Are Irish Chain quilts only a wee bit Irish? Quilt historians now believe that the Irish Chain block, one of the most popular quilt designs ever, was actually created in America. An 1814 example from the United States is the earliest known date of this traditional pattern.
I often recommend an Irish Chain quilt when customers want a design with several repeat images – the ‘chain’ of squares frames the images and links them together nicely. That was the idea behind this Go Red for Women quilt, where the customer wanted to highlight the initiative’s red dress logo for a charity event.
The misnamed Irish Chain does have some ties to The Emerald Isle – it’s believed to be based on a navy and white 9-patch quilt created by Irish seamstress Margaret Kee in 1805. Kee later immigrated to the US bringing this quilt with her. Ironically, the design of the original quilt Kee made in Ireland is now known as an American Chain!
If you are lucky enough to be Irish, you are lucky enough!
~ Irish saying
An Irish Chain Reaction
Irish Chain quilts are so popular with quilt lovers that lots of related designs have been fabricated over the years.
For instance, there’s the Double Irish Chain and the Triple Irish Chain. These quilts feature shadows of additional fabric squares, often in lighter or darker shades of the main chain color, forming secondary diamond patterns inside the frames.
‘Breaking’ the chain can also create fun designs. In this custom Whimzie quilt, the blue Irish Chain frames pieced birds of paradise, but if you look closely at the ends, a missing blue portion gives you a sweet little heart shape, too!