Block 2019: Snail Trail Variations


Welcome to the Block 2019 Creative Challenge! We’re exploring different classic quilt block each month all year long. Before we get to the Snail Trail variations, we want to be sure you get to see the Block 2019 Sampler Quilt!

It’s 72″ x 72″ and suitable for quilt-as-you-go. Get fabric requirements for the sampler or look at the kit. It’s another fun way to participate in Block 2019. Okay, back to Snail Trail variations!

Last week we met Snail Trail. This week, we’re going to play with variations of Snail Trail and learn along the way what essential parts from Snail Trail must exist in its variations. Let’s start by look at the original.

Snail Trail quilt block

Our Snail Trail is actually four blocks put together. Here’s a solo Snail Trail block.

According to Barbara Brackman in Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, the traditional Snail Trail block traces back to the Ladies Art Company, a mail order quilt pattern catalog, appearing in 1928. The block predates its publication in LAC, as you’ll notice when we look at the variations. The block features a Four Patch set at the center of several Square in a Squares creating the illusion of curves. There are definitely a few avenues for variations. Let’s take a look.

Simple Monkey Wrench

snail trail block variations

A Monkey Wrench block is very similar to Snail Trail, but it has one less Square in a Square round on it. Because of this, the illusion of the curve isn’t so dramatic in Monkey Wrench blocks. This one is simplified even more by being made with only one Square in a Square unit, the rest is created using squares and Half Square Triangle units. This is nice for fast sewing, and it’s also a great opportunity to create a scrappy, mosaic look. Just be sure to sort the scraps into two contrasting values and you’re set!


snail trail block variations

Nautilus was published by Clara Stone in her booklet, Practical Needlework: Quilt Patterns, CW in 1906. This variation has all the same elements as Snail Trail, except that the Four Patch at the center is replaced by a Quarter Square Triangle unit.


snail trail block variations

Two of the fun things to do with Snail Trail is to create a swirl of all different colors, and to keep adding rounds of Square in a Squares. Vortex has both. If you want to make this one, the easiest way is to start with a piece of paper the size of block you want, and start drawing Square in a Squares on the paper until you like it and/or run out of room. Use the paper to Foundation Paper Piece the block.

Snail Garden

snail trail block variations

One of my favorite things to do for Snail Trail blocks is to sneak another block into it. That’s what I’ve done with Snail Garden. By it’s lonesome, it’s a little odd looking, but set a bunch together and voila! A garden of Pinwheel flowers appears.

snail trail block variations snail trail block variations

In a quilt, I like mixing solids and prints to help the Snail Trail and Pinwheel elements contrast.

Ready to make your own variation on Snail Trail variation? We have instructions for Snail Garden to get you started, but there are many ways reinterpret Snail Trail your way!

snail trail block variation

Check back next week, April 17th, for quilt-as-you-go ideas for quilting your Snail Trail block.

Show us your Snail Trail blocks and variations in the AQS Project Parade Facebook group, or use the hashtag #Block2019 and tag us @aqsonline because we can’t wait to see what you make!

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Suzy Karcher

I am thoroughly enjoying the
Block 2019 endeavor. I enjoy The history behind each block as well as the variety of ways to make each one.