The March Designer Block Challenge was the classic block Rocky Road to California. Familiar with it? It is a fun, versatile block, and it was amazing what the designers came up with. Really! You should check out their takes on it - but more about that in a bit. Let's explore the traditional block first.
Rocky Road to California Block
Here it is! It is a simple block, but a fun one. And the good news is it is super easy to resize into almost any block size. Let's look at the components.
Components of the Rocky Road to California Block
The block is made up of simple units: squares, HST and four patch units. If you're unfamiliar with making these units, you can find instructions on making four patch units here and more on making HST (half square triangles) here. In fact, I go over seven different ways to make a HST!
Broken down like this, it looks pretty easy. Because it is!
Putting the Rocky Road to California Block Together
As you can see, putting those components together is very much like assembling a nine patch (pretty much because it is!). The secret so to speak is in the arrangement of color and block placement.
See how the four patch units form a chain? The yellow squares in my example all line up and draw the eye from top right to bottom left.
The HST units are arranged carefully as well. One half of the HST is the same color as the solid squares, while the other half is a contrast. That contrast side is snuggled up against the four patch units, forming a chain down the center of the block. Easy peasy, right? Yes!
As I mentioned earlier, you can size this block to almost any size. If you do want to resize, I recommend beginning with your four patch units.
Let's say you have 2" strips. If you use 2" strips to make your four patch units, they will have an unfinished (raw edge to raw edge) size of 3 1/2". So....your squares will be 3 1/2" x 3 1/2", and your HST units will be 3 1/2" x 3 1/2".
Pop quiz - what size squares would you start with to make your HST to have them finish at 3 1/2"? If you said 4 1/2", I'd say you're right! That gives wiggle room to trim down.
So....our squares, four patch units and HST are each 3 1/2" x 3 1/2". So what size would our Rocky Road to California block be? If you figured 9 1/2" x 9 1/2" unfinished, 9" finished, well then dear quilty pal, you'd be right!
Breaking down more complex blocks into their individual units is key to understanding assembly and to being able to resize the blocks if you so desire!
So what did I do for the challenge? I'm so glad you asked!
I stretched my blocks out, taking them from square to rectangular. AND I made the units that were HST units a special partial split rectangular unit, using a technique from the fabo folks at Studio 180. See it? The blue background blocks have the special partial split rectangle units.
I used two different backgrounds for the blocks and I used two different stripes, placing the stripes in different directions to increase the energy of the block!
I made four blocks - two with blue background and two with green. Then I had to decide which way to lay them out. So many options, but I was going with a long skinny 2x2 approach. Here they are forming a diamond in the center.
And here they are in an "X" formation. Yup - I went with the "X" formation. I love the movement and energy of this layout!
After stitching the four blocks together, I had to decide on thread for quilting. I love the Aurifil 28 wt. It has a nice heavy texture - but not too heavy, and it is super easy to work with. I ended up using the lovely variegated yellow (bottom right) and the olive green (second from the top) and just did some easy straight line quilting.
Here's a close up of the quilting. Take a look at the far left - you can see how the subtle variegation adds some lovely light and dark to the background area. And if you look closely at the bottom right, you can see how that olive green almost blends in to the stripe, adding texture but not a lot of added color - which is exactly what I wanted!
Here is the final project. I'm in love - I don't know why, but this little project makes me so happy! It is already gracing our table, bringing more sunshine to the day!
I think small projects are a great way to try out different approaches, whether it be color, contrast, thread, quilting, piecing or finishing.
I encourage you to go over to Instagram and search by the #marchquiltblockchallenge to see what the other participating designers did with this block. Mine is simple easy peasy compared to some of the stunning artistic creations they made!
Head over to Kate's blog to see her insights on the Rocky Road to California block too!
Oh - and don't forget that the Sisterhood Block of the Month is now available, and sign ups are open for the quilt along! Woot Woot! The quilt along begins April 21st and runs through June 23rd. Did I mention there are prizes throughout the quilt along - and there just might be a special prize next week in the bonus newsletter - so sign up now! You can get all the info and sign up here!
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