FieldGuidetoQuilts.org
 Ohio Stars & variations

 

Ohio Stars look a lot like nine-patches because they feature an unseamed center square, but even the basic Ohio Star is done on a 6x6 grid to accommodate the four mini-blocks on the top, bottom and sides of the block. Each one is a set of quarter-square triangles, usually with two colors per mini-block.

Because Ohio Star is such a beloved block, the basic design has collected names that once stood for specific variations. We've tried to get back to specifics on this page. Click on a small block below for a short-cut to the block information.


The Kaleid-oscope
Quilt
Ohio Star

Mosaic Patchwork #1
Variable Star

Lone Star

Star Spangled

Flying Crow
Mystery Flower Garden

Aunt Eliza's Star
Dolly Madison Star

The Kaleid-oscope
Quilt
Box:
The most influential woman in America



Ohio Star


Ohio Star
Ladies Art Co. #323
1897



Godey's Design (1862)/Eight Point Design (1897)

In 1862 Godey's Lady's Book published this, the classic Ohio Star, without a name, and 35 years later, the Ladies Art Company published it as Eight Point Design (#323, 1897). 

The block came to be known as Ohio Star by the early 1930s, after it was published in Capper's Farmer (1927). It is drawn here on a 6x6 grid (as are all but the last two blocks on this page). We're not sure exactly what it looked like in Capper's, but quilt researcher Carrie Hall showed Ohio Star as solid white on a dark print, like the block at lower left.* The block at upper left is the LAC's version.
Ohio Star
Hall, 1935



Hall confused the issue of the Ohio Star's name by attaching several names that actually belonged to distinct blocks that are not Ohio Stars. We've left those names out because we think they're more confusing than helpful.





Ohio Star

Ohio Star

Mosaic Patchwork #1

Mosaic Patch-
work #1
Saward
1882
Happy Home

Mosaic Patchwork #1 was an early Ohio Star variation, published in Dictionary of Needlework (Blanche Saward, et al.)in 1882. Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia shows the arrangement of printed, light, and dark fabrics for the block. Clara Stone's 1906 "Practical Needlework" used the same arrangement but called it Happy Home. 


Mosaic Patchwork #1

Variable Star

Variable Star
Finley
1929


Variable Star
Hall
1935
The Lone Star/Texas

Finley published this variation of the Ohio Star in her 1929 book Old Patchwork Quilts.The block, she said, took on its alternate names once Polk was elected. He was, after all, the President who started the Mexican War as a way to annex the Texas Republic.

Because Finley's black-and-white drawing is shaded by hand, it's not absolutely clear whether the block has three colors or four. If it is four (which is what it looks like to us), the center block is darker than the background but lighter than the other two colors. 

Since Carrie Hall didn't give her block sources, it may be that she decided to make the design definitive on her own. In The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America(1935), she nails down the Variable Star as three colors—light background, dark inner triangles, and medium outer triangles and center square.
Variable Star (Finley)

Lone Star

Lone Star
Hall
1935
Texas Star

Carrie Hall's Lone Star or Texas Star is a three-color star with a light print-fabric center square, outer triangles in dark red, and a white background. 

It seems possible that the block names, so similar to Finley's (above), were in fact borrowed and adapted from Finley's book. Quilt-block design is shot through with such borrowings.

It's droll to think of how much more attention publishers might have given to copyrighting these blocks if they had known that quilting would become a multi-billion dollar industry a half-century later.
Variable Star (Finley)

Star Spangled

Star Spangled

McCall's Magazine
1930
Star of the West/Henry of the West/Western Star/Star of Hope

Among the five names for this block, Star Spangled appears to be the earliest, with a 1930 publication date in McCall's.

However, the earliest name was very likely Henry of the West, which is also an alternative name for a block known as Clay's Choice. Henry Clay was a Kentucky politician who lost the race for president against James Polk in 1844. Since Clay was a slaveowner, his name wouldn't have been a national magazine's the first choice of block monikers.

All Star Spangled's fabrics were prints except for the background. We assume the colors were intended to be red, white, and blue. 

Nancy Page is the source for the alternate names, but Star of Hope is the only one for which we have a date, and that, Beyer tells us, is 1934.

Star Spangled

Flying Crow

Flying Crow
Farm Journal Quilt Patterns Old and New
1935

Flying Crow appeared in Farm Journal Quilt Patterns Old and New, which Jinny Beyer, in her Quilter's Album, dates to about 1935.
Flying Crow

The Four X Quilt

The Four X Quilt
Mrs. Danner
1970
The Four X Quilt

Mrs. Danner's Four X Quilt block was published in 1970. Mrs. Danner was a longtime professional quilter of Emporia, Kansas, who published five pattern booklets from 1932 through 1970, when Helen Ericson bought her business. Ericson republished all five booklets and issued two more through 1975. 

The Swamp Angel instructions (see the Make It! icon below) can be used for The Four X Quilt block too.

The Four X Quilt

Swamp Angel

Swamp Angel
Original Unnamed
Godey's Ladies Book
1858
Godey's Design

Swamp Angel was first published without a name in Godey's Ladies Book in 1858, which means it's called "Godey's Design" like all the other unnamed Godey's blocks.

The name Swamp Angel, from Nancy Cabot of the Chicago Tribune (1938), is one of the most memorable block names around, and in a whole quilt, the block is one of the prettiest Ohio Star variations.

We haven't seen an original of the designs, so we're relying on Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia for the placement of colors and prints.


Swamp Angel
The Most Influential Woman in 19th-Century America

The popularity of Godey's Ladies Book, the standout magazine of America's Victorian era, stemmed from the work of a financially strapped single mom, a widow named Sarah Josepha Hale.

Working as Godey's editress, a post she took in 1837 -- before it was even called Godey's -- Hale pushed New England rectitude and manners at the precise moment that Americans were starting to thirst for cultural polish. Godey's was a must-read for upwardly mobile American wives.

Besides being the editorial voice of Godey's for 42 years, Sarah Josepha Hale wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and
lobbied four different presidents to create a Thanksgiving holiday before Abraham Lincoln gave the go-ahead in 1863.

It's possible that Hale came up with the complete tale of happy Indians dining with good-hearted Puritans at a colonial picnic table; in any case, she described the now-classic Thanksgiving meal in her novel Northwood.

Hale was so genteel that she wouldn't acknowledge unpleasantries, such as the entire Civil War. Godey's began a long slide into irrelevance. It eventually went backrupt, but long after Ms. Hale went off to collect her eternal reward.

Mystery Flower Garden

Mystery Flower Garden
Prize-Winning Designs
1931
This block, so similar to Swamp Angel, is made of solid pieces with eight scrap-fabric triangles.

It's from a booklet called Prize-Winning Designs (ca. 1931), according to Jinny Beyer. Brackman credits it to an undated Aunt Martha publication. 

 

Mystery Flower Garden

Aunt Eliza's Star

Aunt Eliza's Star
LAC #18
1897
Variable Star/Aunt Lottie's Star/Lone Star 

The Ladies Art Company's 1897 catalog published Aunt Eliza as its #13. 

Aunt Lottie's Star was the name Nancy Cabot gave it in 1936, Jinny Beyer tells us, just a year after Nancy Page, the syndicated block designer, called it Variable Star. The name Lone Star came along in 1949 (Ickes). 

The "Make It!" icon links to JinnyBeyer.com. She calls the block Aunt Eliza Star.

Aunt Eliza's Star

Dolly Madison Star

Dolly Madison Star
Finley
1929

Santa Fe/Dolly Madison's Star/President's Block

When his social charms fell short, President James Madison could always count on his wife Dolley.

Dolley was a remarkable hostess, and she was quick-witted enough to save a painting of George Washington when the British torched the White House during the War of 1812.

We're not sure how Dolly dealt with the state papers that Madison asked her to save, but she did also fill a carriage with the drapes, china, and silver that she'd bought to use in the White House dining room. 

Dolly Madison Star
Mrs. Madison came to her post with job experience. She had also served on occasion as the country's hostess for the widowed President Thomas Jefferson, and she was the first president's wife to be called the First Lady.

That said, the block named for her was first published in 1929, so far as we can tell, in Finley's Old Patchwork Quilts. 

At right, Dolley in her later years.



Source: "How Dolley Madison Saved the Day." Thomas Fleming. Smithsonian, March 2010.



The Kaleidoscope Quilt 

The Kaleidoscope Quilt
Kansas City Star
1930

The Kaleidoscope Quilt, published in 1930 in the Kansas City Star,came with the suggestion that a medallion be used in the center piece. We've put in a plain piece in medium pink at left. 

The Star said that as a scrap quilt, the design was even better than the Double Wedding Ring.
The Kaleidoscope Quilt