Road Trip Quilt Along: Kentucky Chain

The Kentucky chain.  I love how this block turned out and, in fact, I would LOVE to make an entire quilt out of this block because that is when the woven pattern of the block would really shine.

Options!  You like options, right?  Well, this block is going to be full of options for its construction.  The Kentucky chain block has an overlapping pattern that looks something like this:

When you deconstruct it in order to put the quilt block together you’ve got a couple of options.  The first is to keep that center line as a singular piece and put together the side portions on either side of the center.

The second option, the one that makes the most sense to me, and thus the one I will use, divides the block into 4 quarters, two of each type.  Each quarter is constructed the same, but the two focus fabrics switch positions.

I mentioned on Wednesday that I had reviewed how others had done the block, and it seemed that paper piecing was involved no matter how you split it.  I hadn’t actually put this block together myself yet, so I just assumed that was the best way.  I began to write the tutorial for this block by showing you how to make a template for the paper pieced portion of the block.  However, after I finished the template, I realized that I could just as easily assemble the block without paper piecing.

Meanwhile, Shena emailed me to let me know that she had put the Kentucky chain block together without paper piecing it.  I suggested she write a tutorial and I could direct you over there for another way to put this block together.  Her method is a bit different than the one I finally settled on.

So here are your options:
1.  Construct the block with the center line as one piece.  If you like the look of that, you can check out the tutorial for the Kentucky chain at Quilter’s Cache.
2.  Use paper piecing to put together the corners of each quarter of the block.  I will direct you in how to make a template below.  The advantage of using paper piecing is that your lines and corners are going to be more crisp and precise, especially when it comes to matching up the points of intersection.
3.  Use my method that does not involve paper piecing.  You’ll find it below the directions for making the paper piecing template.
4.  Use Shena’s method that does not involve paper piecing.  I suggest you read through both and follow whichever makes more sense to you.

How to make a template for paper piecing the Kentucky Chain block

Begin by drawing a square on freezer paper, 6 inches on each side.  Mark 1-1/2 inches away from the corners on each side.

Draw a line from one mark to the farthest mark on the adjacent edge.  Clear as mud?  That’s why there’s a picture.  Repeat, beginning at the mark on the other side of the same corner, to make a bar down the middle of the block (well, quarter-block).  The section you just created in the middle of the square is 2-1/8 inches wide, and 8.5 inches from corner to corner.  When you cut the fabric for this middle section, you will cut a strip 2-5/8 inches x 9-1/4 inches (to give yourself a little wiggle room on the ends for trimming).

Repeat with the marks on each side of the other two corners, skipping over the bar you just made, to create an “x” through the quarter block.

Two of the corner will now be composed of three sections.  The middle section will be one of your focus fabrics, the side pieces will be your background fabric.  Add 1/4 inch seam allowances around one of these pieces.  Cut this out and use it to paper piece your corners.  You will end up with eight corner pieces, 4 using [fabric 1] and 4 using [fabric 2].

Cutting directions for Kentucky Chain block

(8) 3.5 inch squares, cut on the diagonal to make 16 triangles [background fabric]

(2) 2-5/8 inch x 9-1/4 inch rectangles [fabric 1]
(2) 2-5/8 inch x 9-1/4 inch rectangles [fabric 2]

(4) 2-5/8 inch x 4 inch rectangles [fabric 1]
(4) 2-5/8 inch x 4 inch rectangles [fabric 2]

Construct the Kentucky Chain block

Take each of your 2-5/8 inch x 4 inch squares of fabric and place it right sides together with a triangle of background fabric.  The corners and two sides of the pieces should line up.  Sew along the long edge of the rectangle.

This is an excellent opportunity for chain piecing.  Just line up each of those background triangles with one of your short rectangles and put them through your machine one after the other without stopping to trim threads.

Snip the threads between the pieces, iron the piece open and repeat on the other side, lining up a triangle of background fabric with the corner of each short rectangle.

You now have eight 3-parted pieces, four with each of your two focus fabrics.  Take two of these pieces with [fabric 1] and two with [fabric 2] and center each one along the long edge of one of the 2-5/8 x 9-1/4 inch rectangles of the opposite fabric.

Flip the rectangles so the right sides are together and the long edges are aligned.  Sew along this long edge.

Iron the piece open and add a second 3-parted pieces (same fabric as the first in that quarter) to the other side.

Flip the piece up so right sides are together and check that the edges of the center fabric line up.

Sew along the long edge, iron the pieces open and trim the quarter to 6.5 inches.  This works best if you have a 6.5 inch square ruler, but even if you don’t, square up the block from the corners.  By this, I mean that the focus fabrics in the corners should end the same distance from the corner on each side of a corner.

Complete the remaining three quarters in the same way.  Arrange the quarters as below.

Even though it wouldn’t technically be a Kentucky Chain with this alternate arrangement, I still think it looks pretty great if two opposite quarters are turned so that the colors alternate.

Sew the quarters together and trim the block to 12.5 inches.

Only one block to go!!!


3 replies
  1. Monica
    Monica says:

    This is my favorite one so far and I LOVE that it’s not much paper piecing. I’ve never paper pieced before and it intimidates me a lot.

  2. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    Your quilting abilities are very impressive. I may have to try this one, but for a pillow and not a whole quilt!

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  1. […] on The List because now I have to finish the quilt! 1a. Kentucky Chain for Friday.  Finished.  Tutorial is posted. 1b. West Virginia for next week: the last block!!  Finished.  Unlike past week, this is […]

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