20 + of the Best Chain and Other Great Alternating Quilt Blocks

Posted by Elaine Huff on

Creating visually stunning quilts often involves blending two (or more) classic block patterns to create a totally different look. Among the most captivating designs are chain and alternating quilt blocks, which combine timeless elegance with dynamic versatility. In this roundup, we'll explore a variety of inspiring blocks that showcase the beauty of these patterns, providing a wealth of ideas for both novice and experienced quilters. Whether you're looking to enhance your skills or find fresh inspiration, these examples demonstrate the endless possibilities of combining chain and/or alternating blocks in your quilting journey.

While most alternating blocks are simpler in their construction, I've added a few that are more complex. Here they are, in no particular order, for your inspiration.

Hourglass

hourglass quilt block
The Hourglass quilt block goes by several names – quarter-square triangle is a more common one. The beauty of this block is its simplicity and that it can be made easily in any size to match the focal blocks in your quilt.

5-Grid Chain

double irish chain quilt block   5 grid chain
This 5-Grid Chain is actually one block of the Double Irish Chain quilt pattern and is useful for pairing up with blocks whose sizes are easily divisible by 5. 

6-Grid Chain

6 grid chain block
The 6-Grid Chain block makes a great alternating block to showcase fancy or more difficult blocks – think star blocks, or Dresden plate blocks, or paper pieced blocks. You can use just 2 fabric colors plus the background fabric to make this block (then you’ll have one color go upper left to lower right and the other color go from lower left to upper right). Or you can make it scrappy.

7 Grid Chain

7 grid chain quilt block

With its straightforward beginner-friendly construction and myriad color variations, the 7-Grid Chain block serves as a cornerstone for stunning quilt compositions. Whether used as an alternating block or showcased independently, its adaptability shines and its compatibility with block sizes divisible by seven ensures a harmonious cohesion in your quilt layout. 

8-Grid Chain Quilt Block 

eight grid chain quilt block

The 8-Grid Chain block is not only quick to sew but also offers endless possibilities for variation. Its simple construction relies solely on squares and rectangles, making it an ideal project for those just starting their quilting journey.

Single Chain and Knot

single chain and knot quilt block

The Single Chain and Knot is a variation of the Single Irish Chain block and makes a lovely quilt all by itself or you could use it as an alternating block along with a focus block (think Dresden Plate or a pretty applique or embroidery block). 

Chained Nine Patch

chained nine patch quilt block

The Chained Nine Patch quilt block is fairly easy to sew together. I did make a modification and used a modified Flying Geese unit instead of the regular Flying Geese to eliminate a couple of seams.

Grandma's Choice

grandmas choice quilt block
Grandma's Choice is a great little chain block that traditionally is only in two colors but I really think scrappy would look great too. Because it is a chain block, it would also look good alternating with another block. It's easy to sew too!

Chained Star

chained star quilt block
The Chained Star quilt block was designed by Margaret Huckeby and appeared in the Quilters Newsletter. The block finishes at 12" square and goes together quickly.

Eva's Garden

evas garden quilt block
The traditional coloring for the Eva's Garden block is just two fabrics - a light and a dark - but, of course, I had to do my own thing and have four fabrics! There are a couple of different ways to construct this Eva's Garden block and I'm going to show you how to do it in a nine-patch way.

Chain and Knots Variation

chain and knots variation quilt block
This is an easy, beginner-friendly variation of the Chain and Knots quilt block. Typically, I use this type of block alternating with a more complicated block but it can be used all on its own in a quick and easy quilt. 

Double Nine Patch

double nine patch quilt block
The Double Nine Patch quilt block is an easy but very versatile block - great for the beginner as well as more advanced quilters. It looks good by itself and as an alternating block. In it's scrappy version, the Double Nine Patch is also a great stash buster.

Starburst

starburst quilt block
This gorgeous star quilt block is a delight for the eyes! The large 16" Starburst block also makes a wonderful secondary design when made into a quilt. I'll break down each part of the block into doable steps so you can successfully sew the block together.

Nine Patch

nine patch quilt block
The Nine-Patch quilt block is probably the most used block in the quilting world. It is very easy to sew and sooooo many blocks use the nine-patch layout in construction. 

Linoleum

linoleum quilt block
The Linoleum quilt block is so easy, you'll have a quilt made in a flash! And it creates a wonderful secondary design! The block is made with just squares, rectangles, and a modified Square in a Square patch. 

Alabama

alabama quilt block
This version of the Alabama Quilt Block is great as an alternating chain block and also creates a lovely quilt all on its own. The block is quick and easy to do with only square and rectangle pieces, making it a beginner-friendly quilt block.

Quatrefoil

quatrefoil quilt block
The Quatrefoil quilt block (also called the Quarterfoil block) is a traditional block that is easy to sew together and it makes a beautiful quilt! Typically it is made with just two colors and a background but I had to add more fabrics - this also gives you an idea of how it would look as a scrappy quilt.

Aztec Jewel

aztec jewel quilt block
The Aztec Jewel is a classic quilt block mostly made with Flying Geese and Half Square Triangles. While it's not a beginner block, it is fairly easy to sew together.

State Fair

state fair quilt block
Let's look at this lovely star quilt block called State Fair Block that also works as an alternating block. There are several blocks that go by the same name but we'll look at this older one.

Contrary Wife

contrary wife quilt block
The Contrary Wife quilt block is a fairly easy block with only Half Square Triangles, squares, and rectangles.  There are several other quilt blocks called Contrary Wife but this one caught my eye. 

Kaleidoscope

kaleidoscope quilt block
This Kaleidoscope quilt block was designed by Nancy Page. This block is not at all like the more modern blocks by the same name. It's a large pretty block that makes a secondary star pattern when multiple blocks are sewn together and can be used as an alternating block as well.

Streak of Lightning

streak of lightning quilt block
The Streak of Lightning quilt block is a great block for using up those skinnier strips you’ve been saving and finishes at 10″ square! It is similar to a Log Cabin block.

Glory Be

glory be quilt block
I actually think this Glory Be block is four blocks with sashing but that's not the way it's presented. The Glory Be appeared in Quiltmaker in 1992. It's a big block - 18" finished so you don't need to make very many to get a quilt top!

Hot Cross

hot cross quilt block
Let's sew together this traditional quilt block called Hot Cross. I assume it's named after hot cross buns but that's only a guess! It is easier than it looks.

Chain Variation

chain variation quilt block
Let's look at how to sew this Chain Variation block. It makes a great alternating block. The original design was for a 10" block but I wanted a 12" block so I added to it. While the block is easy (all squares and rectangles), there are small pieces to work with! 

Joyce's Mystery

joyces mystery quilt block
Traditionally, the Joyce's Mystery block has a light center with a dark frame around it but I wanted to see what it looked like with a fussy cut piece in the center. So I dug into my scraps and found this large floral on a dark purple background and put a lighter frame around that - what a difference!
I hope you've enjoyed this roundup of chain and other alternating quilt blocks. I'll be adding to this post whenever I make another tutorial that fits into this category.

If you liked this post and want to see more quilting tutorials, simply click here to sign up for my newsletter and also receive a free PDF downloadable pattern called "Chained Weathervane".

Happy Quilting!

Elaine

P.S. Need a quilt pattern in a hurry? Check out my easy downloadable PDF patterns at https://www.etsy.com/shop/fabric406


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