This is the second post of the National Park Star Block Series featuring the Great Sand Dunes. This block was designed by Susan Davis of American Quilt Blocks. She designed blocks for the National Park Service Centennial in 2016. You can buy the blocks printed on a high quality fabric from her website http://americanquiltblocks.com/catalog/index.php in various sizes. I recommend everyone to check out her website and purchasing one of her great designs.
The free pattern for the Great Sand Dunes is available here and on Craftsy.com: Great Sand Dunes Block
This series focuses on how to piece the blocks designed by Susan Davis with fabric of your choice. I will be making 60 blocks – 1 for each of the national parks and 1 designed for the national park service. When I finally have them all done I will be putting them all together for a large beautiful quilt. So let’s quilt to it.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located near Alamosa, Colorado (about 4 hours from my house). The park just sneaks up on you because you drive through mountains then bamm there are a ton of sand dunes right in front of a group of mountains.
My husband and I went there in June which is one of the best times of the year to go. The snow capped mountains start to melt and this forms a stream of water in front of the dunes. People come from all around to go spend a day at the beach. Beware though, that water is COLD!
When making this block I tried to get my hands on a few variations of beige. Because sand dunes are the main attraction. I do love, however, how there is a splash of blue for water and green for the surrounding mountains. At least this is what I imagine the colors are for. This group of colors really did represent the park well from what I experienced.
I like to cut all of my pieces at once then organize my fabric by what unit I will be making. This is a pretty simple block because there are only two types of units – a square in a square and an hourglass.
Follow the instructions on the pattern on how to make an hourglass units. This method will result in 1 extra unit but I don’t mind that at all. I am not sure what I am doing with my scraps for this project but I know I am keeping them all together right now. Every snowballed corner turns into an additional half square triangle unit for me.
Next make the square in a square units. Now this unit could easily be pieced using traditional piecing methods. I choose though to do paper piecing. I do this not really for the perfect points but for the perfect block size. I actually had to make the square in a square units for this block twice. When I made it the first time I used traditional piecing and my unit turned out 1/4″ too small. That is 7% of my total unit size. My personal rule of thumb is to not proceed with a unit the wrong size unless it is off by less than 4% (in this case a 6″ unit) and that is really pushing it.
When it is time to put all of the units together into the 9 patch block I chose to leave all the paper on the backs of the square in a square units. This time it was about those perfect points. Once the whole block was together I removed all of the paper and pressed my block. You can see in my one picture that it got a bit funky. I put one row on upside down. Now I don’t like to rip but I had to rip that out. I quickly ripped, flipped, and stitched to finish off the block. I think it is a great representative star for the park. Don’t forget to cut a 3.5″ x 9.5″ strip of coordinating fabric so you can label your block with some applique later.
Now back to the trip details. After my husband and I spent some time on the beach in the park we hiked out and did some backcountry camping on the dunes. I saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was amazing. The entire evening leading up to sleep was just pristine and beautiful. BUT then came the night. We chose to camp down in a valley thinking that it would protect us from the wind. Oh boy were we wrong. The wind blew all night so hard that it would bend our tent sideways. Gust of sand splashed up and would shower us. The night was truly one I would want to experience only once.
The morning though, completely made the night worth while. All of those winds completely changed the landscape of the dunes. Tall dunes that we climbed the day previous were not there anymore and areas that were easy became quite the steep descent. All in all it was truly an amazing and beautiful place to spend the weekend.
I really enjoyed visiting the Great Sand Dune National Park and hope we make time to return in 2018. I hope you enjoyed this post and can let me know by leaving comments on the page. Lets Quilt to It!