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 ...

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.. ...
©2020 The Quilting Patch