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.
I raised my left hand and motioned with my right to my barely 4-month-old wedding band topped with my engagement ring, “Anchor husband. I’m not going anywhere.” I was interviewing with a trio of recruiters at a creative staffing agency about what I wanted to do in my career. They had suggested tapping into a network in Cincinnati that had ties to Seattle, Washington, as a way to get back to the Pacific Northwest. That is, return to Portland, Oregon, the city that had not too long ago spit me out, landing me in Cincinnati.
See, a mere month, maybe month and a half, after I married my husband, I was laid off from the job that brought me to my husband’s city in the first place. Early on in our courtship, my husband and I had one of those deal-breaker conversations. I had mused about how exciting and fun it would be to pack up and move to Minneapolis or Seattle or Portland—Maine! He seemed confused. He asked why a person would ever want to move to a place where they didn’t know anyone and didn’t have any family. (A very Cincinnatian perspective, I’ve since learned.) I laughed. That’s exactly what I had done in the past 2-or-so years. I moved blindly to Atlanta, Georgia, where the only thing I knew for sure was that I was enrolled in a school. Ditto for Cincinnati, just swap “school” with “job.” He didn’t say “never,” but placed the caveat that family (his or mine) would have to be nearby, narrowing the options to Alaska and Florida. Maybe Texas?
Thing is, while I often tell the story of this deal-breaking conversation, it wasn’t difficult to let my wandering daydream float away. Sometimes I wonder if my drifting, road-tripping phase—a short couple of years—was just put-on. As if I was trying on a hat and my husband helped me to realize that it wasn’t quite right for me. I have been happy and comfortable living in the same area for 10 years.
My husband keeps me here. “I came here for a job and stay for my husband,” I quip often. He’s my geographic anchor, but an anchor in many other ways, too. He’s kept me steady and has, at times, been a voice of reason when my own messy mind has tried to distract me from what is true and right.
I signed the lease on my first Cincinnati apartment in January, on my husband’s birthday. I didn’t know that at the time, because I didn’t know him. It seems fitting that my official Ohio residency started on his birthday. And, so, it also seems fitting that my first Ohio Star quilt block, January’s block, represents my husband.
My husband has pointy elbows and has torn holes in a few sleeves of his work dress shirts. I have had them piled in my crafting area, because while they’re unwearable (for work), there is a lot of usable fabric. I chose two blue shirts, one light and one dark, because I think blue is his color. The block came together easier than I thought it would, seeing that it’s my first Ohio Star. I was impressed with the way my seams match up and I’m pretty pleased with myself. Ha!
When I showed my husband the block, he called it a “cubicle quilt,” because the shirts remind him of going to work. Which, is kind of a bummer. No quilt should remind you of work, unless your job is quilting, of course.