Best Wishes for St. Patrick’s Day 2020!

Hello Quilting Friends,

The daily news and social media are abuzz with the effects of COVID-19 as well as  precautions for prevention and tips for preparedness. Many of the quilting blogs I read are encouraging their readers to “stay home, keep calm and quilt on.” And I’ve noticed a dozen or so new Quilt Alongs or Virtual Retreats aimed at encouraging and solidifying the quilting community during this global health crisis.

Since we are in the midst of our “Sisters” Block of the Month Quilt Along, I hesitate to add another time-consuming commitment to the Abyquilts calendar. However, some blog readers may like an additional, seasonal project. In honor of St. Pat’s Day, I suggest making a “Single Irish Chain.” Click here to link to a previous post’s tutorial of this table topper made with 2″ squares.

For this year’s “Irish Chain” project, I’ll be sewing along on a lap quilt made with dark print “Nine Patches,” unused in a mystery quilt I attempted several years ago. The picture shows my progress to date.

If you are feeling really ambitious, try your hand at a bed sized quilt that combines “Churn Dash” with “Irish Chain” in alternating blocks.

You will find instructions for the “Churn Dash” blocks under the “Sisters BOM QAL” tab. It’s the block of the month for March.

To make each 12″ finished “Irish Chain” block, you’ll need 6  2 1/2″ green squares, 6  2 1/2″ gold squares, 4  2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ ecru rectangles, and 4  2 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ ecru rectangles.

Following the diagram, if you make 25 “Churn Dash” blocks and 24 “Irish Chain” blocks and add a 2″ inner border and a 4″ outer border, you’ll have a 96″ square quilt.

Whatever your quilting project during this time of self-quarantine, I would like to suggest several uplifting songs that remind us of God’s love and faithfulness and of our hope in his watch-care and mercy.

If you enjoy contemporary Christian music, I suggest “I Know” by Big Daddy Weave. And a favorite hymn from my childhood is “The Lord’s Our Rock, in Him We Hide, a Shelter in the Time of Storm.  

Prayers for your health and safety,  Aby

“Not Your Grandma’s Irish Chain” Finished!

This quilt project, begun last summer, is finally finished! I found time last week to quilt it with the “Wave on Wave” pantograph designed by Patricia E. Ritter and distributed by Urban Elementz. And the weekend furnished the two hours needed to machine bind the quilt. I am super pleased with the results.

The fabric line is “Blue Sky” designed by Edyta Sitar for Andover. When I saw the fabric at Sew There! Quilts and More in Angier, NC, it was love at first sight. However, I left the bolts on the shelf until I dreamed up a quilt design that would showcase them well. You can read about the beginning of this project here.

Generally, I would suggest custom quilting for a traditional project such as this. However, on a whim, I decided to use the “Wave on Wave” pantograph, stitching with light taupe thread. The border print is so busy a custom design would not have shown up at all anyway, and the swirls add organized swirly  texture to the light background areas of the quilt. The surprise appears when the viewer’s eye focuses on the dark blue squares and Orange Peels; there, the swirls truly delight!

Why the name “Not your Grandma’s Irish Chain” you may ask. “Irish Chain” quilts feature plain squares alternated with “Nine Patches” (or variations of “Nine Patches”) with dark fabrics in the four corners of each block. These dark fabrics connect diagonally across the quilt. In this quilt, however, the “Orange Peel” alternate blocks provide the diagonal, criss-crossing design element, and the “Nine Patches” have light corner squares. So, it is an Irish Chain quilt, of sorts, but not the design your Grandma would have made.

Saturday Scrap Strategy #4

During the Second Quarter (April – June) I’ve challenged myself and blog readers to cut and store scraps in an organized and usable way. I find it easier to cut into my odds and ends if I have a scrappy quilt project in mind. Then, as I cut, I can set aside the squares or strips that would work well in a particular project. Those fabrics that are too small or two few to be used in the project I’ll cut and store in boxes with others of like size or shape.

One of the scrap quilt designs I’ve recently admired on Pinterest is a simple “Irish Chain” made of scrappy “Nine Patches.” This pattern, of course, can be made with any size square (the smaller, the cuter). Since I have an abundance of 2 1/2″ squares, I planned to use that size, making 6″ finished “Nine Patches.” While looking on my fabric shelves for the container of partially constructed scrappy patchwork house pieces, I opened a mystery bin containing … you guessed it … “Nine Patches.” (More about the scrappy houses later.)


I remember making these blocks a couple of summers ago when most of my fabric was in storage. I just cut and sewed the scraps I had taken to our temporary living quarters. The bin contained 28 blocks, more than I need for a lap quilt. Most of the blocks were blue or green; a few were red. Since I plan to donate the quilt to the local Veteran’s Hospital, I set aside those that are too juvenile or feminine. I made a few more blue blocks to obtain the 25 “Nine Patches” needed. I alternated them with 24 print 6 1/2″ squares arranged in a 7 x 7 grid.

With blue thread, I quilted a “Baptist Fan” all over design. Taking a cue from the red accent squares, I bound the quilt with a red print. My friend Carol K. will approve; she says every quilt should include a little red. I am pleased with this very scrappy quilt. It is simple yet comforting and homey. Besides, it is almost a free quilt: The “Nine Patches” were made from scraps, the alternate squares came from the trimmings of a quilt backing, the navy blue paisley backing was leftover from another quilt backing, and the red print binding was from stash!

Here’s another idea for a smaller “Nine Patch” quilt. On March 17, 2014 I posted a tutorial for a table topper “Irish Chain” made with 2″ squares. Click here to link to the blog post.

What colors or size squares would you use to make “Irish Chain?”

“Liz’s Irish Chain”

Have you ever seen a quilt you just have to make? The colors or fabrics or design just pull you in? I fell in love with “Liz’s Irish Chain” in Fons And Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine, January/February 2013.


What makes this quilt unusual and extra appealing is that the alternate blocks are royal blue rather than light or white. After drooling over the pattern awhile, I took stock of the fabrics I needed. I was sure I had enough scrappy fabrics in my stash for the shirtings and dark Civil War repro prints; I just needed to purchase the blue fabric. My friend, Marie, also wanted to make this quilt, and we roped Linda into exchanging blocks with us as well. Between us, Marie and I used a bolt of the royal blue which she found at Golden Lane Fabrics now located near Penn Yan, New York. Linda chose a teal blue for her alternate blocks.


The pattern calls for cutting 1 1/2″ squares for the “Twenty-five Patches,” but we decided the project would move along faster and have the same dramatic effect if we cut 2 1/2″ squares. I strip-pieced dark prints with light shirtings as you can see from the photo below.


We exchanged “Twenty-five Patches” but made our own alternate blocks. When we met at the end of February at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Va., we exchanged blocks. I was so excited that I sewed together the 81 blocks for my quilt top over the weekend!

 Irish Chain layout

I couldn’t find an extra wide backing fabric to match the royal blue, so I pieced two lengths of 40″ wide fabric with strips of Civil War repro fabric in the center.

Irish chain backing

I debated about the “proper” quilting design. Usually, the alternate blocks are a perfect spot for “Feathered Wreaths,” but I wasn’t in the mood (i.e. I was too impatient/lazy) to quilt 40 of them. Instead, I chose the pantograph “Double Plume” by Keryn Emmerson. I used a honey colored polyester thread, and I really like the way the feathers show up in the royal blue alternate blocks but fade into the multi-colors of the “Twenty-five Patches.” I will think of it as “Faux Feathered Wreaths.”


Have you made an “Irish Chain” quilt? If so, describe it in a comment below.


“Single Irish Chain”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


As detailed in my previous blog post, I visited with the Hayfield Country Quilters on March 5. If I’m not mistaken, Mary Ellen was in charge of setting up the refreshment table. The spice-nut cake was certainly delicious, but my eyes feasted on the “Single Irish Chain” table covering. The quiltmaker used just two fabrics: a fresh, soft green tone-on-tone and solid cream.

Nothing says “spring” like green! I used the guild’s table covering as inspiration for my own “Single Irish Chain” table quilt, though mine is just a small 23″ square centerpiece. To change things up a bit, I decided to use many green tonals and prints instead of just one green fabric.


I found 6 or 8 lime green fat quarters or fat eighths in my stash. I cut one or two 2″ strips from each and strip-pieced them with 2″ white strips, pressing the seam allowances toward the green fabrics.

Irish Strip piecing

Then I cut the strip sets in 2″ increments.

Irish rotary cut

I generally strip-piece Nine Patches for all three rows: 1 – green, white, green; 2 – white, green, white; 3 – green, white, green. But this time I decided to strip piece for “twosies,” hoping for a greater variety of green prints in the Nine Patches.

I sewed three rows of “twosies” together. An extra green square was sewn to the fourth “twosie” to make a column on the far right.

Irish Nine patch from twosies   Irish assembly

Next, I sewed the column to the 3 sets of “twosies.” This picture shows the pressing directions of the seam allowances.

Irish pressing

In a little over an hour, I made 13 Nine Patches which measured 5″ square, unfinished. From the white fabric, I cut twelve 5″ squares to alternate with the Nine Patches in a 5 x 5 grid.

Irish rows

I assembled the blocks in 5 rows, pressing seams toward the 5″ white squares, then joined the rows together. I pressed the seams to one side after adding each row. Deciding on a cross-hatch quilting design, I marked through the white squares with a water soluble blue marker and used chalk-o-liner to mark through the green squares.

I recommend using a thin, predominantly cotton batting for a small project like this. I pin basted with long, quilting pins. Using white thread on my Pfaff sewing machine (with a built-in walking foot), I quilted the table topper easily by following the marked lines. I stabilized the project by first quilting diagonal lines through the green squares marked with chalk. Then I filled in the lines drawn with blue marker.

I love the simplicity of this time-honored quilting design; it perfectly compliments the diagonal chains of green squares.


Amended March 2016:  Using the same measurements for the small and large squares, I made another Green and White table topper. But this time I used only two fabrics and reversed the colors (“figure ground reversal”). Both quilts were quilted with white thread in a diagonal grid design.


Amended March 2017:  Blog reader, Karla, strip-pieced her table topper from two batik fabrics. Click here to read more.