Fabrics when we were shopping for my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt. (The green also came from Joann Fabrics.)
I like how this one turned out. But, I may like how the weather is starting to transform into spring better!
It’s true. I fell head over heels for Loveland. The heart-shaped logo. The nickname “Sweetheart of Ohio.” The bike trail and the Little Miami River that run through the middle of the city.
While my husband and I were dating and engaged, we often rode on the Little Miami Scenic Trail, which runs right through the cutesy part of Loveland. One summer, we completed the entire trail in sections. Each weekend, we drove our bikes to where we had left off, pedaled 12-14 miles further, then pedaled back, and picked up the following weekend.
The Little Miami River has provided a couple of weekends of fun. Using Loveland Canoe & Kayak’s shuttling services, we toodled a few miles down the river in the kayaks my husband had acquired. And, that’s not to mention that you can wander down to the river from Nisbet Park and wave to canoers and kayakers as they float along.
But, the river and the bike trail weren’t the only points I used when I was convincing my husband that we needed to find a house in Loveland. Sure, they provided support to my case, but the most persuasive argument I could make is that Loveland has a downtown. When you go downtown, you KNOW you’re in Loveland.
Here’s where I need to go back to my home state for a moment. I grew up in Palmer, Alaska. The town is a destination. Every town in Alaska is, because the whole state is a destination. Palmer welcomes visitors—I worked my high school summers at the visitor center. Palmer has a tidy, charming downtown. When you’re there, you KNOW you’re in Palmer. But to even know that a downtown can create this feeling, you need to also be familiar with towns and cities that have come to be without a strong center. They have a sprawl that makes you wonder where you really are. The limits are twisty-turny. And, if this uncentered town or city is located in a populated state, there’s a good chance that “nowhere” doesn’t exist between it and the next municipality. That is, to get to the next town, you don’t have to drive through nowhere in order to get there. (Common for Alaska—there’s a lot of nowhere up there.)
Looking at Loveland’s limits, they twist and turn and I’m not sure they make any sense. The city lands in 3 counties. Which creates unique problems and customized solutions—like the emergency dispatch. But, what I do know is that when you’re in downtown Loveland, you know it’s Loveland. It has a center. And, that’s what I wanted. Even Hyde Park and Oakley, the two Cincinnati neighborhoods where I had previously lived, had centers—their respective squares—giving the community and geography a focus. It’s what I had in Palmer. I wanted a town that wasn’t just the sprawl. I wanted a center.
For February’s Ohio Star quilt block, I gave in to the Valentine’s Day theme. With a name like “Loveland,” the town has no other choice but to celebrate this holiday. I chose pink, red, and white fabrics to create a block that honors the city I have called home for seven of the ten years I have lived in the Greater Cincinnati area. (I’ll break it down for you: two years in Hyde Park; a little over one year in Oakley; seven in Loveland.)
The red and white fabrics I’ve had for several years. It was purchased for craft projects and not for sewing. The pink fabric I purchased for this particular block. At the time, I didn’t pay too much attention to the curlicue pattern, but as I was stitching this block together, I noticed the cheery curves and like how they remind me of Valentine’s Day card flourishes and the curvaceous shape of the iconic heart. Of course, I added a heart to the center. I would have been remiss if I didn’t. I used needle-turn appliqué to attach it.
On January 8, 2008, I rolled into Cincinnati right at rush hour and after sunset. I lost my bearings once I-74 hit I-75 and I turned south. From the upper level of the Brent Spence Bridge, I spotted a Hampton Inn and decided to call it a night, taking the next exit. I didn’t realize that I was actually going to spend my first night in my new city really in Covington, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River.
I drove in from Illinois where I spent a night with my uncle, aunt, and cousins, and then my last night on the road with my grandma in Geneseo, IL. See, Cincinnati, and the Midwest in general, was not my first geographic choice. I grew up and went to college in Alaska. After spending 2 years in Atlanta, Georgia learning how to write advertising copy, I drove west to Portland, Oregon, where I figured surely my Alaskan upbringing would make me feel at home. The Pacific Northwest, which I had dreamed about in my final months of portfolio school, literally chewed me up and spit me out. While driving back from the airport to the room I sublet in Beaverton, OR after my Cincinnati job interview, I took the wrong direction on the interstate—heading east when I should have been going west. I didn’t recognize my error until the road went pitch black from lack of civilization. The city of Portland did not want me there.
When I first moved to Cincinnati, I had plans to work the job that brought me here for 3 to 5 years before assessing both my career (deciding what challenge to take on next) and geographic location. Should I return to the Pacific Northwest and finally conquer it? Move to Minneapolis? But, just as Portland had made its intentions known to me, so has Cincinnati. The job that I came here for is gone—almost exactly at the 3.5-year mark—but I outlasted it. I married a born-and-raised Ohioan, a Buckeye, who has always lived in Greater Cincinnati. I have 2 kids born here (or close enough). And, the wanderlust that propelled me to the Midwest has dissipated.
I am here.
January 8, 2018 marks my 10th anniversary of living and working in the Greater Cincinnati area—Ohio. In celebration, I will be making an Ohio Star quilt block each month of 2018. The Ohio Star Quilt Block 12 Different Ways, you may say. In fine print: The Ohio Star Quilt Block 12 Different Ways in Celebration of My 10th Anniversary Living in Cincinnati.
There is nothing that links quilts and Ohio for me specifically, except that my interest in quilting has bloomed in the past couple of years. The Ohio Star quilt block also isn’t just a clever name. The pattern has origins in Ohio. In an attempt to nourish my interest and to motivate myself to keep quilting and learning, I am self-assigning this project.
My hope is to have each quilt block represent a facet of my Ohio story. I have a few months planned in my head. I don’t know what the others will look like or what they’ll represent.
My other hope his that you’ll follow along as I share my Ohio story through quilting.