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Reproduce an Antique Quilt: The Scrappy Star Stitchalong Project

This post is about a community of scrap loving quilters who gathered together on social media in fall 2023 for a special project. We are reproducing a charming antique utility quilt made from the Ohio Star block. What makes this project special is the original quilter (late 19th century?) seemed to use whatever fabric she had on hand without much of a plan.

But, on closer inspection there is evidence that the choices were made thoughtfully and the result was an explosion of color and pattern that just seemed to “work.” As we quilters of the 21st century work on our quilts inspired by this humble quilt, we have learned to look more closely at those fabrics we pull from our stashes.

The Original Quilt

The antique quilt dates to about the fourth quarter of the 19th century. It was last owned by Judy Roche a beloved quilter and quilt historian who was generous with her knowledge. Judy designed many lines of reproduction fabrics, some inspired by the fabrics in this quilt. I am honored to be the current caretaker of one of Judy’s quilts. It was her willingness to share that inspired this project for quilt (and reproduction) lovers all over the world.

The Scrappy Star Stitchalong Project

Our Stitchalong doesn’t have many rules. There is only one style of block in the quilt. Instead of instructions for different blocks, I am sharing each of the 20 blocks, one by one, so we can examine the style and number of different fabrics. The placement decisions that were made as well as the color combinations. Then, we try our own combinations to see how our choices of color and pattern work together. It looks random, but is it really?

The project commences on September 1 and three blocks per week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) will be posted. Allowing time for setting the squares together, we should wrap up with a completed top around the end of October. This is an opportunity to learn, have fun and share our fabrics and imagination. If you are finding this post after the project has wrapped up, I hope you are inspired to start a quilt of your own. Perhaps you have some friends that want to sew as a community. There are no limits to quilting inspiration.

Finished Block Size and Cutting Sizes

The finished Ohio Star block is 6″.

There are only two types of pieces you need to make this quilt block:

2-1/2″ squares for the center and corner squares. This measurement includes a 1/4″ seam allowance.

3-1/4″ squares for the quarter square triangles. Cut those squares diagonally twice so you wind up with four triangles, choose your pieces and make an hour glass block.

Finished size of the reproduction quilt is about 34″ x 42″.

Visit this post for more information on making the 6″ Ohio Star block.

The Original Blocks

A new block is posted three times per week. I am adding to this post with each one.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong Block 1:

There will eventually be 20 different blocks posted here. All images and instructions will remain on this blog post so don’t worry if you can’t keep up.

Making a very scrappy quilt is a labor intensive project. The Ohio Star block has 21 pieces and block 1 has 16 different fabrics. Just picking out which ones you’ll use can take a lot of time depending on how distracted you get in your stash.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong Block 2:

You cannot miss the addition of the large scale bright pink in this block. But, did you also notice that there are six different plaid/check fabrics? The combination of fabrics used in block 2 don’t seem random. She used the same check for the top two squares and two more of another check for the bottom two squares. Have fun using these decisions to help you choose which fabrics you will use for block 2.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong Block 3:

Purple is the new color addition to block 3 and our original quilter is still using primarily geometrics and stripes. I don’t have reproductions that are an exact match but I think if I spend some time in the stash I can come up with interesting substitutes. Is there a specific fabric in this block that you’d like to include? I have a purple that I love and can’t wait to sew with it.

Scrappy Star Sitchalong block 4:

This block finishes the first row of the project and there are only 16 more to go.

Notice how much calmer this block is with all the corners and star points made from the same fabrics? Don’t worry though, the upcoming blocks are back to being very busy and rather exciting.

If you are trying to keep up, this one will be much quicker to cut and sewing is always easy. It’s Friday and you have the weekend to get things done AND to sew. Have fun and I’ll see you with block 5 on Monday.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong Block 5:

Block 5 begins the second row of our 20 block scrappy Ohio Star quilt. As we go on, you will find the inner rows to be brighter and bolder than the perimeter. It seems our original quilter knew what she was doing when designing her layout. The quilt looks like anything goes, but she planned.

When I look at this block, I’m reminded of my favorite color combination when I was 12-years-old, pink and purple! I think I’ll entertain some other color options before stitching this one together. How about you? Will you stick to the original even if you can’t get a certain purple and pink giant alarm clock out of your mind?

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 6:

It’s been interesting studying the original quilt and the fabrics that were used. Notice that the original quilter almost matched the stripes in the blue and white corner squares and they are very neatly horizontal. Yet the two triangles cut from stripes are pieced into the block at an angle.

This block has the most different pieces so far, 17 in all. But the block feels calm. I suspect that is because it’s predominantly blue which is a very mellow color. What do you think? Is there anything else about the composition of this block that stands out to you?

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 7:

It’s interesting, block 6 had many fabrics but the fabric choices made it feel quiet and calm. This block only has 11 different fabrics and really reaches out and grabs your attention.

The mystery in this one is why, after making sure all the star points are from the same pink fabric, is the top hourglass arranged differently. The “points” aren’t the pink like in the other blocks. It just makes us wonder what was the intention. I’ve made lots of mistakes and this could be one. But…maybe not.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 8:

This project has taught me that we all can’t be stars. The supporting cast is important as you can see when you start auditioning your Ohio star blocks for the quilt layout.

You might find this very muted block (compared to the last two!) to be boring at first glance. But, coupled with those starring blocks they give your eyes a welcome respite. A chance to pause and examine things more closely.

The original quiltmaker didn’t abandon her urge to mix things up completely in this block. She used light fabrics for all the star points so that all four stand out clearly. But, she still swapped out the brown prints even though she could have matched them like she did for the shirtings in the other hourglass squares. It’s one more twist that makes you go “hmmm.”

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 9:

I love red. But, there are a lot of different reds in this world and they don’t all play nicely together. I’m thinking the choosing of the reds is going to be another big mess.

Speaking of mess, have you noticed that choosing the fabrics for the blocks in this project takes about five times longer than sewing it together? It’s fun, though, don’t you think?

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your descriptions about how you chose the fabrics you’ve used in your blocks so far. Please keep doing that! I have learned so much through this experience. Visit the IG hashtag #scrappystarstitchalong to enjoy the variety of Ohio Star blocks your imaginations have created.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 10:

For me, the best part of this project has been looking at all the blocks you are creating and how you decided to make this “your” quilt. As an antique quilt lover, I’m partial to those who have taken on the challenge to try to find fabrics as close to the original as you can. They blow me away.

I’m also impressed by those who have said that this type of designing is a little more “haphazard” than you would normally choose. But, you are making yourself try something a bit uncomfortable and making amazing blocks.

Then, I see the ones who have said, “nope, those fabrics are not my style,” and put together absolutely beautiful blocks from fabrics that are reflective of what you choose to design with.

There are so many stories and thoughts in your IG photo captions that show and tell me things I never thought of and have changed the way I think about choosing fabrics. I really have learned a lot from this project so far and can’t wait to see what the next 10 blocks unveil.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 11:

This quilt is a study in ways to combine fabrics into the same pattern and see what happens from a design perspective. For example, the corner squares are all from the same brown stripe and the star points are all from the same pink/red print that has been used in other blocks already. Even though every other triangle (8 of them) is from a different fabrics, this Ohio star looks like a star and feels calm and orderly. The pink/red is a bit of a jolt, but it occurs where you expect it to be. So, your eye rests.

Compare block 11 to block 10, for example. Do you feel your eye pulled to the upper right quarter of block 10 because of the strong red and no consistency in the star points? It feels lopsided in a way.

My design training is limited but I do remember looking at patterns and being told that you can break conventions if you give the viewer’s eyes some resting places. The inspiration quiltmaker did this well. My question is, how intentional was she in all those decisions?

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 12:

The basic design for this block is similar to that last block. The lights and darks are mostly where you expect them to be. Well, except for that one green triangle and the star points in the same hourglass are a bit low contrast compared to the other hourglass blocks. But, that’s what we like about this quilt, right?

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 13:

The blue and brown combination in this block feels so tranquil. Again, that’s a nice addition to a quilt that features a lot of combinations that aren’t harmonious.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 14:

After several traditional Ohio star blocks with fairly consistent color placements, we have another bold block.

The original quilter used value to make the star points stand out. You eye is looking for dark points which it finds in those red/black fabrics as well as the darker browns. The quirk here, however, is she added dark browns in the opposing center points which makes the light inner triangles stand out even more than the star points. It’s really the consistent inner triangles that define the star points.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 15:

Notice how the original quilter sometimes took great care to align her directional fabrics (the check shirting in this block) so they were very straight. Look at the center square and three of the triangles. Then, other triangles of the same fabric look crooked. The indigo print also looks like it was carefully cut so the print follows the same direction and the lines echo the seams on the shirting in the bottom left triangle.

I can’t answer for the quilter but I keep finding evidence that she was very conscious of many of the pieces she sewed into this quilt.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 16:

This block is much scrappier than some of the recent ones. But, can you really notice anything other than those bright red corners?

Look closely to see how, as mentioned in the last block post, carefully the pieces were cut and sewed to preserve the many straight lines. With the rotary cutters (best invention ever) we use today, it’s tempting to just whack away. But, it certainly makes a difference if you take the time to fussy cut.

That term, fussy cut, is also a modern term. Clearly, the original quilt maker took time in her cutting decisions. Do you think she was fussy?

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 17:

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 18:

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 19:

Scrappy Star Stitchalong block 20:

Be sure to check out my Instagram Stories to see all the blocks our Stitchalong participants have made. They are amazing! Some over achievers are already assembling their blocks into the quilt top and I am getting more and more inspired to keep up and get my own reproduction quilt top together.

Reproduction Quilt Blocks

I will also add my version of each block to this post. For block 1, I stuck fairly closely to the original fabrics. I had a black woven plaid that worked very well for the corners. I wasn’t as bold as our original quilter so most of my light fabrics show well as star points. She used brown in 3 out of 4 of her triangles in the square on the right and they kind of “mush” together. I liked that variation in the antique quilt but missed the mark in my own block.

Scrappy Star Stitchalong reproduction block 1
Scrappy Star Stitchalong reproduction block 2

More Information

If you are new to making Ohio Star blocks, you can find a tutorial here.

If you want to see what the other participants’ blocks look like, check out my Instagram account and search for #scrappystarstitchalong to see the brilliant fabric combinations of the other participants. You are encouraged to join at any time and share your stitching on Instagram, too.

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  1. Thank you so much for this quilt along. I had a box of reproduction scraps, and delved into that source for each block. Very out of my comfort zone to have something so scrappy and to not purchase any fabric! I did purchase some Kona cotton cheddar to use as the alternating blocks as in your original photo. I’m not certain how to finish the quilt. Did the original quilt include borders? Are you planning to share finishing with us? wish I knew how to send a photo with this comment!

  2. Do you do emails of projects. This is so interesting and myself and 3 other quilters are going to start this reproduction in a few month,

  3. Taryn just want to thank you for hosting this amazing repro quilt ….So happy to join this fun SEW A LONG….I’ve been cutting fabric for 2 days now and hope to finish my first block tomorrow! Over one year ago, I purchased an ACCUQUILT GO cutting machine and bought some dies. Well I put it away and really haven’t touched it until now…just happen to have the dies to cut these blocks out. So I’m having much fun cutting away with my hugh scrap bin. Can’t believe how many pieces I managed to get from my scraps. I’m definitely hooked on the ACCUQUILT GO now!!! A great time saver for sure.

  4. Block 7….it took a lot of mumbling to myself but I did flip that one hour glass sideways. It was a very last minute decision and waaaay out of my comfort zone. Now on to Block 8. Hubby knows I am having fun with these star challenges by the jumbled up mess in my quilting room.

  5. Thanks so much for hosting this stitchalong, Taryn. It’s been fun to try to find fabrics I have that are similar or close to those in the original quilt.
    I’m thinking ahead to sewing the blocks together and wondering about the color of the alternate blocks. Since you have the real quilt there and can see the colors more accurately than I can online, do you have an idea whether it’s closer to cheddar, or maybe a peach, or…? For the reproduction you’re making, are you going to try to use a similar color, and if so, what fabric line and color is it? Thanks for any help you can offer!
    Nancy. (https://joyforgrace.blogspot.com/2023/09/scrappy-stars-4-6-nona-fabriholic.html)

  6. Thank you so much for hosting, organizing, planning, and preparing for this quilt-along, Taryn. What a sweet quilt! Reproducing an old quilt is one of my favorite quilting activities so I’m joining in the fun. I love trying to find similar fabrics and hope I can.
    Also, can I have your permission to use the image of the Scrappy Star Stitchalong with four blocks, and the image of individual blocks on my blog (https://joyforgrace.blogspot.com)? I would use the image with four blocks on my sidebar and the individual block images when I post my own blocks. Thanks for letting me know.

  7. The original quilt is wonderful due to the scrappiness of each block. It will be a huge step out of my comfort zone to make an Ohio Star block with 14-16 different fabrics but the end result is so charming – why not!! Thanks for the block tutorial and for a fun project. Looking forward to examining these blocks along with you! kelley

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