August’s Ohio Star quilt block represents my son, born this month three years ago.
To the discerning eye, these are UK colors—the blue and white of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. You’re right. My son was not born in Ohio.
At 32 weeks pregnant, my family and I headed to Lake Cumberland in Kentucky for an annual weekend trip. On Saturday night, I went into labor, but I didn’t really know I was in the early stages of labor. My doctor (in Ohio) told me to take it easy and get some sleep. That doesn’t help when you’re in labor. Sunday morning, instead of driving back to Ohio, my husband drove me to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital.
Delivering at 32 weeks isn’t great. It really isn’t great when you’re a 4-hour drive from home. But! We were in the best, worst-case scenario. The doctor and nurses were friendly, smart, and on the same page as us! My son came out breathing and eating on his own! There was no need to transfer him to a larger hospital with higher-level NICU over an hour away (but still in Kentucky)! We went home after about 12 days in the hospital! (That’s a long time, but a mere blip on the calendar compared to other preemies.)
I had to include my son in my Ohio Star quilt, because my kids and husband (remember January’s block?) are the main reasons I enjoy living in Ohio. My son wasn’t born here, but besides those 12 days in Kentucky, he’s lived here his whole life. His Kentucky origin will always be a twist in his story. He’ll say he grew up in Ohio, but has a Kentucky birth certificate. I can’t wait to hear this story in his own words and the perspective he puts on it.
This block was easy to make. I followed the traditional pattern in iconic Wildcats white and royal blue.
July’s Ohio Star quilt block represents the dense, verdant environment of the Cincinnati, Ohio area.
In late April of 2011, my fiancé and I moved into our house, which has woods at the back-property line. In June, we flew to Alaska to marry. When I left Ohio for our 2-week trip, I thought summer had bloomed, that the trees were at their peak—the world was lush. We returned to woods that were a dense, dark green. I’ve never forgotten the difference that a couple of weeks made.
July is summer settling in. The bright green of spring doesn’t dull because the novelty has worn off, but rather the leaves darken with the progression of the season. I love it. I love looking for signs of the seasons. I love the surprise of the differences.
I find it curious that I relish in the nature of southwestern Ohio so much. I grew up in Alaska, a state that for sure has vistas far more extreme and striking. I figure that I either tune into nature because Alaska taught me to or because I am filling a void created when I left the Last Frontier. You can take the girl out of Alaska, but you can’t take Alaska out of the girl: she’s going to find nature no matter what? Perhaps.
The Cincinnati area is a great place to get regular doses of nature. Cincinnatians value parks. There are many, many green spaces. When I lived in Hyde Park and Oakley, I often visited Ault Park. Now, in a northern suburb, Sharon Woods is our go-to. Not to mention Loveland has a river running right through it and boasts an extensive bike trail along with abundant parks. Neighboring Symmes Township also has a couple of parks we patronize. So, if I don’t notice the shift in color in the woods behind my house, then surely, I’ll take note elsewhere.
So, for July, I made my Ohio Star in three hues of green with a center of brown. It may not match the colors found in the woods behind my house, but the layering of color is reminiscent.
June’s Ohio Star symbolizes the tri-state geography of the Cincinnati metropolitan area, which includes part of Kentucky and Indiana in addition to Ohio.
If you fly into Cincinnati, you’ll know that you don’t actually arrive in Ohio. Instead, you land across the river in Kentucky. If you drive the I-275 loop that defines the Greater Cincinnati area, you’ll travel through three states: Ohio, of course, Kentucky, and a smidge of Indiana. Cincinnati belongs to a tri-state area and it doesn’t go unnoticed. For my June Ohio Star, I decided to pay tribute to this geographic quirk.
I spent four and a half years working in Kentucky. That is, I drove approximately 40 miles one way, crossing the Ohio River, to a job only a few miles across the border. There, I worked with people from all three states. I tend to think of the part of Kentucky that lands in the Greater Cincinnati area as “Kentucky-Light” or maybe even “Ohio-Light.” I crossed state lines to get to work, but it didn’t feel like I was in a different state.
For the duration of my job in Kentucky, the consensus was that Kentuckians didn’t want to live in Ohio and Ohioans didn’t want to live in Kentucky. (A lot of people had river-hopped in one direction or another and had made their final choice. My 80-mile round-trip commute was hard on me and a few times my husband mused that maybe we should move to Kentucky to be closer. I always said no. Because the job would never last that long (I was right), and because I moved here to live in Ohio, not Kentucky. No offense, Kentucky. Although, I feel that way about other parts of Ohio and even Indiana. Presented with two job layoffs in my short career, and thus going through extensive job searches, nearby cities always seem to hold dream jobs: Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis. But, when push comes to shove, I moved here to live in Cincinnati, not another city. And, if I’m going to move 2 hours away, I might as well move back to Alaska.
My block is subtle this month. I broke the 9-patch into three sections and gave each one a color. Purple for Ohio. Blue for Kentucky. Green for Indiana. I like to think of the center white block as Cincinnati itself. The points of the star are Cincinnati’s influence extending beyond the city limits and into different states and counties, beyond the I-275 loop. All of the fabrics are from my stash, and I have to say, I love the colors!
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!