The Stars Are Guides

Embroidered constellations and asterisms, a compass and a quote "The Stars are Guides for Those Who Know Them" on a blue background.
Royal Astronomical Society

Title: The Stars Are Guides


"The quilt square states that "The Stars are Guides for Those Who Know Them." Polaris, the North Star, is centred in a compass circle and is also located at the end of the handle of the asterism, the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor). Two other asterisms are on either side, the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) to the left and Cassiopeia to the right. A stargazer who can find the Big Dipper can use the "pointer stars" on the bottom bowl edge of the Big Dipper to find Polaris and thus the direction north since Polaris is located above Earth's North Pole. Atop the square is the bright star Vega and a few stars in the asterism, Cygnus. Star magnitudes are depicted using a notation developed in the 1950s by amateur astronomer and author H.A. Rey."

Maker: Terry Conner, Outreach Coordinator - Astronomical Society of Kansas City; Retired US Navy Officer/Science Educator

Techniques used: Hand embroidered with lettering in embroidery floss, stars in gold metallic thread and the compass circle plus asterism-connecting-lines in glow-in-the-dark embroidery thread.


"My quilt square was inspired by a publication found not long ago in my father’s study. More years ago than I care to count, I followed him into a 31 year career in the US Navy. Having always been fascinated by astronomy, when I spotted a US Naval Air Training Command booklet titled "Star Identification" my interest was immediately piqued. The publication was provided as part of my father's pilot training in navigation, and the cover image showed Polaris at the center of a compass circle, a beacon to orient one northward by spotting a few "landmark" stars. In these days of the Global Positioning System or GPS, it is easy to forget that the stars have been used for centuries as navigational aids. In my father's flying days, air navigation involved maps, compasses, and radio beacons along with celestial navigation. The quote on the front cover of the booklet "The Stars are Guides for Those Who Know Them" seemed perfect for a quilt celebrating the 200 years in which the Royal Astronomical Society has sought to “…encourage and promote the study of astronomy, solar-system, geophysics and related branches of science." Indeed, the stars truly are guides to understanding our past and our future.

I discovered the Royal Astronomical Society during the spring 2020 lockdown in the UK. After attending a Zoom webinar between rare book collection curators at the Linda Hall Library of Science and Technology in Kansas City, US, and the Royal Astronomical Society in London, UK.

Learning and sharing with other participants equally excited about space exploration and expressing that passion in fabric arts has been a true delight. The experience has been such a positive during grim months of Covid-19 isolation by providing an inspiring time of collaboration, learning of new products (Solvy) and techniques (blackwork, etc.), and generally stoking the embers of hope that someday the pandemic will ease allowing us to once again travel and view the finished quilt!"

Website/Social media: The Astronomical Society of Kansas City