Welcome to Ohio

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Ohio Postcard

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.

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Postcard with a beautiful view of Cincinnati…taken from Kentucky. You don’t have Cincinnati without Northern Kentucky.

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.

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Postcard of Greater Cincinnati. The I-275 loop goes through 3 states: Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.

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.

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Ohio Star Quilt Block Coloring Sheet

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.

My Quilt History

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This isn’t my first quilt. I’m willing to bet my mom made it anyway. She made the doll, “Picture,” that I’m hugging.

The first quilt my mom made and hand-quilted for me sat years and years on the large wooden quilt frame that only fit in our living room. For what felt like eternity, the quilt on the frame was a fixture of our house. I walked past it daily, played and watched TV nearby, all while knowing that when my mom finished it, it would be mine. All mine–I didn’t have to share and it wasn’t going to be passed on or down from a sibling. I think it felt like a long time partly because that is simply how time passes when you are a kid, very slowly.

When I received my college graduation quilt in the mail from my mom a mere year, maybe year and a half, after I had received my diploma, I called her to let her know it arrived and how much I loved it. The yellow and blue-purple fabrics, the chicken hand-quilted near the bottom. I also marveled at her speed. She replied that of course she had gotten it completed quickly, because she didn’t have us kids around bugging her!

For my entire life, I have slept under a quilt made by someone I know. That is, I have never slept under a quilt made to be sold in a big box or department store. I believe that I get good sleep because of this. I despise big, fluffy comforters. You’re doing it wrong, I think when someone tries to explain down and duvets. At one of my past jobs, I wrote descriptions of both “factory” quilts and comforters. I was privy to a conversation or email chain that included a member of the buying department. She explained that quilts were actually summer bedding, because they’re thinner and cooler than their winter counterparts, the dreaded comforter. Again, I thought, you’re doing it wrong. Just layer your quilts (like I do). The weight of 2-3 quilts is comforting. And, when your mom is a prolific quilter and has been your entire life, you have the 2-3 quilts required to keep you warm when the temperature dips to 20F or colder at night.

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Posing in my First Communion dress in front of the quilt frame. This was not my quilt. I don’t have a picture of it.

Quilts have always been in the backdrop of my life, but I have never endeavored to make my own. In fact, I have told my mom that I wouldn’t take up quilting until she was unable to keep me and my family “covered,” in which case, by necessity and my desire to always sleep under a quilt and for my children to do the same as long as they are living under my roof, I would take up the craft. We haven’t reached that point, but I am already dabbling in the art.

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Planning this new quilt project.

My mom liked something quilty on Facebook, which made it pop up in my feed. It caught my eye, and I went down a rabbit hole of modern quilts. I thumbed through photos and photos of textile eye-candy. A few months later, I joined the Modern Quilt Guild. A year later, I signed up for a block of the month program. Another year later and I am setting out on my own quilt project.

Update: 2017 Sarah Fielke Down the Rabbit Hole Block of the Month

Month 4 of the Down the Rabbit Hole quilt took me forever to complete. In fact, I’m about half of a month behind. First, I had to pick out 10 new fabrics. Then, I had to cut out a bazillion little pieces. Of course, when you have a bazillion pieces, you have to stitch them together. My sewing machine lives in a storage tub under my desk. So, I have to have a clear schedule to pull it out.

Finally! That day (or 2 or 3) came. Behold the next installment of my Sarah Fielke Block of the Month 2017 quilt!

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Sarah Fielke Block of the Month 2017, Down the Rabbit Hole, Month 4 Complete

Okay, it was a lot of work, but I’m LOVING it. I’ve been sweating in the fabric store as I pick out new colors. I’ve been trying to use some of the same colors over. For example, the house roofs are made from the same fabrics as the flowers and the wedges of the center circle. The small center circle, flower centers, and windows are all the same yellow fabric. My goal is not only to keep some consistency within the colors, but to use up as much fabric as I can–not that a stash is a bad thing!

As you may have guessed, because I was behind on this, I’m behind on month 5. But, it appears to be less work and uses techniques I’ve already learned with this quilt.

Update: 2017 Sarah Fielke Down the Rabbit Hole Block of the Month

I’m nowhere close to having this quilt done, but I have completed the third month of the pattern! Behold!

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Sarah Fielke Block of the Month 2017–Third Month Completed

I’m happy with the colors. And, it’s such a relief, because I’m not necessarily the best with putting colors and prints together. Month 2 and 3 had a lot of hand stitching in the form of needle turn applique. That thin dark blue border was machine stitched. Because my sewing machine doesn’t live out in the open, it is an occasion when it comes out. I try to only break it out when I know I have enough time to tackle my current project, plus something on my “to-sew” list.

So, when I stitched on the border, I also stitched loops of ribbon onto my kids’ towels.

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Ribbon loop sewn onto a towel for hanging convenience.

I saw this on the Internet a year or two or three ago and mentally cataloged the idea. I put some semi-permanent hooks onto their bedroom doors. It’s such an easy solution. Bonus: because they’re just towels, I didn’t have to fuss over ribbon or thread colors. What I had was what I used. Function over form!

Now, I’m working on Month 4 of the block of the month pattern. There are a lot of little pieces I have to cut out. Everything is machine stitched, too. We’ll see if I can get all the stitching done in one sitting–I’ll keep you posted!

2017 Sarah Fielke Down the Rabbit Hole Block of the Month

At the end of January, I started Sarah Fielke’s Down the Rabbit Hole Block of the Month program. I’m pretty confident that I can finish the quilt top in 2017 or at least a month or two into 2018. The challenge is going to be turning it into a finished quilt. I’m loving this program. There is a private Facebook group that allows participants to share their progress. Everyone’s beautiful work is an endless supply of quilty eye-candy!

Here’s where I was in the midst of January’s pattern:

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Work in progress on my Sarah Fielke “Down the Rabbit Hole” Block of the Month Quilt

I have high hopes that I’ll get February’s work done before March’s pattern is released at the end of the month!