Monday, February 21, 2022

Happy President's Day!

We quilters go through phases.  Fabric colors we love, techniques we find enchanting, and patterns that we love.  Decades ago, I loved churn dash blocks.  I like them particularly for baby quilts and made quite a few. 

Quilt names go in phases too!  This particular pattern has a variety of names including Monkey Wrench:

But wait...what is this?


Yes, names can be misleading.  There wasn't--and probably still isn't one name only for a specific pattern.  Admittedly, it adds to the folksy character of our craft.

I didn't find many references to the "Churn Dash" in the 19th century but I did find that in 1895, a newspaper had one sentence, "The 'monkey wrench' quilt is the latest pattern."  I'm not sure what pattern they meant by this--because I also found this from Nancy Page in 1933:

Like you, I considered this pattern, "snail's trail" and made a table runner for the kids years ago.  It was a variation because I chose not to do the 4-patch in the center so the kids' could see the cat fabric.

And then I found this article from 1940.  The headline across the page said, "The Old 'Monkey Wrench' Quilt Pattern Back Under a New Name'".

Personally, I would prefer the world be a better place so more quilt patterns could make headlines!  I'm just wondering if years before, quilters protested the name "monkey wrench" being applied to a pattern they knew as "snail's trail." 

Although the pattern is called a variety of names, I chose to focus on this one because it is also referred to as "Lincoln's Platform" and was called that by Carrie Hall, author of The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America.  It seemed fitting for President's Day.  Of course there were variations on this name as well such as this one in a 1934 newspaper:

Florence La Ganke also featured this pattern in a Nancy Page ad 4 years later.

Whatever name it is called, my favorite quilt that featured "churn dash" or "monkey wrench" or "Lincoln's platform" was owned by a friend that I used to sew with at our local quilt shop.  This was many years ago before the store relocated.

My guess is that it was from the last quarter of the 19th century.  The quilt was tied and featured circular woolen buttons to protect the fabric.  That was done frequently in Pennsylvania German quilts here.  The best part was that Betty (the owner of the quilt) found it in a family cabin.  A stool felt very lumpy to sit on and when she decided to reupholster the seat, Betty found this beauty folded up and used for batting.

Whatever we call it, it's a fun pattern!

Have a safe and happy day!



  1. Of all the names, monkey wrench makes the most sense but I prefer shoofly which doesn't make sense at all! I started making scrappy blocks out of leftover cut off triangles. I asked on my blog what the name of these blocks were, I was informed they were called Indian Hatchet! I sure don't see that in the block, they don't look like a hatchet to me. It would be nice of quilt blocks had consistent names but that's never going to happen.

  2. Out of curiosity I looked it up in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia. (A recent toy for me!) She calls the ones you made in the baby quilt, with rectangular sides, all the names you've mentioned, and many more. If you look up snails' trail she does list Monkey Wrench as an option there! Shoofly, however, is what the pattern you have in the newspaper clipping called Monkey Wrench! It has square blocks on the sides; basically a nine-patch with HST in the corners. I think you covered all the bases here. We quilters are a creative bunch!

  3. It looks like there are some great fabrics in that quilt.

  4. Another name for monkey wrench/churn dash pattern is Sherman's March. I made a quilt in that pattern for a friend in Atlanta. Seemed appropriate. Isn't "hole in the barn door" the same as well?

  5. Using that quilt as padding preserved it, though those red ties and buttons don't do much to enhance the design.

  6. That last quilt doesn't look like it has even been used. I didn't realize that circles of wool were used to re-enforce the ties.