BLOCK Friday: Shoo Fly Quilt Block – Fons & Porter

The Shoo Fly quilt block is one of those traditional quilt block names that every quilter knows. Another name that was popular with farmers in the mid- to late-1800s was Hole in the Barn Door. Today, quilters are familiar with traditional quilt block names like Churn Dash quilt block, which look similar to the Shoo Fly block. Patchwork Blues (below) is a beautiful example of what the Shoo Fly can do for a quilt.

Patchwork Blues by Mari Martin

Legend has it, the simple Shoo Fly quilt block was used to teach young girls the basics of piecing and sewing. Because of its simple square and half-square triangle construction, the block was easy enough for a beginner to practice quilt design and construction. In fact, the Shoo Fly test block in an episode of Quilty, with Mary Fons, was made by someone who had never pieced anything before in his life!

There is speculation as to where the name originates, but one theory cites clover Shoo Fly - Quilting in Americabroom (Shoofly plant) as a source. This plant is said to drive off flies when the plant’s juices and root are mixed with milk and set on a bedside table.

Whatever its origin, this gorgeous, depression-era quilt block makes its statement in a variety of different forms. Depending on color arrangement, the primary design can appear as four arrows in the corners, pointing to a center block or a circle with a hole in the center.

Can you see the Shoo Fly quilt blocks in Emily’s Wedding Quilt?

Emily's Wedding Quilt by Liz Porter
Emily’s Wedding Quilt by Liz Porter

Here’s a variation on the Shoo Fly quilt block. It’s called Shoo Shoo Fly. See how the half-square triangles in the corners are oversized compared to the center block? Makes for a very interesting aesthetic!

Shoo Shoo Fly by Christina McCourt
Shoo Shoo Fly by Christina McCourt

And of course, With Help from Friends by Liz Porter. This ultimate scrappy quilt pattern features 180 itty bitty Shoo Fly blocks. Isn’t this great?! This quilt has all the charm of a vintage scrap quilt and it’s hard to beat a scrap quilt.

With Help from Friends by Liz Porter
With Help from Friends by Liz Porter

Do you know anything else about the Shoo Fly block? Let me know in the comments below. Enjoy!

Carrie Sisk, Online Editor, Fons & Porter


Happy Quilting!

Carrie Sisk, Fons & Porter, Online Editor

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