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The Ohio Star quilt block is another claaaasic pattern with an awesome history, amazing modern variations, and a few key tips from yours truly.
If you have an interest in quilt history, check out Barbra Brackman's books, namely Civil War Sampler: 50 Blocks with Stories from History. The roll of quiltmaking throughout history is full of beautiful stories and gets me excited to keep up the tradition!
On that note, should we start with a short history? 🙂
Buckle up your bonnets. This one’s good. Our story today is brought to you by famous quilt scholar Barbara Brackman. Brackman gives us some great Ohio-related Civil War history that we can connect back with the Ohio Star Quilt pattern.
It all starts in the mid 1800s in Oberlin, Ohio. You may have heard of Oberlin College – I had, but I hadn’t heard about the incredible values it was founded on. Even in these really early years, Oberlin College opened up their institution to women and African-Americans. This was extremely radical during the 1800s, and really put Oberlin on the map as a place that welcomed freed slaves and liberal thinkers.
"Oberlin is likely the only college in America that I could have attended nearly two centuries ago, and I am honored to be part of the extraordinary legacy of this great institution."
— First Lady Michelle Obama
First Lady Michelle Obama is presented an honor sash during Oberlin College commencement ceremony in Oberlin, Ohio May 25, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
This is exactly why Oberlin, Ohio attracted John Brown, an anti-slavery fighter who was recruiting soldiers to help him in an operation to take over a federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry. John Brown ended up recruiting Lewis Sheridan Leary, who left behind his family to help John Brown and his cause. Both men were ultimately killed for this anti-slavery efforts, leaving them and those working alongside them to be remembered as heroes.
Lewis Sheridan Leary’s wife, Mary Patterson Leary, learned of her husband’s death when a shawl she had sewn for him was returned, riddled with bullet holes.
Mary was remembered by her son and grandson as often sitting in a rocking chair, sewing. An Ohio Star quilt was reproduced in her honor, and is now in the International Quilt Museum to honor those left behind by soldiers who met their demise during the Civil War. The Ohio Star quilt reminds many of John Brown, Lewis Sheridan Leary, and others who sacrificed their life to make our country a place where everyone could live without fear.
I love thinking of all that the Ohio Star pattern represents – such a rich history of our country that has been passed down through something as simple and functional as a quilt.
Above photo cred: Mattie Bontrager
Modern Ohio Star Quilts
Now, if the amazing Civil War history of Ohio doesn’t make you want to immediately dive into a new Ohio Star Quilt, these modern renditions will.
The Ohio Star quilt block is a nine-unit pattern made with squares and quarter square triangles. We’ll talk technique in a minute, but first, let’s dig into some variations.
Some quilters have taken the classic Ohio Star block and changed fabric placement (playing with the pattern with dark vs. light fabric), or changed the arrangement of quarter square triangle (QST) corners. Some really wild artists have done BOTH! Making these changes to the Ohio Star Quilt pattern changes the name, too, of course, giving us the Flying Crow, the Old Tippecanoe, and on the sassy side of things, the Swamp Angel.
A word of caution: Some other quilt blocks go by the name Ohio Star, but they are totally different! Don’t be fooled by these imposters. But seriously, it’s easy to get confused when you’re working with the wealth of information on the internet. Take a look at these great examples, and you’ll get a feel for the Ohio Star Quilt pattern… the real one!
Kelsey from lovely and enough is making beautifully crafted individual Ohio Star blocks and then screenprinting on top of them for added dimension and texture.
Cheryl from Meadow Mist Designs, deconstructs the traditional Ohio Star in this memorizing and modern quilt. The grid-like simplicity of this design is an obvious reflection of the wonderful way Cheryl's mind works. It won't come as a surprise when you learn that she's a full-time engineer.
Cynth, from Hyacinth Quilt Designs, gets abstract and gorgeous with this variation of the Ohio Star pattern...
Heather Jones of Olive and Dollie made this STUNNING large-scale Ohio Star quilt from a single block. This quilt was part of a special exhibit at the 2012 International Quilt Festival called "Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild Presents: A Modern Spin on the Ohio Star Block."
Here’s What You Need to Know About the Ohio Star Quilt Before You Start Sewing:
You can make a great Ohio Star Quilt block with a square ruler and rotary cutter (gotta love that simplicity.) But here’s two tips I have for Ohio Star Quilt block construction (Skimmers, this is where you tune in.)
- Use the “Make ‘Em Big, Cut ‘Em Perfect” technique. Making your QST blocks bigger than you need and trimming them down to size will help you make all of your Ohio Star Quilt blocks perfectly uniform. The Ohio Star pattern leaves a lot of opportunity to be just a tiny bit off, which is why it’s just so much easier to make them big and follow step number two....
- Trim them up right. After making your bigger-than-necessary QST squares, use a square ruler to determine the exact midpoint of your block, and align the middle ruler mark to the intersection of the seams in the exact center of your work. That’s it, y’all. Your diagonal 45-degree line will match the seams, and you’ll have a fricken awesome Ohio Star Quilt block! Oh and when trimming, don’t forget to flip and double check.
When you have all nine units of your Ohio Star Quilt block ready, double check your placement. It’s always so easy to rotate one patch the wrong way… and if you did, it would haunt you forever. You know it would. So… double checking is faster than ripping! (I tend to learn that the hard way…)
I would love to see some of your Ohio Star Quilt blocks! Link to your pics in the comments so we can check them out, and as usual, feel free to ask any questions. Happy sewing! xo