The Double Irish Chain quilt pattern is traditionally stitched with
three fabrics: a light for the background and two medium to dark
fabrics, that's where the 'double' comes from.
Remember that color
value is relative. You need enough contrast for the 'chains' to stand
out from the background fabric.
To maintain the symmetry of the design, when the Double Irish Chain blocks are arranged in straight sets you must use odd numbers in both the rows and columns.
For diagonal layouts it doesn't matter.
Both straight or horizontal layouts of these blocks are below.
Just like it's
single and triple chain 'cousins' odd numbers of rows and columns are
required to create a symmetrical quilt.
7 x 9 blocks
The open space for quilting or applique is smaller. Part of the
alternate block now has some of the chain in it (unlike the single irish
chain). To have more space in this #2, increase the size of your grid
Reduce the contrast between the 'chains' and the background
fabrics to focus the viewer's attention on your quilting or applique in
these open spaces.
With the addition of setting triangles to create the on-point layout the design is transformed.
6 x 8 blocks
The chains now form horizontal and vertical rows. I think this layout 'hides' the blocks, don't you?
Checkerboard Quilt Block
AKA: Double Irish Chain
This stunning variation uses only two fabrics to create a very
graphic quilt. The background fabric substituted in as one of the two
In the original design, the lights and darks are reversed from how it is displayed here.
When laid out in straight sets it looks like this.
7 x 9 blocks
And then a diagonal layout.
6 x 8 blocks
Again, this on-point setting really blurs the construction lines, kind of a trompe l'oeil in fabric or fool-the-eye patchwork.
Federal Chain Quilt Blocks
This two fabric quilt is a variation on the previous quilt, with the changes occurring in Block #2. Instead of just a
single square in each corner, two half square triangle halves have been
added, creating a modified Snowball design.
#2 looks very much like a cousin to the Art Square block—close but not quite.
The open spaces in this version of the Double Irish Chain quilt
pattern have a more 'rounded' look to them with the addition of the
The cutting and piecing will take a bit longer due to
this additional shape. Be gentle handling the bias edges in #2 so
you don't inadvertently stretch them. Starch quilt fabric before cutting helps to stabilize these edges.
A straight set looks like this...
7 x 9 blocks
The chains line up in horizontal and vertical rows in this diagonal setting.
6 x 8 blocks
Double Irish Chain Variation
Double Irish Chain is the only name I've found for this hybrid quilt design that
is both a double chain on one diagonal and a single chain on the other.
It is also a one-block quilt as opposed to the majority of these Double
Irish Chain quilt patterns that need two different ones to complete
Without the alternate block it creates a much busier
quilt than the previous blocks in both the straight block layout.
of course, there is no room for applique or special quilting—which is a good thing, of course, if neither of those techniques floats your boat.
5 x 7 blocks
...and the diagonal block layout...
4 x 5 blocks
For some reason the diagonal set looks like there's a lot more blocks in it.
Do you agree?
Make the Design Your Own
A big part of quilting is making a design your own. With these
suggestions for blocks, why not try your hand at designing your next
Double Irish Chain quilt?
This first set of blocks was introduced in "Simple Changes = Knockout Quilt". You can see the block's laid out at Irish Chain Quilt Pattern: Part 2.
Blocks 1 and 2 are our Checkerboard block with four, instead of the usual 3 fabrics. Block 3 contains three of the fabrics.
As we saw, not all Irish Chains are two block quilt patterns.
The following 3 blocks are all called "Double Irish Chain". All create the Double Irish chain quilt pattern with or
without a second block.
I've removed the outlines of the patches and blocks so that you get a better feel for how the quilt pattern looks when finished.
These blocks are drawn on larger grids which means more
piecing. More piecing allows for more opportunity to play with color placement.
It'll take a bit more organization to keep track of all the pieces.
This first one is called New Irish Chain. A tutorial is available on the website to make it using 9-patches and strip piecing techniques.
It's also known as On the Square. In its tutorial we use 'rounds' of patches to piece the design.
Which is correct?
The one that works best for YOU!
Regardless of the piecing technique you use, you end up the same design-wise.
Next up is an 11x11 grid design sometimes called Steps to the Lighthouse. Sometimes called Steps to the White House.
In this two-fabric rendition the light background is used for the center chain patches.
Again, these blocks are set edge-to-edge—no alternate block needed.
I like the alternating larger turquoise and white squares. It make it a more airy quilt that way.
In this final Double Irish Chain quilt pattern, the inner chain is created from a gradation of 6 fabrics changing from dark blue to lavendar.
When you look at the block, does it seem to bulge out a bit in the center to you?
That's because of the gradation in the chain.
Set edge-to-edge we create this design.
Where the outer dark, dark blue squares meet it forms a larger dark square that draws the eye.
To lighten the design and provide large open spaces for some fancy-schmancy machine quilting or applique, it takes an alternate block with a single black square in each corner.
Do you think the alternate block gives the design a more 'complete' feeling?
The addition of this alternate cuts your piecing time roughly in half.
Design in a 5x6 layout, which demonstrates you need to have odd numbers of blocks in the rows and columns for a symmetrical design.
You can see that with a little imagination and a willingness to play with fabric placement, you can really switch up your Double Irish Chain quilt pattern—and the piecing is still easy enough for a confident beginner quilter.