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Make an Irish Chain Quilt

By: Penny Halgren

Q: I recently downloaded the free pattern for the Irish Chain quilt. However, I didn't get any instructions, I need to know how much fabric to buy for a full / queen size quilt, how to put the blocks together, etc. Thank you for your help. I am a fairly new quilter and having a great time learning!!!
Sheila Kiker

A: Thanks for your question. The Irish Chain quilt is a perfect project for a beginner quilter, since it is made with just squares, and can be made using only two or three fabrics.

The quilt is made of just two different blocks. One is a simple nine patch with alternating colors, and the other block is a simple square of fabric - no patching required. In essence, you are piecing only half as many blocks as are in the quilt.

double irish chain quilt This Double Irish Chain quilt is more traditional, using light fabrics as a background, with the chain being a contrasting colors. Click on the picture for a larger image.

 

Many traditional Irish Chain quilts were made using a concord blue and muslin or turkey red and muslin. A traditional Irish Chain quilt would have the "chain" in the darker fabric (i.e., blue or red), and the light fabric (i.e., muslin) as the background.

The quilt shown in the picture on the left is a Double Irish Chain using a teal green and dark blue in the "chain" and muslin for the background.

 

 

For a more interesting look, you can reverse the color scheme so your dark fabric is in the "background" position and the light fabric makes the chain. (See the picture to the right for an example.)

irish chain quiltMany Irish Chain quilts are made using light fabrics as a background, with the chain being a contrasting color. The green fabric is a batik that I wanted to "show off." Click on the picture for a larger image.

Just a couple of hints in fabric selection:

  • Choose a good quality 100% cotton fabric. Resist the temptation to use an inexpensive, low quality fabric for the background pieces.
  • If you are making a Double Irish Chain, varying the scale of the prints you are using makes the quilt more interesting.
  • Tradition has it that you should stay away from plaids and stripes. Although I can't remember ever seeing an Irish Chain made from plaids or stripes, it might be interesting.

Fabric Requirements

For a Full Size quilt, with 3 inch (finished size) patches, you will need:

 

Single Chain

Double Chain

 Light Fabric

3 yards

2 1/4 yards

 Medium Fabric

--

1 1/8 yards

 Dark Fabric

1 1/2 yards

1 7/8 yards

 Backing

 6 yards

 Batting

 6 yards or 81” by 100”

This includes an allowance for a 4" wide border.

 

For a Queen Size quilt, with 3 inch (finished size) patches, you will need:
 

 

 

Single Chain

Double Chain

 Light Fabric

3 1/3 yards

2 2/3 yards

 Medium Fabric

--

1 1/4 yards

 Dark Fabric

1 2/3 yards

2 1/8 yards

 Backing

 9 yards

 Batting

 9 yards or 90 ” by 100”

This includes an allowance for a 4" wide border.

Sewing the Quilt

First you will sew your nine patch blocks together. You can easily strip piece these blocks, as described in The Beginner's Guide to Quilting, Vol. I. Or you can cut the squares for the patches and sew them together individually.

Next you will cut squares of fabric for the alternating blocks. These squares should be the same size as your 9 patch blocks.

Once all of the patches are sewn into blocks and your alternating squares are cut, lay your quilt out on a flat surface as you would like it sewn together, alternating 9 patch blocks with the squares of fabric.

Sew each row of blocks together, then sew the rows of blocks together. Add borders, layer the quilt top, batting and backing, and you are ready for quilting.

In choosing a quilting design, you can take advantage of the alternating squares for some fancy quilting. This quilt lends itself to some simple quilting as well - just follow the "chain" lines.

The last step is binding. I usually bind my quilts with a fabric that is darker than the last border. Occasionally I use the fabric from the outside border, so the binding blends into the border.

Happy Quilting!


Penny is a quilter of more than 24 years who seeks to interest new quilters and provide them with the resources necessary to create beautiful quilts.

www.How-to-Quilt.com
Inspiration and Education for Beginning Quilters

 

www.Rag-Quilt-Instructions.com
Fast, Fun and Funky Quilts

www.Fabric-Postcards.com
Quilt Greetings Across the Miles

 

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©2007, Penny Halgren