California Oak Leaf Quilt Block

From our Free Quilt Block Pattern Library

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

The California Oak Leaf quilt block will have you California Dreamin' in no time.

Simple strip sets and cut squares make this a quick one to piece.

The California Oak Leaf quilt block will have you California Dreamin' in no time. Simple strip sets and cut squares make this a quick one.

Beginner-friendly tutorial in 3 sizes: 7

You might know of this patchwork design by a different name—like Hand, Sassafras Leaf or True Lover's Knot.

In this tutorial you'll find:

It's time to cut up and sew!

General Instructions

I use these abbreviations in the tutorial:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together
  • SS - strip set

1/4" SA are used through this tutorial. 

Click the red iron to learn the secret for the flattest quilt blocks

When instructed to press, first press the patches in the closed position—just as they came off your sewing machine. This sets the seam, melding the fibers of the threads into the fibers of the fabric.

Then press the SA to the dark unless otherwise noted.

Pressing instructions are highlighted in yellow throughout this tutorial.

For instructions to print this whole tutorial page, click here.

Step 1: Cutting for a California Oak Leaf quilt block

California Oak Leaf patchwork designCalifornia Oak Leaf design

Sample Block Size:

  • 14" finished
  • 14-1/2" unfinished

Grid: 14x14, uneven 9-patch construction

Two fabrics are used in our 14" sample block.

However, you could just as easily turn this into a scrap quilt pattern. Simple choose a single background fabric and then scraps with high contrast to it.

In the sample I've used one of my favorite fabrics designs—'Paperweight' by Kaffe Fassett. This particular colorway goes by the dreadful name of 'Sludge'.

You can find more colorways here...most with more quilter-friendly names.

Please label all your patches. We refer to their numbers throughout this tutorial.

To print a copy of just the block design above and cutting chart below to use at your cutting table, click here.

Generations Quilt Patterns logo

Cutting Chart for a
California Oak Leaf Quilt Block

~Traditional Piecing ~

PatchFabricQtyFinished Block Size
7" 14" 21"
1 Light 1 1" x 25" 1½" x 41" 2" x 57"
2 Dark 1 1" x 25" 1½" x 41" 2" x 57"
3, 7 Light 5 1½" x 1½" 2½" x 2½" 3½" x 3½"
4 Dark 16 1½" x 1½" 2½" x 2½" 3½" x 3½"
5 Light 4 1 1/2" x 3" 2 1/2" x 5 1/2" 3 1/2" x 8"
6 Dark 4 1 1/2" x 1" 2 1/2" x 1 1/2" 3 1/2" x 2"
Unfinished Block Size 7½" 14½" 21½"
Grid Size ½" 1" 1½"

My go-to thread for all my piecing is...

Step 2: Assemble the units for a California Oak Leaf

#1/#2 Strip Set (SS)

Make 16

#1/#2 stripset

We'll use strip piecing to quickly, accurately stitch the #1/#2 units.

I prefer to use starched quilt fabric for stripsets because my cutting is more accurate and it works so well with my favorite quarter inch foot—the one with the guide on the righthand side (see picture below).

Click here to learn more about why and how to starch your quilt fabric.

With RST, layer #1 and #2 together and stitch along the long edge.

Sew #1 to #2This is my 1/4" presser foot with the guide on it.

After stitching, press flat to set the seam and then open with the SA toward the darker #2.

Using the table below, check that your #1/#2 is the correct width. For our 14" sample California Oak Leaf it's 2-1/2" wide. Make any necessary adjustments now.

Find the SubCut Width for your Finished Block Size. For our 14" sample it is 2-1/2".

#1/#2 Strip Set

Block Size
SS Width after stitching SubCut Width
7" 1 1/2" 1 1/2"
14" 2 1/2" 2 1/2"
21" 3 1/2" 3 1/2"

Straighten one of the short ends of your #1/#2 stripset. Then cut sixteen squares this width. 

Here they are. Perfectly straight edges—that's the beauty of starting with strip sets.

Sixteen #1/#2 squares

#5/#6 Sashing

#5/#6 stripset

Make 4

With RST, sew a #5 to a #6.

SAs are pressed to the darker #6.

Sew #5 to #6

Quarter Blocks

Quarter block design

Make 4

With RST, stitch a #4 to two opposite sides of each #1/#2. Make a total of 8 segments.

Press SAs toward the #4s to avoid bulk.

End segment

With RST add the #2 side of a #1/#2 unit to two opposite sides of each #3 square.

SAs are pressed towards the #3.

Center segment

Arrange the segments into the quarter block pattern. Light #1s are on the outside edges.

Segments in order to stitch a quarter block

With RST stitch the rows together.

The SA nest to make matching the joins pretty easy. You might be able to finger pin, otherwise use pins if needed.

A finished quarter block

These last two seams are pressed out from the center.

Step 3: Assemble your California Oak Leaf quilt block

Arrange the quarter blocks, sashing and cut center square into the California Oak Leaf design.

Units laid out and ready for assembly

With RST sew the units in each row together. One of the reasons this block is so quick to make is there are no seams to match here, just the ends of each unit. Sweet!

Press the SA in the direction of the arrows toward the #5/#6 sashings.

Press SA in the direction of the arrows

Join the rows together, pressing these last two seams out from the center.

This is our completed California Oak Leaf quilt block.

California Oak Leaf block from the front

And finally, here's a view from the back to see how all those seams nest.

California Oak Leaf backsideThe California from the back

No time to quilt right now? Pin this for later...

PinIt for later!

For even more blocks to make...

These are my go-to resources for quilt block ideas. 

Can you see the library sticker on the spine of Jinny Beyer's book? Yep. I check this copy out of our local library every few months for research.

Maggie Malone's 5500 Quilt Block Designs is my all-time favorite quilt block resource!

Can you tell?

It's in color.

It's got a ton of blocks.

What's not to love?

Next on my 'must-have' list is Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

Unlike the Maggie Malone book, the blocks in this volume are hand-drawn and in black and white—no color—personally, I prefer colored drawings to work with.

This book is no longer in print.

If you can come by a copy expect it to be wickedly expensive. Once in awhile you can find it here on

UPDATE: Electric Quilt, in cooperation with Barbara Brackman has announced they plan to republish the Encyclopedia sometime in 2020. 

However, all is not lost if you can't find a hard copy.

BlockBase is the computerized version of the Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

It contains designs for over 4300 blocks—pretty much every block published from the 1830's through the 1970's.

It can be used with Electric Quilt and is a Windows based program.

In fact, there are instructions included so that you can pull up the digital patterns within Electric Quilt (PC version for now) without having to open up BB program.

UPDATE: Electric Quilt has announced that they will be rereleasing the standalone BlockBase software for BOTH PC and MAC in 2020.

This is terrific news.

Finally there's The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer.

Lots of detail and in color, it is a beautiful volume. That said, I check it out of my local library on a regular basis instead of purchasing it—can you see the library sticker on it's spine. Yep, it's from the Plainfield Public Library.


Simply because I own the previous three references and find this the least user-friendly of the group.

And it does make a fabulous coffee table book!

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