Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It's that time of year to keep an eye out for snakes in the garden. And it's always time to look for snake quilts.

I've been collecting pictures of snake quilts for several years. Many of these are not what you would call "book patterns." They seem to have been handed around or made up by a creative and geometrically talented quilter.

You can find some of the published versions indexed in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns

 Many are just fan blocks that form a trail. The one above is a regular fan block that's arranged in concentric rings.

This one's similar but the fan "handle" matches the background so it works a little better as a snake.

This is a double fan, with one fan larger than the other. This is probably the most effective pattern if the two fans are drawn with the right arc so the eye moves easily from block to block.

The quilt above was probably made from this design. It is BlockBase# 3355, called Whirling Fans by the
syndicated Laura Wheeler newspaper column in the 1930s.

The secret to the perfect snake is getting the arcs to connect visually.
The commercial patterns really didn't do that so people seem to have redrawn them.
I don't think the one below was pieced as blocks.

Here's the ultimate snake quilt, 2 arcs to a block and snake heads and tails in the border. I THINK it belongs to Emory University in Atlanta.

It's hard to believe there isn't a commercial pattern source for all these that work so well from the 1930-1960 era.

Here's a variation.

Sort of like this fan, just alternated in rows.
Again, it's hard to believe I haven't found a commercial source in the 1930s for the pattern above.

Green Snake by Susie Ponds

Surprisingly there is an Encyclopedia and BlockBase number for this one that seems so folky. It's #3350 and was in the Kansas City Star twice, once as the Rainbow quilt and once as The Drunkard's Trail.
In Alabama it's called Green Snake.

The Alabama quilters have solved the arc problem, getting the line to undulate in snake-like fashion.
See two more Alabama Green Snake quilts in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum by clicking on these two links to the Robert & Helen Cargo collection:
"Green Snake Quilts" (2000.004.0090) by Mary Maxtion and (2000.004.0101) by Lureca Outland

Here's another one, a black snake I guess.
Click to see a link that shows how to draft a snake:

 I made  one in the mid 1990s.
I alternated two blocks each with a different curve.

There are several new commercial snake patterns out there.
Karen Stone has a Rattle Snake and below is Denyce Schmidt's Snake Charmer

Mabry Benson is showing her snake variation popular with the East Bay Heritage Quilters in Berkeley, California, a few years ago.

Snake Trail pattern from
Raggedy Stitches in Australia
Click here for information on the pattern:

Read Pepper Cory's post on her Quilt Flap blog
The snake she shows from eBay is very scary.


  1. I love this history. I wanted to share a snake quilt using Cheri Strole's pattern (mid-1990's, I think). It is different from all the one's shown here.

  2. Now that I've started my day with SNAKES I feel so much better, especially knowing "The secret to the perfect snake is. . ."

    You are the ultimate expert on all quilt designs, including snakes! I'll be sure to keep an eye out for them in my garden.

  3. I had never seen quilts like that. Thanks for sharing. Another quilt to add to my list! :)

  4. Another design to add to the list. Thanks!

  5. Oh.. so inspiring! I love this pattern. Someday I should try this. I like them all but the quilt in the second picture is my favorite of all!

  6. what fun, i did a post on some arches i played with a few years ago, you are free to use the picture if these are close enough to the concept you are going for. not quite snakes but could be. http://ozarkcastle.blogspot.com/2011/04/raw-edge-wedding-ring-arches.html