Wandering Foot Quilt Pattern
Reflecting the Rush for Gold and Land

"But wanderlust, the craving for change rose among the men and boys of America to the pitch of emotional disease."  Ruth Finley 1929 1

A Superstition About this Pattern

The story goes that the name of this quilt pattern was changed from Wandering Foot to Turkey Tracks because women believed if a boy slept under this quilt he would someday wander westward and be lost to his dear mother.In addition no bride would bring such a quilt to her marriage for fear her husband would leave her and go looking for gold or land. Wandering Foot quilt Apparently by changing the name of the pattern the curse of the wandering foot was banished.

We have to take this with a huge grain of salt as it's not known if this superstition was ever really connected to this pattern in pioneer days. Most likely it's a delightful myth that came out of the 1920s and 30s when 19th century quilting was romanticized by magazines and books. The quote at the top of this page gives us a sense of their exaggerated style of writing.

Quite Another View of Wandering Foot Quilts

In her book, "The Oregon Trail", Mary Bywater Cross 2 discusses the relationship of this pattern name to the westward movement. She found it particularly interesting that three of the quilts in her study of quilts that came west on the Oregon Trail were made with the Wandering Foot pattern. She concludes it was a quilt pattern that honored those who made this journey. appliqued Wandering Foot During this period the desire to explore and settle in new territory was a national virtue. The pioneers were valued for their part in expanding the country and strengthening America's economy.

Two of these quilts were made by relatives and given to pioneer families before they embarked while the other was made on the Oregon Trail. All three quilts went to the Oregon Territory between 1850 and 1855. Though the patterns varied slightly they all required skilled piecing and applique so the makers must have considered them special. This indicates that the pattern represented a pride in the accomplishments of those who made the perilous journey west.

Based on what is known now Mary Bywater Cross suggests that the name probably changed to Turkey Tracks as people became more settled toward the end of the 19th century. Like most patterns this one has had many names including Iris Leaf, The Swallow, Bible Tulip as well as Burr and Thistle.

The free pattern for the pieced version of this quilt can be found at Pieced Wandering Foot Quilt Pattern. The free appliqued version is at Wandering Foot Quilt Pattern with Applique. Be sure to set your printer for

2007 Judy Anne Breneman

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1 p30, "Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them", by Ruth Finley

2 pp 155 & 156, "The Oregon Trail", by Mary Bywater Cross