Here is a very complex design and yet it is drafted on a simple 6 x 6 grid, nothing fancy. In fact all you need for LIGHTENING IN THE HILLS is a single sized square and a triangle, the two pieces simply turned this way and that. Maggie Malone's 5,500 QUILT BLOCK DESIGNS (#370), however, lists this pattern as a nine-patch, so that the center diamond no longer needs to be split in four, obviously requiring a couple more pieces, nevertheless providing more options for the fabric print.
Nancy Cabot's consideration of difficulty in constructing LIGHTNING IN THE HILLS is much more of an artistic decision than she usually considers, that is, how to come up with just the right color combinations. The complication arises, perhaps, because in Cabot's drawings, white usually represents the neutral background, but here it is required to distinguish the bright lightning, standing out against various deeper colors (see illustrations above). In any case lightning is intense and it helps to use strong colors, regardless of hue. The following is a quote from her notes in the Chicago Tribune, published May 19, 1936.
"LIGHTNING IN THE HILLS is an old block which was adapted from the bead work of one of the American Indian tribes. it is a difficult pieced block in so far as the color arrangement must be perfect. The two patches in the entire block represent lightning flashes playing about the top of hills."
Another interesting aspect of the design is the sense of thunder as it rattles through the pattern, side by side with the lightning, not only amidst the hilltops, but then echoing down into the valley (see tiling below). Just for the sheer delight, listen to a gorgeous wav sound file of THUNDER!!!!! (opens in a new window/tab — the crack sounds first, then the rumble, and if you can turn up the volume at the end, you'll hear the rain begin).