Monday, January 3, 2022

Rattlesnake Quilt


Ileana Villazon who has an eBay quilt shop recently showed
this Southern rattlesnake quilt top to us over at the 
QuiltHistorySouth Facebook group.

We were looking at these 3-color solid quilts so popular in the South between about
1880 and 1930. This top looks 20th century.

Her top is missing a block. Did the maker share it
 with someone else as a pattern block?

So we got started in a discussion about the pattern and its name.
Two Southerners, Marcia Kaylakie of Texas and Teddy Pruett of Florida had heard names.

Rattlesnake, Willie Yaeger, Abut 1920, Paris, Texas
Collection of Marcia Kaylakie

Marcia calls it Rattlesnake in her chapter on the pattern in Southern Quilts. She has also heard the name Spanish Spur (which might make some of you rattlesnake-aversive quilt fans happier.)

Polly Mello's collection
Teddy says it's Coiled Rattlesnake (pronounced Kwiled) also
seen in John Rice Irwin' book A People & Their Quilts

Block from an online auction

We have no published names before the 1970s as it is the perfect example of a vernacular pattern, passed around hand to hand. Perhaps editors thought the name might not sell many magazines.

Phoebe Irvine Halbert, Texas in the book Texas Quilts: Texas Treasures

Matt Macomber collection
Most of these look to be made in the early 20th century.

And many are pieced of solid fabrics

Unknown maker from the book Arkansas Quilts

Although Polly Mello has this piece cut from one made
in the classic 1890-1920 claret red, cadet blue and black print color scheme.

As is this one from an online auction.

Cindy Rennels found this interesting variation.

Another from an online auction.

Because it was unpublished it doesn't have a BlockBase
or Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns number.

You could write it in your Encyclopedia in two places. As #3370.5, 
a set for fan blocks.

And as a block related to Drunkard's Paths, #1466.5,
both with the name Rattlesnake.

1933 quilt exhibit in Maryville, Missouri
Rattlesnake is also used with other curvy patterns so
they might not be referring to this one.

1934 Decatur, Alabama

The pattern is related to others based on curved piecing like this
Drunkard's Path with fans...

Pictured on the cover of Ladies' Circle Patchwork Quilts, Fall, 1985
Louisiana issue.

And Mohawk Trail, which is the same 16 fan units arranged differently.

If you want to make one use the pattern below for a 16" block or find a pattern for a Mohawk Trail or Baby Bunting quilt and just rearrange the units. BlockBase #3370 will print the fan units any size.

Print this out on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet.

See posts about snake patterns at these links:


  1. Just loving those bold, high-contrast colors. May I suggest a new name for the block? Call it "Drunkard's Hell" .....

  2. Barbara, this was fun to read! As I think you know, I shot an ACTUAL rattlesnake with a .22 rifle on our farm in Madison County, Iowa, back in the 1980s. I made the front page of the Des Moines Register. Later, I made a pictorial quilt about it for a Silver Dollar City challenge. To some folks in Winterset, I am more famous as a snake killer than a public television host.