<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Classic Shoo Fly & shoofly variations

Nine-patch Shoofly

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The classic shoofly block is a 9-patch (3 squares by 3 squares), and so are the variations we've
included on this page. If your mystery block has a center square smaller than 1/3 of the block,
click here: For Jack-in-the-Pulpit blocks, click here:

Shoo Fly

Shoo Fly
The 8-cornered Box/Simplicity

This is the classic Shoo Fly block, published in 1897 by the Ladies Art Company. ("The 8-cornered box" was published by The American Farmer in 1896, but that drab name is all but forgotten.) Shoo Fly, also spelled Shoofly and Shoo-Fly, is a name for at least eight other blocks too.

No one knows how old the block is. Decades before the LAC catalog came out, a "fly fan" or "shoo fly fan" was a table-top wind-up fan that was supposed to scare away insects. The one at right is a cast-iron model with foldaway wings.

A shoo-fly fan's wings spun horizontally, like a ceiling fan's. Since some had wingspreads of up to four feet, they may well have scared a few diners too.

Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com
item 10512723

A Dandy

A Dandy

Clara Stone's 1906 Practical Needlework included this unusual Shoo Fly variation.

We've reversed the light and dark colors to show the seamlines. Those seamlines are our best guess, because our copy of this publication is too dark to show seamlines.

Fence Row

Fence Row Quilt
Fence Row

In 1931, Eveline Foland of the Kansas City Star published a whole-quilt pattern with Shoo Fly blocks placed on the diagonal (left). It was called Fence Row, and the design left space between the rows for fancy stitching.

Four years later, Carrie Hall showed a similar block as an elongated hexagon. Click on this block to see it:

Joseph's Coat
(Finley, 1929)

Joseph's Coat
(alternative colors)
Joseph's Coat

It's easier to see Joseph's Coat's resemblance to a Shoo Fly in multiple-color variations, such as the block at lower left, rather than in the three-color version that Ruth Finley included in her 1929 book.

In Finley's day, though, quilters knew that the block was supposed to be a rainbow of colors because the name referred to the Old Testament account of Joseph.

Joseph was his father Israel's favorite child, the son of Israel's wife Rachael. Eventually, his jealous half-brothers sold him into slavery and brought back his bloodied "coat of many colors" to persuade their father that Joseph had been killed.

Joseph ended up in Egypt and became the Pharoah's son-in-law. Years later, when the brothers came to Egypt during a famine, Joseph, to make a long story short, forgave them. The whole family of Israel moved to Egypt. That was where their descendants stayed until Moses led their escape.

Although quilters consider the block a 9-patch, the block is laid out on a 18- by 18-square grid. Click on either icon to see whole-quilt mockups.

Prairie Queen

Prairie Queen

Ruth Finley included this 2-color block in her 1929 book Old Patchwork Quilts. The resemblance to a Shoofly is muted because the center block is in the background color.

The block is puzzling because the four 2x2 checkerboards are arranged so that one checkerboard (the bottom one in our graphic) is reversed.

One consequence is that in a multiple-block quilt top, the block forms a lattice made up of horizontal bars with a checkerboard look and vertical bars with alternating rectangles.

We've added a 2nd version among the whole-quilt mockups to try to emphasize the lattice. Click on the graphic at left to see it.

Churn Dash

Double Monkey

Churn Dash

Churn Dash
Double Monkey Wrench/Old Mill Design/Hens and Chickens/Double T/Shoo Fly/Sherman's March/Monkey Wrench/Love Knot/Hole-in-the-Barn-Door/Puss-in-the-Corner/Shoo-Fly/Lincoln's Platform/Indian Hammer/Quail's Nest/Broken Plate/Joan's Doll Quilt/Fisherman's Reel/Picture Frame/Ludlow's Favorite

The sheer number of names for this venerable block say more about its age than anything we could. Churn Dash is the most popular, and it's used for pretty much every combination of colors.

Double Monkey Wrench, the name used for a two-color block in Ruth Finley's 1929 Old Patchwork Quilts, is the oldest published name. Kind of. In fact, the oldest block with this layout looks nothing like it. Grecian Designs, published in 1897 by the Ladies Art Company, looks so different from a Churn Dash that we put it in a whole different section. Click here to see it:

The third color combination at left brings out the Shoo Fly pattern within the block. It's used as an example by About.com's quilting editor, Janet Wickell. Her instructions are here:

The alternate names we've listed above are from Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.