Oct 8, 2012

Tutorial: Quilting curves - The Drunkard's Path

The Drunkard's path is a quilt square with a ton of history. Some people say that it was used as a form of communication between slaves on the underground  railroad.  Can you imagine having to sew a whole quilt just to send a message to your friends?

The Drunkard's path square is simple, just a quarter circle in a square.  I think people tend to shy away from it because it involves quilting a curve, scary right?  It is really not so bad! HERE is the post on the quilt I made.

Traditionally this quilt is made with just two colors, usually white and either blue or red.  But you could do it with any number of colors.  I am using some 5" squares I had left over from a charm pack (Sugar Pop by Liz Scott for Moda) and some Kona white fabric.

To make your Drunkard's path quilt, you will need a template to cut your pieces.
Decide how big you want your quarter circle to be.  My squares were 5" so I decided to make my quarter circles 4".  That meant I needed a full circle with a diameter of 8" to make my template.

To draw a perfect circle, you can find something the right size to trace around (like a plate or a bowl), use a compass if you have one, or you can print one off the computer, which is what I did.  Check out THIS TUTORIAL for making circle flowers where I show you how to make circles in Microsoft word.  This method of course will only work for a circle that will fit on a sheet of paper.

Once you have your circle drawn cut it out. Then fold it in half and then in quarters. Cut along the folds so you end up with a quarter circle.

Use that template to cut out your pieces. If you have a small rotary cutter you can use that, I just used scissors and stacked 3 or 4 squares to cut at the same time.  You will end up with one concave quarter circle and one convex one (remember those terms from high school geometry!)

On all of your concave pieces, cut 1/2" off both ends.  That will allow for a 1/4" seam allowance.

Take one of your concave pieces and one of the convex pieces.  Find the center of each piece and pin them right sides together.

Place one pin on both ends, because the curve is cut on the bias, it will stretch a bit.

Then fill in with pins.

Sew the pieces together, removing the pins as you come to them.

Then press your seam towards the concave circle.  Flip your square over and press the other side.

Once you have all your squares made, you will need to square them up so your quilt doesn't come out all wonky.  
Measure your square, mine was almost 4.5" so I decided to cut them down to 4.25" when I squared them.


Lay your quilter's square on top of your square with the quarter circle towards the middle.  Line the seams of the curve up on both sides with the same spot (mine were 3/4" in from the edge).  Note the spot you line the curve up at because you will need to use that same spot when you square the other pieces so they are all identical.  
Trim off the fabric that is past the ruler.

Turn your square so the corner you just squared it towards the middle.  Cut your square to the size you want (mine was 4 1/4")

Repeat the last two steps on all your squares.  

Now for the fun part, deciding how to arrange your squares!
Remember my post on quilting with half square triangles? Drunkard's path squares are pretty similar, there are countless ways to arrange them.  Here are a few a lot of the arrangements I tried.

Awesome, right? Try it out!


  1. Love the variations to this one and the half triangles!!! Definitely will be trying it!


    1. These quilts are so fun to make! Email me a picture if you make one, I would love to see it!

  2. I just came across your blog...this is a wonderful post! Very helpful...and creative! Thanks!

  3. This is so amazing - just a wonderful wonderful tutorial. Thank you - I'm going to make one of my Kids Painted Quilts with this pattern and I will link back to this. The ideas you offer are unending!!

  4. This seems so funny ! Thanks for the tutorial ! I'd love to try it (one day) !

  5. This is genius! I can't tell you how much fabric I've wasted making drunkard's paths. Cutting off that 1/2" is brilliant. Thank you so much!

  6. I just learned drunkard's path, but for the life of me couldn't figure out how to square it. I've searched and searched and finally found this post! Thank you!! By the way, love all your designs you created with the blocks!!

  7. The blog or and best that is extremely useful to keep I can share the ideas of the future as this is really what I was looking for, I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
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