How Do You Make An Irish Quilt Chain As A Beginner?

Q: The pattern for the Irish Chain quilt that is available for free download just recently. However, I was not given any instructions, and I need to know how much fabric to purchase for a quilt that is full or queen size, how to put the blocks together, and other similar information. I am grateful to you for your assistance. I’ve only been quilting for a short while, but I’m having so much fun learning new techniques!!!

A: I am grateful that you asked that question. Because it consists only of squares and can be pieced together with as few as two or three different fabrics, the Irish Chain quilt is an excellent choice for a beginner who wants to learn how to quilt.

The Irish Chain quilt is pieced together using just two different kinds of blocks when you make it using this method. The first block is a straightforward nine-patch with colors that alternate, and the second block is a straightforward square of fabric that does not require any piecing. In essence, you are only piecing together one-half of the total number of blocks that will be used in the quilt.

This Double Irish Chain quilt is more traditional in its construction, with light fabrics serving as the background and contrasting hues being used for the chain. Simply clicking on the image will bring up a more detailed version.

That means you finish the quilt quicker!

The combination of concord blue and muslin or turkey red and muslin was used to make a great number of traditional Irish Chain quilts. The “chain” of a traditional Irish Chain quilt would be made from a darker fabric (such as blue or red), while the background would be made from a lighter fabric (such as muslin).

The quilt that can be seen in the picture on the left is a Double Irish Chain. The “chain” is made out of a teal green and a dark blue color, and the background is made out of muslin. When I was making that quilt, I wasn’t familiar with colors like concord blue or turkey red, so I used colors that were more “me.”

You can achieve a more engaging appearance by inverting the color scheme so that the lighter fabric forms the chain and the darker fabric occupies the position traditionally reserved for the “background.” (For an illustration of this, see the picture that can be found to the right.)

The background of many Irish Chain quilts is made out of lighter fabrics, while the chain is made out of a fabric with a contrasting color. I chose to “show off” the green batik fabric because it is one of my favorites. Simply clicking on the image will bring up a more detailed version.

Just a couple of hints in fabric selection:

  • Select a fabric that is made entirely of cotton and is of high quality. Fight off the temptation to use an inexpensive fabric of poor quality for the background pieces by refusing to give in to it. Be wary of muslin because the weave can be quite loose at times, and the quality can be quite poor. It’s possible that your quilt will fall apart before it’s finished.
  • If you are making a Double Irish Chain quilt, you can make it more interesting by using prints of varying scales and rotating them throughout the quilt.
  • According to tradition, you should avoid wearing plaids and stripes whenever possible. I suppose quilters adhere to those rules, because I don’t recall ever seeing an Irish Chain made from plaids or stripes, but I can see how that could be an interesting variation to try.
  • Experiment with a new approach. I adore the quilt on the right because it uses a batik for the green fabric, and overall, the quilt is beautiful. The same batik material was used for the narrow strips that make up the border. What can you say about a quilt made with only two fabrics?

Fabric Requirements for a Simple Irish Chain Quilt

You will need the following in order to make a Full-Size quilt with patches measuring 3 inches (finished size) each:

 Single ChainDouble Chain
 Light Fabric3 yards2 1/4 yards
 Medium Fabric1 1/8 yards
 Dark Fabric1 1/2 yards1 7/8 yards
 Backing 6 yards
 Batting 6 yards or 81” by 100”

This accounts for space needed for a border that is 4 inches wide.

If you want to make a quilt that is Queen Size and has patches that are 3 inches (finished size), you will need:

 Single ChainDouble Chain
 Light Fabric3 1/3 yards2 2/3 yards
 Medium Fabric1 1/4 yards
 Dark Fabric1 2/3 yards2 1/8 yards
 Backing 9 yards
 Batting 9 yards or 90 ” by 100”

This accounts for space needed for a border that is 4 inches wide.

Sewing the Quilt

  • Start by piecing your nine-patch blocks together using a straight stitch. Following the instructions in The Beginner’s Guide to Quilting will allow you to strip piece these blocks with ease. Alternately, you could cut the squares that will be used for the patches and then sew each one separately.
  • Following that, cut squares from the fabric to use as alternating blocks. These squares need to be cut to the same dimensions as the 9 patch blocks you’re making. For instance, if each of your 9 patch blocks measures 9 inches across and 9 inches deep, the alternating blocks should also measure 9 inches across and 9 inches deep.
  • Lay your quilt out on a flat surface, or on your flannel wall, as you would like it sewn together, alternating 9 patch blocks with the squares of fabric. Once all of the patches have been sewn into blocks, cut your alternating squares.
  • First, the blocks in each row should be sewed together, and then the rows of blocks should be sewed together. You are now ready to begin quilting once you have added borders, layered the quilt top, and layered the batting and backing.
  • In choosing a quilting design, you can take advantage of the alternating squares for some fancy quilting. If you want to do some simple quilting on this quilt, all you have to do is follow the lines that look like chains.
  • The final step must be completed. When I bind my quilts, I typically use a fabric that is one shade darker than the most recent border. On occasion, I use the fabric from the exterior border to make the binding blend into the border. This helps the finished product look more polished.

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