2017 Block of the Month - Irish Chain Alternate Blocks

 by thequiltingpatch on 26 Mar 2017 |
1 Comment(s)
Here we go! The block youve all been waiting for...
I know these blocks as Irish chains, but I think that only one of them is REALLY Irish and the rest are variations.  
Ours is called "Alabama Variation", and here are some pics of others, so you can see what theyre all about.
Although these three chain blocks are different, they will all have a similar effect in your quilt design as an alternate block, creating diagonal lines through your quilt top. If you have sampler blocks like we do, the chain helps to create balance and unity to the quilt design.

Now I know what youre all thinking... Look at all those little squares and strips. But take heart, we are going to make this block the easy way. 
Instead of cutting squares, we will be cutting strips, sewing strips and then cutting again.

For you newbies, this is usually called strip piecing. It saves a lot of time. If you havent done it before, dont stress, its actually much easier than sewing all those squares and strips together. And once you "get it" youll start looking at your other patchwork projects to see how you can apply it to them!
I suggest you make a cuppa and have a read to the end if this process is new to you. 

I think it helps to take a good look at how this block is made up, to see where the potential " strip sets" are. 

Ok so the first pic is our block.
The second pic shows the outer strips sets ( we are going to call those the B sets)
The third pic shows the midde strips sets ( we are going to call those the C sets)
The last pic shows the inner strips sets ( we are going to call those A sets)

There is one more potential strip set available to us in this block. It is the centre square and the neighbouring strips either side of it.
However, if you are fussy cutting this fabric because of the print, or using smaller ( not width of fabric) pieces than you can just piece this the regular way. (FYI I only had fat quarters of the fabric I chose for the centre square so I decided Id just cut mine into squares and not bother with the strip piecing method for this section.)

Here are the measurements for the strip sets and photos of mine.
B Strip set 
(2 x)  2" x WOF strips
(1x)  9 1/2" x WOF strip - background fabric

C Strip set
(2 x)  2" x WOF strips
(1x)  6 1/2" x WOF strip - background fabric

A Strip set
(2 x)  2" x WOF strips
(1x)  3 1/2" x WOF strip - background fabric

And this is what a strip set looks like sewn together, and pressed.The black is my background fabric.
(And YES I do have to apologise, because I've changed my mind on my fabric colours and am making my squares red instead of lime green. Sorry if that is confusing!)

So you can see I have simply sewn the 2" strips either side of my black background strip.
You need to repeat this for the 3 strips sets. And here you can see my strip sets on the ironing board ready to cut up. 

Now that they are made and pressed, they are ready to slice into 2" segments. 

At this point, if you've never done this before you may be having a little "AHA!" moment.
Hopefully you are also thinking about how long it would have taken to make this block had you cut all the pieces into strips and square and sewn them together individually. 

Ok so when youve cut up all three strip sets, you'll have piles of these units made

So thats the strip sets done and dusted. Put them aside, now and lets get cutting the other parts of this block. 

In this picture the grey defines the three remaining strips that we need to cut.

We also need to cut the centre square, and as we talked about this might be fussy cut if you have such a suitabe fabric. 
Ok so the cutting for the centre square is easy. They are 3 1/2" squares, and youll need 12 of them.
The rest are cut from your background fabric and are as follows
A   3 1/2" x 2" ( cut a 3 1/2" strip and then crosscut it)
B   9 1/2"  x 2"  ( cut a 9 1/2" strip and then crosscut it)
C   6 1/2" x 2"  ( cut a 6 1/2" strip and then crosscut it)

Once youve cut these you have everything you need to make this block. 
BUT you wont have enough of them to make all 12 blocks. 
As most fabric is roughly 40" wide, youre going to get 20 units when you cut it all into 2" segments. 
Each strip or strip set unit is used twice in each block, so we are going to need 24 of each piece. 

The best way is to cut 2 more background fabric strips- one at 9 1/2", the other at 3 1/2".
They are both WOF.
Cut the 9 1/2" strip in half crossways so you have two 9 1/2" x 21"( approx ) 
Use ONE of those 9 1/2" strips  - cut (4) 2" segments off and add to your B piles of background strips.
Now use whats left of that strip ( which will now measure approx 9 1/2 x 13") to make a Strip Set as we did earlier in this lesson. Cut the strip set into 2" segments and add those to your piles of 9 1/2" strip set units. 
You should still have a 9 1/2" x 21" strip left. Cut it down so it measures 6 1/2" x 21". 
Pretty much it just a repeat now of what you did with the first half of the 9 1/2" strip, except now you are topping up your 6 1/2" piles. 
The 3 1/2" strip gets the same treatment, using half for strips and half for strip sets.

By now I think we all need a cuppa and a biscuit. Or a wine. But not too much because we are going to get sewing next.

When you are ready to sew...
This is the easy bit, and a little repetitive.
My top tip is to press your seams out towards the block edges, not towards the centre. You should be pressing after each edge is joined. Keep to pressing, try not to squeeze the life out of your fabric with the iron, or your block will warp. 
Start with the centre square ( 3 1/2") , adding the two smallest strips to each side( the A strips). 
(Please excuse the washed out pics, my sewing machine light was on !!)

Now add the smallest strip set ( the A strip set)  to the top and bottom

Next we add the C strips to the sides

And you guessed it the C strip set is next.
Ok I think you have got this. just keep adding the plain strips to the sides and the strip sets to the top and bottom. Dont forget pinning the seams is the best way to get them to line up - and the pressing directions will help that too. 

You should end up with something like this. Now make 12 more lol.

As always feel free to email me at info@e-patch.com.au if you have any questions, or throw a question in the comments box below. 
Please forgive me if we take a day or so to get back to you, we are at product launch stage with our EPP templates and that is sucking all the time out of my day!



Sandra Shenker - Comment
Sandra Shenker21 Apr 2017Reply
I am confused. The blocks are to finish at 12, but the Irish chain is unfinished at 12"? What did I miss?
thequiltingpatch - Comment
thequiltingpatch21 Apr 2017Reply
Hi Sandra - it should measure 12.5 inches when its made and 12 inches sewn into the quilt. ie the last strip is 9.5 plus 2" square plus another 2" square. This adds up to 13.5" . Take 1 inch out for the two seams and you get 12.5" unfinished ( 12" finished)
Hope this helps!
Sandra Shenker - Comment
Sandra Shenker21 Apr 2017Reply
Thanks! I am back on track now! :)

Leave a comment

* Please enter your name.
Email address will not be published
Please enter a valid email address.
* Please enter your comment.
Image Verification
'Please enter security code.
Our Blog

The Storytellers Sampler Quilt - the Joy of Fussycutting

by thequiltingpatch on 20 Jan 2020
The story so far... Local quilter Cinzia White publishes an amazing book, The Storytellers Sampler Quilt. Eppiflex templates launches a Block of The Month called Telling Tales, featuring 60 upsized blocks from the book and I start sewing up blocks. Cinzia asks me to contribute to her quiltalong using blocks from the aforementioned book. I fall down the rabbithole of fussycutting. But let's talk about what this is really about... Addicted to sewing...addicted to fabric...addicted to starting new projects... and now addicted to fussycutting.  So what's the hype about fussycutting?  If you are already a creative soul and enjoying making pretty blocks by joining shapes together, fussy cutting is some next level crafty action. Do you remember those kaliedoscope toys we had as kids. I have no idea how they worked, they were just MAGIC. Who could get bored with the amazing patterns they made as you twisted and turned them. I was fascinated with them.                   "No you cant have a go yet, Im not finished" - I wasnt a good sharer being the youngest and most spoilt of my siblings. Ask my sister, she will back me up.  So fussycutting a beautiful fabric into an even more beautiful fabric block is a bit like making magic for me. Mirrors? Yeah nah. I know some people swear by them, but I don't want to know what it's going to look like. Why spoil the magic? That's like someone showing you a picture of the next kaliedoscope before you can twist the tube. Just let the magic happen. Embrace the unknown a little.  Waste of fabric?  This is what Cinzia says to me... but let's be honest we all have enough fabric to be a bit less frugal with it. I think quilters are the quintessential horders. Why else would we have so many memes about collecting fabric. Even the term stash says it all.  In fact in the current economic climate of a massive downturn in retail spending I think we all have a responsibilty to fussy cut more and support the shops before they disappear altogether.  So my little contribution to Cinzia's Quiltalong is "Blackberry Freedom" and it is English paper pieced. Thanks Cinzia for asking me to join in and for writing such a sensational book.  

2019 Block of the Month - Borders and Construction

by thequiltingpatch on 24 Dec 2019
If you've made it this far, you have sewn all your 12 flower blocks and the sun compass and are wondering whats next.. Here is where we are going to work with what you have, and not with what you should have according to this pattern. We are going off road! And let me explain why.. First of all, there's colour and fabric choice.. if you lay out your blocks exactly as the pattern above, it may not be the best layout your quilt could have. For instance when I laid my blocks out exactly as the quilt pattern, I ended up with 4 blocks of red flowers in a row. There was a real clump of red in one section and it looked aweful. So I've moved my 4 red blocks, placing one in each corner. I then took my 3 blue blocks and evenly spread them around, and so on.  It might take you a while to decide where your blocks are going. Take some photos with your phone along the way so you can decide on your final layout. Looking through you phone makes it easier for you to spot the "clumps" of colour or tone. Lets talk about how this medallion quilt is going to come together.  First of all we have our centre block - our sun compass. It's going to have a thin floral frame.  This is surrounded by a floral block border - these are the 12 floral blocks that you made. First we will attach two side border sections, made from 4 of our floral blocks. Next we will attach the top and bottom border sections made from our remaining 8 floral blocks. The pieced border is a border that features the scrappy floral prints we have used to frame our flower blocks. The last border is a plain border which is cut 3 1/4" wide Last is the binding - cut at 2 1/2" wide To frame the sun compass, cut your 4 frames 1 3/8" x 20 1/2" ( or whatever your compass square measures - mine was 20" so believe me there is wiggle room)  Cut 4 corner stones in the background fabric 1 3/8" Attach two squares to either end of two of your frames. Sew the first two plain frames to the sides of your compass centre Now add the frames with the cornerstones attached to the top and bottom of the sun compass Its now time to attach the side floral blocks to the framed sun compass. Make sure you pin the seam intersections so that your frames on your sun compass line up with the frames on your floral blocks.  The next step is to attach the top and bottom floral block rows, again making sure the seams line up by pinning them first.  The last bit of piecing from this quilt will be the pieced border. We are going to strip piece it, unless you are working with scraps and can't cut strips in any great length to strip piece.  If you are not familiar with strip piecing, check out my blog post from last year, in particular the first set of photos where I explain cutting and sewing the strips and then crosscutting them.  Your strips will be cut 2 1/8" wide. Sew one background fabric strip to a floral strip. Press well. Then crosscut this strip set to 3 1/4".  Join the sections of 3 1/4" together, topping and tailing them so that the fabric prints create a checkerboard pattern.  Each border has 16 units making up the checkerboard. You will need 64 units to make enough for the quilt.  Make and sew your border units together. Measure the length of these border units. Now cut 4 strips in the background fabric that is 3 3/4" wide x the length measured above. Sew these strips to each border unit.  ( ignore the seams in the picture below - your plain strip is cut in one length)  Now we need to make the 4 corner units. Once finished you will will attach two corner units to either end of 2 of your border units.  The corner unit consists of a four patch bordered on two sides by a mitred edge.  The four patch section consist of squares cut 2 1/8". The mitred edges are strips cut 3 3/4" x 7 3/8" and then trimmed on one edge at 45 degrees.     To sew this corner unit together, first make the four patch sections. Then pin and sew one mitred border from the straight side edge to the corner, stopping 1/4" short of the angled edge. Press.    Pin your second mitred border piece to the adjacent edge Beginning at the straight edge, sew towards the mitre, stop at the 1/4", lift the machine foot keeping the machine needle down to hold the fabric in place. Align the two pointy corner pieces and the mitred edge. Lower the foot and continue sewing to the end of the seam.     Your corner section seams should align with your border section seams. Attach two corner sections to the end of two pieced borders as below. You are now ready to attach the first two borders to the side edges of your quilt (the two without the corners attached.) Make sure you pin the borders and then sew. Press the quilt and then attach the second two borders (with the corners attached) again pinning first to align seams.  Phew!!! Nearly there!! The last border is a plain background border cut at 3 1/4", so it's time to press and measure your quilt, so you'll be able to cut the first two strips to the correct size. I would suggest measuring the quilt through the centre and cutting those 3 1/4" strips to this length, as a last effort in squaring up the quilt. Once you have the first two strips cut you can sew them on and press them. Repeat this step cutting the last two border strips to size before pinning and sewing them on.  Congratulations... if you are here with me now, you have a finished quilt top!! I hope you have enjoyed this years' challenging quilt - I think it is quite stunning and a credit to your sewing skills.  Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! Have a safe and relaxing holiday season.  Much love Danni xx
©2020 The Quilting Patch