9 days into the #100DaysProject creativity challenge and I haven’t missed one! I think it’s working, too, because I find myself with so many ideas that I want to design more than one Irish Chain quilt a day! But the point is to pace yourself and make it all the way through, so I’m reigning myself in.
If you remember from my Challenge Accepted! post, I’m participating in the #100DaysProject. Each day for 100 days, participants repeat a “simple creative task” and post their effort online.
I chose designing a modified Irish Chain quilt ~ changing colors, mixing blocks, varying settings, etc. ~ and I’m excited to see how the traditional pattern will shift, evolve and develop during the next 91 days!
I once read an article about “divorce quilts”, textile art projects made to help process the difficult decision to end a marriage. I can definitely see the therapeutic value, but I like what customer Beth M. had in mind much better… she asked me to make a quilt celebrating the start of her and her children’s new life.
The overall design of her quilt is vintage 1930s, a postage stamp Irish Chain design on a white background (all the squares are reproduction 1930s fabrics.) Appliqués appear in the areas formed by the chain, each turned under and hand embroidered with a blanket stitch – again, an old-fashioned, classic technique.
In a way, the design builds on history to create a new future. That feeling is echoed in her choice of appliqué ideas. There are blocks that represent heritage – a shamrock for Ireland, a thistle for Scotland – and blocks that represent now – a beloved family pet and shared activities like movie watching. Every single element in this quilt is meaningful and all are designed to symbolize the foundation on which she and her children will create their new life.
When Beth and her children curl up in this quilt, it’s not just their bodies being warmed, it’s their hearts, too. This is why I make quilts. I want to create beautiful, thoughtful, treasured keepsakes that touch people deeply. Laugh, cry, reminisce and dream about your bright, new future ~ a good quilt should encourage all that and more.
I’ve decided to participate in a creativity challenge – the #100DaysProject. Each day for 100 days, I will be designing and posting an Irish Chain quilt design.
All the designs will start with an Irish Chain block, repeated to make a queen-sized quilt. Using that as a framework, I’ll change colors, mix and match blocks, vary settings, etc. to create as many different versions as I can over 100 days. There’s so much you can do with this traditional block and I can’t wait to see how the patterns shift, evolve and develop during the challenge.
I chose to do quilt designs because as much as I’d love to, I can’t finish an entire queen quilt in one day! 🙂 I may actually make my favorite (or favorites) after the challenge is completed, though ~ and if you see one you love, I’d be happy to make it for you, too!
This is my first design – Link #1 of #100 “Whimzical” Chains. Remember, follow me here to see them all!
I’m also posting the designs on a special #100WhimzicalChains Pinterest board.
I was already working on one quilt for customer Crystal S. when she contacted me about a second.
This one would be for her mother-in-law, a wonderful woman whom Crystal described as “sort of like everyone’s mama bear.” Armed with the additional notes that her favorite colors were blue, purple and pink and that she had a country decorating style, I set about creating three draft ideas… and got them ALL wrong. The bear was too cute and the colors too babyish.
But this is why I always say,
“If the designs I’ve sent aren’t on the right track, please let me know how I can revise them – I’ll work up additional designs based on your input.”
I’m never married to any of the quilt ideas I suggest. My entire goal is to create the quilt you, my customer, have always wanted and any information you can provide that gets us closer to the perfect design is welcomed with open arms.
So I took Crystal’s recommendations and went back the drawing board, coming up with this modified Irish Chain design:
The warmer pink and dusty purple coordinated perfectly with the country blue and the appliquéd white mama bear with her two silhouetted cubs popped against the background. As usual, Shirley over at Embroidery by Shirley did a fantastic job including all the family names to add an even more personalized touch.
I’m pleased to be able to create this cozy and comfy quilt for a woman her loved ones describe as “always giving so much or herself to everyone and never [asking] anything in return”. Even though I didn’t nail her mama bear design the first time out, with the help of terrific feedback, I’m sure this ‘bear-y special’ quilt we came up with together will be treasured for years and years to come.
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!