Make a National Park Quilt

Your quilt can tell a story…where you have been…what happened…the adventures you’ve had…and the memories you’ve made!  With my National Park Quilt Pattern, you can pair different blocks together to create individual “postcards” to remind you of your amazing trips.  Put a story block (or blocks) with a National Park sign block, then put an embroidered park patch or write/embroider on the sign, and you have your ‘postcard’…when you put these all together, they create a beautiful travel quilt! I am not as well versed in Canadian National Parks; please pardon my ignorance.  For this blog post, I’ll be using mostly National Parks in the United States as my examples, but these can transfer very easily to National Parks anywhere in the world!!  (Canadian specific NP blocks will be added in the future 😉  And if you purchase now, you’ll get automatic updates as I add blocks to the pattern!!! 🙌🏼💝)

I’m a firm believer in ‘your quilt, your rules’.  Whatever you quilt is your design decision, and it’s the right one!  You are a textile artist, and my goal is to grow your artistic confidence!   I will give you some helpful tips for pulling random blocks together, and make it feel cohesive…instead of a hot mess!!

Pair a few blocks together to create a story. Don’t worry about the blocks not all being the same colors or size; if they have a similar feel, they will read as one block! Use artistic license.  If you have a great fabric, say with fish on it, and you went fishing at a National Park, use that fabric, to tell the story!

I have been playing with lined and text fabric to further bring home the feel of a postcard!  You can write a little bit about your trip (use a micron pen), or write the name of the park, and use the lined fabric as part of the postcard.  I’ll post more about this in the future…this is something I’m brainstorming how to make awesome, and not childish! You may notice that I’ve used a lot of gray for the backgrounds in these photos.  Gray is my default background color.  If that doesn’t work, low volume text fabric is my go-to.  This is a great quilt to experiment with color.

We’ll be chatting more about that in coming weeks (so get your pattern and join the group so you are in the loop)…slight spoiler: I have a formula: 2 darks and a light, 2 lights and a dark….basically I use 2 color wheels with a balance of lights and darks. I don’t care for the primary school color wheel.  Again, I want to inspire you…not bog you down with all the details!

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Let’s now talk about possible pairings for the blocks. You may be thinking, “I love this pattern, but I’m stuck on how to put it all together.”  Have no fear! Here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with!  Remember, your quilt, your rules!  If anyone questions you, it was artistic license and a design choice!! These blocks may be clear as day to you, or clear as mud, depending on whether or not you have visited that park!  Please use the comment section below to add your thoughts, and block ideas!  I’d love to hear!! Here is a download with ALL the sites in the National Park System, and the blocks to inspire your quilt. Squash Blossom + Teepee Bent’s Old Fort NHS. William Bent had a great relationship with the Native Americans who traded at the Fort.  If you’re familiar with United States history, you may recall that this relationship was exceptionally rare.  You can use a teepee, and squash blossom block with your National Park sign to create a block to pay tribute to the First Nations.  These 3 blocks could also be used for any of the National Parks that have history with the nomadic tribes. Squash Blossom + Teepee Sandcreek Massacre NHS. This NP tops the saddest and most disturbing parks in our country.  It was a terrible time in our national and state history.  Using the same blocks as previous, change the color scheme to reflect the innocent blood that was shed. Modern Cross Mesa Verde NP. I’ve used a bit of artistic license with this block.  The modern plus/cross is an interpretation of the amazing artifacts discovered at Mesa Verde.  You could also add a campfire to symbolize the soot on the ceilings of the cliff houses. It is important to note that you’ll likely want to choose fabrics with smaller prints so you don’t overwhelm the block. Other parks: Hovenweep, Yucca House, Canyon of the Ancients are a few other ideas.

Star Statue of Liberty NM. I’ve paired a star, for the 50 states in the Union, and a flame for the flam in Lady Liberty’s torch.  Tie the blocks together with a unifying background. These 3 blocks would also work for Paul Revere’s house as a part of Boston National Historical Park. These blocks would also work for Independence Hall, the Liberty BellFort Stanwix National Monument, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Andersonville National Historic Site, Mount Rushmore…or anywhere else with national historic importance! You could also use the star for any of the Dark Sky Parks (have you earned that Junior Ranger badge??) There are 23 Dark Sky parks in the NPS!! Sea stars, or starfish, depending on what you’re accustomed to calling them, may not be the first thing you think of with a National Park…but if you’ve collected an embroidered patch from a beach state park…throw it in!  Your quilt, your rules!  There are, however, a few NPs where sea stars are found: Point Reyes NP, Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Redwood NP and State Park.  A quick google search tells me that a fossilized sea star was found at Olympic National Park!  Pair that with a pine tree, if that was something meaningful for you!

Stars & Stripes Are you thinking something more patriotic is up your alley?  Pair a star with strips, for a mini flag.  You can also use the Ohio Star in place of the 5 point star! Either of these would be great for forts, military sites, and many battlefield sites! I have 90 sites noted in the download above!!

Mountains Are you team mountain or team beach?  I’m team mountain!  Probably because Colorado, where I live, is short on beaches!  These two blocks are perfect for Rocky Mountain National, Banff, Glacier, or Grand Tetons National Parks! You can pair Mormon Row with the steep mountains to represent Grand Teton! There are 2 views of Yosemite…but you could also use one of them for Big Bend! Are you inspired yet?!  I hope so!!! Let’s keep going!  I’m the queen of ideas, and I have more for you!  If you’re stuck, send me a message!  We can brainstorm on blocks for your quilt!  There are over 400 parks in the NP system…we haven’t even scratched the surface!s 54-40  James Polk.  In North Carolina, his birth home is a State Park, and in Tennessee, his adult home is a National Historic Site. In the early 1800’s, Americans were eager to settle the west.  James Polk’s campaign slogan became “54-40 or fight”, which represented the northern boundary of Oregon.  Quilt patterns often reflected the political sentiments of the time, and this block is 1/4 of the full 54-40 design. Use this block for one of Oregon’s National Parks…or a park along the Oregon Trail (Fort Laramie, Homestead, Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff would be perfect! Ohio Star Speaking of Homestead… did you know they have a quilt discovery experience?!  Oh man! Talk about a quilter’s haven!! These blocks would be PERFECT for Homestead.  The sawtooth star has its roots in Civil War history.  This block is also known as the Northern Star. While we’re mentioning Civil War history, the NPS has a great program called “Civil War to Civil Rights“, if you have kids (or are young at heart), you can collect trading cards at NPs that had a part in Civil War to Civil Rights. So this block would fit in perfectly with any of these National Parks. The list of Civil War National Parks is quite lengthy, so I’ll link it here. Cactus While the cactus on the left is not necessarily a Saguaro, it clearly reads as a modern cactus!  Use this block for any of the desert National Parks: Joshua Tree, and Death Valley immediately come to mind. (I have 8 parks noted in the PDF above) This is a great block to use up little scraps of fabric! 😉 Look how many parks we have ‘made’ out of only a few blocks! Aspen/Birch Spring in the Rockies is one thing…but FALL in the Rockies is quite another!!!  The brilliant colors of the aspen trees is something to behold.  Sew a bit of the color into your quilt! Aspen trees are in the Rocky Mountain National Parks (Glacier, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Black Canyon of the Gunnison…)…and their cousin birch are in Acadia National Park. I’ll sneak in a Canadian NP here with Kejimkujik National Park.

Pine Tree The pine tree in this image is a bit different from the pattern…Bringing the ideas to a close with the first 13 blocks of the National Parks English Paper Piecing Pattern, use the pine tree block to represent Redwood NP, Sequoia NP, Olympic National Park…as a stretch, Florissant NP, and Petrified Forest NP.  I’ve listed 8 in the PDF, but there are soooo many more you can use a pine tree! Whew!!  Are your creative juices flowing?  I hope so! Fish I’ve listed 16 parks where fishing is part of the park! This block was made and inspired for our trip to Curecanti NRA.  Did you know that 900 THOUSAND people visit this long, narrow park per year?! I didn’t know that!  It’s a beautiful spot to go hiking or fishing.  I recommend the boat tour of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, or a short hike at Morrow Point 😉  However, this block is PERFECT for Katmai (bear block coming soon!!!), Channel Islands, Dry Tortugas, Acadia, and several more!  Have fun with color with this block!!! Canoe Are water sports your style? Canoeing or kayaking plays a major part in 32 parks! :O  This block is great for Voyageurs, Glacier Bay, Grand Canyon, Arkansas Post, Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity NRA, among many many others!! This was the first block to be 4.5 x 9″.  Enjoy mixing and matching with the block!! Covered Wagon If you haven’t guessed, the historic sites are my favorite!  I homeschool my kids, and visiting these parks is a GREAT way to make history come alive!  I’m also a firm believer that if we don’t learn from history, we’ll repeat it….so visit those historic sites! Bent’s Fort is so fun, because the rangers are in character!!  (only irritating when you’re asking a serious question and they answer in character! 🤣) I’ve previously mentioned Scottsbluff and Chimney Rock (Honorable mention for Oregon Trail ruts near Guernsey, WY…with really deep ruts!!!) In the PDF above, I have noted the sites along the Oregon, Mormon, California or Santa Fe Trails with the Covered Wagon block; there are 17. Some may REALLY surprise you!!!

Lighthouse The NPS boasts 28 lighthouses!  From Biscayne Bay to Santa Monica Mountains NRA…Fort Pulaski to Hawaii Volcanoes!  How many have you been to? Cannon With over 48 places you can use this block, the cannon block can be used. Battles and wars are never fun and happy times.  Remember the more somber and sobering moments of our nation’s history with a cannon block. This block features a Dresden plate to create the illusion of a wheel!  You can use a solid piece of fabric, or create more detail with a Dresden!

Bear Just under half of the sites in the NPS have bears!!  2 parks in Alaska have polar bears!  This block gives you options for black, grizzly or polar bears!

Download a PDF with all the National Parks, and the blocks you can use.  Note that this is a work in progress…and it will be updated.  Do you have some suggestions to add?  Drop me a note! If you haven’t purchased your National Parks Quilt Pattern, get one now, and start creating your own travel quilt!

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More Inspiration with my blocks, and other quilter’s blocks.

18 thoughts on “Make a National Park Quilt

  1. Grace Arthur says:

    I ADORE THIS!!
    I have some “requests/suggestions 🙂

    1. A glacier — would work for glacier np, exit glacier/all of alaska
    2. volcano — hawaii
    3. a mountain ram/sheep
    4. desert?

    just thinking lol in case you needed more ideas! can’t wait for more to come out so I can work this up!

    • Rachael says:

      I love all these suggestions!! I have a few of them in the works! Thank you so much for your ideas! Let me know if you think of more! 🙂

  2. Yvonne says:

    So excited I found you! Love the National Park theme…but kinda have to, my daughter is a Park Ranger! 😉 Any chance of a Redwood (or Sequoia) NP block? Maybe something for Denali NP in Alaska? (two places she’s worked at)

    • Rachael says:

      How fun that your daughter is a park ranger!! WOW! Yes, I’m working on those parks, as well as others…the tricky part is getting them to stand out as their own block, and not really look like other blocks, or be meaningful…they are in process though!!

    • Rachael says:

      Some of them can! Others will have Y seams, but can still be done. A few of the blocks have curves…. One gal has done a few of them using FPP; I posted about them on Instagram (Instagram.com/fionasandwich) The piecing directions on the EPP pattern are not necessarily for machine piecing, but if you’re familiar with FPP, you should be just fine figuring out if there is a better order.
      Did you see that I have 2 FPP National Park patterns?
      I hope this helps, and you join in! I’d love to see your blocks!

    • Rachael says:

      Great suggestion! I’m wrestling with the crater part ;P One of the gals in the sew along used the generic landscape (it has 2 triangles on either side) for Crater Lake! Her block looks really great!!

  3. Sharon says:

    I think of Rocky Mountain National Park as my “home” park. I grew up in Kansas and we vacationed in Colorado and hiked RMNP. I lived Wyoming and Colorado as an adult and did more hiking in RMNP.

    I am very happy to start these blocks. Now to look back through old photos to decide on fabrics.

    • Rachael says:

      I love this!!! I can’t wait to see what fabrics you select! I hope you share them!
      We don’t make it up to RMNP as much as we ‘should’ or one think we might…even though we live near. It’s become so crowded. But we do love it when we are there!

  4. Pingback: National Park Sew Along | Fiona Sandwich

  5. Mary Boltze says:

    Love the whole concept. We have visited 51 of 61 parks and really want a keepsake. I think this would be perfect. I think we will dig out our photos and for the signs will use our computer/ printer and print the pic of the NP sign on the fabric sheets.
    I have some ideas for paper piecing blocks though:
    Yosemite- Falls
    Yellowstone, Geyser, Bear, Buffalo
    Dry Tortugas, old fort, turtles, fish
    American Samoa, bats….they were made a NP to protect the fruit bats on the island
    Denali, moose, caribou, grizzle bear
    Katmai np. Salmon in falls or grizzly bear
    Great Basin, a dark sky park so maybe a constellation or telescope or they have the oldest trees on earth- a Bristol cone pine tree
    Saguaro np. Saguaro cactus
    Joshua tree, Joshua tree cactus?
    I know just what you need is more ideas, but I hope it helps.
    Really want to make this quilt.

    • Rachael says:

      These are GREAT ideas!! I do have some of the suggestions in the pattern (bear, fish, geyser)…and I’m working on some of the others, and you reminded me of a few ideas I had as well!! I am so grateful you commented! Thank you!
      I can’t wait to see your blocks!! I hope you share photos!

  6. Nancy Warner says:

    Do you have a block for Organpipe Nat’l Monument in southern AZ? I have pictures of them. Maybe I could give a try at a design of my own.

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