Friday, June 27, 2014

Drunkard's Path Then and Now

Quiltsmart Drunkard's Path quilt pattern

One of the reasons we choose a particular quilt pattern is the symbolism and history behind it, especially if we are gifting the quilt and want it to represent something in particular.  Many quilt patterns have well known histories, and others we just don't tend to think about.  Drunkard's Path is one of those patterns I don't tend to think about as having a deep history.   So, imagine my surprise when Mattie said she had written a whole booklet on Drunkard's Path including the history, techniques, and patterns.

Quiltsmart Drunkard's Path Booklet
The photo above is of the booklet Mattie sent home with me for reference, it's our customer service desk copy.  The first few pages, as shown below discuss the history then and now, and I will transcribe it for you to see.  I will follow up with a few other posts that address other pages in the booklet including techniques for the Quiltsmart Drunkard's Path pattern.

inside the quiltsmart drunkard's path booklet
Transcribed from the booklet: The Drunkard's Path has been a popular quilt for two centuries.  The pattern began appearing in England in the early 1800's.  It was brought to America by the British with the earliest American quilts dating in the 1820's.  American Drunkard's Path quilts were often found on the covered wagons and named, perhaps with some optimism of destination in mind, Rocky Road to Texas, Road to California, and Arkansas Troubles.  In the patriotic spirit of America, they were typically made of two solid colors, red & white or blue &white.


In the latter part of the 19th century, members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union adopted the Drunkard's Path quilt as a symbol of their moral crusade to eliminate alcohol consumption.  With this end in mind, the organization knew the only way to reach their goal was for women to gain the right to vote.  Many Drunkard's Path quilts were made in blue and white, the colors of the organization.  The WCTU was ultimately successful, although Prohibition proved to be short-lived.  And yet the right of women's suffrage endures today... in small part thanks to the Drunkard's Path quilt!

Drunkard's Path has a variety of alternate names.  It is not surprising that quilters renamed and reconfigured the blocks in an effort to avoid the original name, Drunkard's Path.  Other popular names are: Falling Timbers, Cleopatra's Puzzle, Solomon's Puzzle, and Lone Ring.  Two identical quilts often have different names, depending on the whim of the quilter.  The layouts of the path can be as confusing as the names, as quarter circles turn every which way to create a desired affect.

The Drunkard's Path block was typically hand pieced.  The bias of the circle cut led to "bubbling" and distortion.  Only a skilled quilter could find success.  Yet, it was the inherent simplicity of this single quarter circle block and the aesthetic appeal of the many possible layouts that called quilters to accept the challenge of the Drunkard's Path

inside drunkard's path booklet today


There are now several methods to avoid the tedious and difficult curved piecing in the Drunkard's Path.  The Quiltsmart method eliminates not only the curved piecing, but also the templates, freezer paper, and tracing of patterns  Your quilt top will come together quickly and easily.  Even a beginner should feel comfortable completing this quilt.  And best of all, your quilt will be virtually indistinguishable from a traditionally pieced Drunkard's Path.

Using rotary cutters, printed interfacing, invisible thread and a sewing machine  you can have all the fun in a fraction of the time.  We are sure that if Grandma had it, she would have used it.

Enjoy making your own heirloom.

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