BLOCK Friday: Drunkard’s Path Quilt Block

Merry Christmas! What a great day to celebrate quilting. And, quilt blocks! Seeing as how many of you are enjoying some spiked nog on this Christmas day, what better block to discuss than the Drunkard’s Path quilt block?

Quilt block names can be pretty funny, don’t you think? The Drunkard’s Path quilt block tends to look like a staggering drunk due to the arrangement of the curved pieces.

Curved piecing?! Yes, I know – curved seams, for many quilters, are to be avoided at all costs. The very idea of piecing a curved block makes their hair stand on end. Don’t be one of these quilters! You limit your skills, your experiences and your quilts. If you need help getting your curves just right, we can help.

DrunkardsPath_Diagram (1)

We’ve established that curved seams scare many quilters, especially those who are new to the craft, but there are helpful tools out there to make working with curved seams much easier. These 9″ or jumbo Curved Seam Templates and the curved piecing tutorial can assist you in your quilting adventure. Fear not, fellow quilters! We’ll get you to your happy curved piecing place just yet.

Fons & Porter Curved Seam Templates
Yes You Can Piece Curves: Curved Piecing Two Ways


Now that you know you can piece curves with a little help from your friends, let’s talk a bit about the history of the Drunkard’s Path quilt block, shall we? Just like the Log Cabin design, the Drunkard’s Path design can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. Archaeologists have unearthed this design on ancient Roman artifacts, as well. Again, just like the Log Cabin design. Being a quilter is so cool!

Quilters started using this design later in the 19th century and its origin in the quilting world is quite exciting. Ann Frischkorn and Amy Sandrin explain in their book, A Shortcut to Drunkard’s Path: Easy Appliqué Curves:

Once in the new colonies, several different names were used to describe the block’s new and different arrangements. Rocky Road to Kansas, Oregon Trail…and Wanderer in the Wilderness were just a few of the early aliases. Later on, Amish quilters added names such as Solomon’s Puzzle…and Endless Trail to the growing list of block names. Today, all of these names are used, but the most popular is still Drunkard’s Path. (p.5)

This might not be the traditional way to make the Snowball or Polka Dot variation of the Drunkard’s Path quilt block, but it’s close. The Beach Ball Bounce quilt uses the help of the Fons & Porter Jumbo Curved Seam Template to cut the pieces for this twin-size quilt.

Beach Ball Bounce Quilt

The Jumbo Curved Seam Template can also be used to make the Sonoma quilt. Curved piecing on this one is easier since the quilt features extra large curves.

Sonoma Quilt

The Drunkard’s Path quilt block has a very interesting American history and it’s well documented, which is lucky for us quilters. Like the Bear’s Paw quilt block, the Drunkard’s Path quilt block was used to guide slaves to freedom during the times of the Underground Railroad. Quilts were positioned at various points along specific routes and certain quilt blocks, according to Frischkorn and Sandrin, held particular meaning, “When the Drunkard’s Path block was displayed, the runaways would know to zigzag their path to make capture difficult.”

Quilting has so many stories to tell – it’s a lot of fun to learn about the quilt blocks and quilt block names that make up our history. Do you have any stories about the Drunkard’s Path quilt block? Share them with me in the comment section below, if you would.

Carrie Sisk, Online Editor, Fons & Porter


Happy Quilting!

Carrie Sisk, Fons & Porter Online Editor

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Carrie Sisk

About Carrie Sisk

Carrie's first sewing machine was a gift from her dad—a better gift was never given. A crafter, trained pianist and experienced paintballer, when the opportunity arises, she's hiking in Yosemite or Rocky Mountain National Park.

2 thoughts on “BLOCK Friday: Drunkard’s Path Quilt Block

  1. Please stop spreading the myth described in the book Hidden in Plain View that somehow quilt patterns were a code for runaway slaves in the underground railroad. The book is based on a one woman’s family’s oral tradition. She has passed away and no one else in the family can collaborate the story. The authors interviewed this woman and then tried to make her story into documented fact with absolutely NO documentation. It you read the book critically you will find that they are clever in stating such theories that the monkey wrench block stood for the tool wrench, then document the history of the tool. A reader might think that because the tool is so well documented so is the block. For a more accurate story please read Facts and Fabrications; Unraveling the History of Quilts and Slavery by Barbara Brackman.

    1. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! We would never choose to spread a myth about anything, especially quilting. We also appreciate you providing resources of where to find the information provided by Barbara Brackman. Much appreciated! ~Carrie