Learn how to make a double Irish chain quilt! You’ll be shocked at how simple this traditional pattern actually is. Free pattern included.
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Here at DTQ, we consider ourselves modern quilters. That’s probably pretty obvious looking at the patterns we design, the colors we use etc.
But as with all things modern, the inspiration is in the traditional. It might not look like it at first sight, but pretty much all design is somehow inspired by something from the past. And I love that!
So as much as we love modern design, we also love to learn about old-school quilting and the traditional patterns and blocks that have been around for centuries now. And – if opportunity arises (and it always does) – finding a way to give it a modern twist!
I thought I’d have a go at creating a modern version of a truly classic quilt design – the double Irish chain quilt pattern.
Join me and make your own modern – but classic – double Irish chain quilt!
What is the Double Irish Chain Quilt?
Before we jump into the double Irish chain tutorial, let me briefly explain what it is.
In a nutshell, the double Irish chain is defined by diagonal chains of fabric squares that create a diamond pattern across the quilt top.
As the name tells you, all diagonals come in pairs. So unlike the basic Irish chain quilt, the double Irish chain features double diagonal chains creating this interesting interlocking design.
Here’s what we love about the Double Irish Chain quilt:
- It’s a real show-stopper and looks super complicated to make. But in reality, it’s actually pretty beginner-friendly. (BTW, we’ve got some awesome beginner-friendly quilt blocks that look difficult to make here.)
- You can use strip piecing to really speed up the piecing process. We always love that!
- When it comes to colors, the possibilities are endless. You’ll see many quilters go for a soft or neutral color for the background and something eye-catching for those chains. But there are so many other possibilities. Add a third color to the mix creating a completely different look. Or flip the colors and create light chains against a dark background. You can really have some fun here and make something unique. See the variations below and you’ll see what I mean.
Double Irish Chain Quilt Pattern Variations
There are probably endless variations of the double Irish chain pattern and I won’t even attempt to explain all of them.
But I still wanted to share at least a few variations so you can see how much of a difference just a little change to the building blocks can make.
You’ll always need an odd number of blocks in each direction to ensure you get a symmetrical design. In our examples, we use 7 blocks horizontally and 9 blocks vertically. This means the quilt top has 7 columns and 9 rows.
Basic Checkerboard Double Irish Chain Quilt
This is the most basic version of the double Irish chain. It is created using two different fabrics: the ‘chains’ fabric (white in my case) and the background fabric (pink).
The layout is created by interchanging two basic blocks (this is true in all variations): block A and block B.
This version creates a super graphic, very modern, and minimalistic effect.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to make it exactly like this. You can for example use scraps for the foreground, which will create a completely different look. Just make sure that the color value of the chain pieces is similar – and at the same time different to the color value of the background. This means, in layman’s terms, to use either dark squares against a light background, or light squares against a dark background.
I’ll show you how to make one in the tutorial below.
Bicolor Double Irish Chain Quilt
By adding a second ‘foreground’ color to the mix you get an added layer to the final effect.
Just like with the basic checkerboard version, the layout is created by interchanging block A and block B.
The only difference is the added second foreground color in layout A.
Here’s how the final pattern comes out in this case.
Rounded Edged Irish Chain
I’m adding this one for funsies, because – check out how awesome this is.
Here, block A is the same as for the basic checkerboard version. The difference is that we’re adding half-square triangles to block B.
And when arranged in rows and columns, here’s the effect that this gives. Pretty incredible, right?
Free Double Irish Chain Quilt Pattern
Now that we all know what the double Irish chain is and the different variations there are, it’s time we learn to make one!
In this double Irish chain tutorial, I’ll try to explain the logic behind the construction, so you’ll be able to make any size you want.
For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be explaining using 2.5’’ strips (which is the width of jelly roll strips, so you can use those at least for the foreground to skip some of the cutting).
You’ll have to do the math to figure out the exact amount of fabric you need depending on the size of the quilt you want to make.
STEP 1: Plan the building blocks
As we’ve learned in the first part of this article, all double chain Irish quilts are created using just 2 basic blocks: block A and block B.
If using 2.5’’ strips, you’ll get 10’’x10’’ finished blocks A and blocks B.
Decide the size you want your finished quilt to be and calculate how many blocks you’ll need.
For example, for a 50’’x50’’ finished quilt, you’ll need 5 rows and 5 columns, which is a total of 25 blocks. Looking at the diagram, you’ll see you’ll need 13 Blocks A and 12 Blocks B. Remember! You always want odd number of blocks in each direction to ensure you get a symmetrical design.
In the diagram, you’ll see how each block is constructed using strip piecing. There are three different strip sets you need to make: strip sets Aa, Ab, and Ba.
STEP 2: Sew the strip sets
Lay out the long strips as required for each strip set. Sew together the required number of each type of strip set (Aa, Ab, Ba).
We’ve got some great tips here on how to sew strip sets together to prevent ‘bowing’ and inaccurate sewing.
STEP 3: Cut the strip sets into segments
Using a quilting ruler and rotary cutter, cut the prepared sets into 2.5’’ segments. Cut the required number of each type of segment (Aa, Ab, Bb).
STEP 4: Assemble and sew the blocks
Following the diagram, assemble and sew the required number of Blocks A and Blocks B.
STEP 5: Assemble and sew the rows
Alternating the Blocks A and B, sew them into rows. You’ll want the first row to begin and finish with Block A, the second to begin and finish with Block B, and so on. The last one should again begin and finish with Block A to ensure symmetry in all directions of the quilt top.
STEP 6: Sew rows together
Sew the rows together and voila! Your double Irish chain quilt is finished! Gorgeous!
As I’ve said, the exact fabric requirements will depend on the size you want to make. I’ve found a great free pattern you can use if you want to make a 50’’ x 50’’ double Irish chain quilt – Leah generously shares the exact requirements on her blog here.
For different dimensions, it’s not too complicated to do the math yourself. Just start with the number of blocks required and go from there.
When choosing colors, you can have some fun. No one says you have to go with two solids (although we kind of love this look). You can use a whole bunch of colors and prints for the chains and create a scrappy look. The sky is the limit!
I hope this tutorial has managed to shed some light on how the double Irish chain quilt is constructed. It never ceases to amaze me how clever some of these traditional designs are. So I hope you’re feeling as inspired as we are!