Rock Around the Block – Jack’s Chain Quilt

Jack’s Chain is a quilt pattern I have admired since I first saw it – in the July/August 1998 issue of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine! In the accompanying article, Nancy Elliott MacDonald said that it was called Rosalia Flower Garden when it was published in the Kansas City Star in 1939 and then renamed Jack’s Chain in Primarily Patchwork by Puckett and Giberson. When you Google the name, you will find lots of lovely variations.

A Jack’s Chain square is made up of 6 nine patches (easy!) around a hexagon with inset triangles (not so much!). Over the years, I have tried to draft and simplify the pattern, but never quite figured it out, but quilt designer Nancy McNally did. She calls her version Rock Around the Block and has added a lattice with a (red) churn dash square in between each chain. Several weeks ago I was so excited to drive to the mountains of North Carolina to A Stitch in Time for a class with her.

Nancy McNally's Rock Around the Block

This class was labeled Intermediate and – wow – there is a lot of sewing involved. Should you want to make this quilt, the pattern is in the Summer 2015 issue of Fons & Porter‘s Scrap Quilts magazine. (Nancy does not presently own the rights to the design.) I would suggest you go to her website to buy the triangle template. In each square, you need 16 of those triangles and it’s so much easier to rotary cut a stack of the background fabric than trace around template plastic. Jack’s Chain was designed in the 1930’s, so the quilts would have been made with lots of pretty prints and a white background, which most of the class chose to do. I have been using pale fabrics a lot recently so I opted for a dark background to make the nine patches pop.

Nine patches with template

I have been sewing away and have decided not use the churn dash/lattice piece. I love the way that the chains continue to circle, which you will see when I sew all the blocks together. Some quilts on the Internet have a hexie appliqued in the middle, which I may add as well. Nancy’s quilt is 12 blocks, but I want this quilt to be sized for a queen bed. I bought all the blue hand dyed fabric on the bolt, but it is not going to be enough. Oh phooey! I have to shop for fabric…

Debbie's Jack's Chain

It was a lovely day in A Stitch in Time. The owner, Maxine, made us lunch so we could sew, sew, sew, and I got two squares completed. (They are my closest Sweet 16 dealer and a Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler store.) The store has lots of great fabric and goodies to check out, and her daughter is Bonnie Christine, designer extraordinaire. Franklin, NC is a lovely mountain town, located pretty close to the amazing towns of Highlands and Cashiers. Most of the ladies were from there, either owning a second home or living part-time in their campers. These mountain towns are a huge draw for Floridians, escaping the heat. It’s a two-hour+ drive for me, so I spent the night and enjoyed my mini vacation very much.

15 thoughts on “Rock Around the Block – Jack’s Chain Quilt

  1. I am currently making this block but the overall design is not the same. I figured out the pattern and dimensions and have many blocks made. I just need to put them together. And yes you are right it is a lot of work, but well worth the reward!


    • Thank you Paige! I want to go to the Viking quilt store that moved to Mauldin to check for fabrics. They have good batiks and hand dyes as I recall. Have you been?
      Love your Pluto quilt! Good luck.


  2. Man, this is why I hook and don’t quilt. All that math and stuff! 🙂 But I sure do appreciate them, Deb. Love your VIBRANT colors. Can’t wait to see what this looks like on the bed.


    • Ha! I try to avoid the math by drawing the pattern and squares and then making templates. Peter is great at math and rescues me when I need his help.
      I was thinking of you yesterday. I’m on a clean and purge binge and was going to “thin” out the coffee mug shelves and then I realized that they are half of the mug and rug set! That will make me less sad to hook a rug and then see if I can sell the set. Don’t know why – I just love mugs…


  3. This is a fabulous pattern and I LOVE your version–makes me think of old Amish quilts! I doubt I would ever have the gumption to try it–it looks more fiddly than the pattern I usually do–but I will be so excited to see your progress!


    • Thanks Kerry and thanks for the Amish comment… I like to name my quilts and that might be fun to incorporate. I’m actually in the groove now, with piecing, an assembly line sort of approach. I am tiring of the cutting…


    • Hi Sherryl- Glad you found me! Isn’t it a great pattern? I have finally finished it. I just looked at the link to Nancy McNally in this post and see that she does not have the triangle template listed on her site. I would go to her site and email her and tell her that you’d like to buy it. And the pattern is in a magazine that she may still have. She said in class that she doesn’t own the rights to the pattern yet, so perhaps that’s why it isn’t listed or shown. I’d love to see your version of the quilt!
      Good Luck.


  4. Pingback: Finally A Finished Quilt Top! | a daily dose of fiber

  5. The pattern is now available thru which sells Quilters newsletter may back issues. The mags available are not as old as required BUT the pattern is available for download. Search name: rock around the block and is the McNally version.


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