01 of 03
How to Make a Rail Fence Quilt
Rail Fence is an easy quilt pattern that's a cinch to customize. Each quilt block is made up of four segments cut from strip pieced fabrics, making it simple to estimate yardage requirements if you'd like a larger or smaller quilt.
The Rail Fence quilt shown here can be made with just five fabrics:
- Four different fabrics for the quilt blocks, with one fabric repeated in the outer border.
- A dark fabric to use as an inner border to frame the blocks -- repeated in the binding.
Quilt blocks finish at 12" x 12"
The quilt finishes at about 73" x 85"
I wanted the red strips to pop out a bit in the layout and felt that placing a dark brown strip next to them gave the red more depth without overpowering its warmth.
Next came a muted gold -- not a fabric that overwhelms the others, but a warm color that's readily visible. The final fabric is light, and contrasts with fabrics on each side of it, creating a secondary (but visually more narrow) jagged pathway in the layout.
Choose any colors. If you prefer, focus only on color value (contrast) and create strip sets from many fabrics to make a scrap quilt. You'll find scrap quilt assembly tips at the bottom of page 2, along with details to help you use jelly roll strips to make the quilt.
Not sure about fabric selection? These tutorials might help.
- Color Value for Quilters (it's all about contrast)
- Easy Ways to Choose Colors and Fabrics for Quilts
- Color Wheel Simplified
Quilting Fabrics & Other Materials
Red, for quilt blocks
- 1-1/3 yard
Dark Brown, for quilt blocks and outer border
- 1-1/3 yards for blocks
- 1-1/2 yards for border from crosswise grain strips
Gold, for quilt blocks
- 1-1/3 yard
Light Neutral, for quilt blocks
- 1-1/3 yard
- 1/2 yard for inner border from crosswise grain strips
- See binding note below
- A panel about 83" x 95", 5-1/2 yards, or as required by longarm quilter if sending out (How to Make Quilt Backing)
- Same as backing.
- About 341 continuous inches of double fold binding, yardage depends on strip width (How to Make Quilt Binding Strips)
If you need a smaller quilt, try my easy Rail Fence baby quilt pattern.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
02 of 03
Make Quilt Blocks for the Rail Fence Bed Quilt
Make 30 quilt blocks for the Rail Fence quilt. Each block is created from four easy strip-pieced segments.
Begin by cutting one strip of each fabric to make a test strip and quilt block.
- Cut (20) 2" wide strips of each block fabric from selvage to selvage (red, brown, gold, light)
- Stack like-strips together.
- Sew one of each strip together lengthwise in groups of four as shown above, top illustration, and in this order: red - brown - gold - light. Press seam allowances towards the darker strips.
- Square up one end of the strip set. Starting at the squared up end, cut as many 6-1/2" segments as possible -- probably 6. You'll have a short segment let at the end of the strip set. Save the leftovers from each strip set and trim them all to match -- try a patchwork border in this quilt or use segments in another project.
- Make additional strip sets and cut a total of (120) 6-1/2" segments.
- Gather four of the segments and arrange them into two rows as shown, bottom left.
- Sew the segments in each row together. Press seam allowances towards the vertical bars and then join the rows.
- After joining the rows of the block, you can go ahead and press the new seam, or wait until the quilt rows are arranged and then press the seams in adjoining rows in opposite directions.
- Make 30 quilt blocks that measure 12-1/2" x 12-1/2" square.
To make more quilt blocks, simply cut additional strips and create more strip sets. Cut four segments for each additional block. Adjust yardages, batting, backing, and binding to suit the new quilt size.
Make a Scrap Rail Fence Quilt
Scrap quilt options:
- Sew four 2" x 6-1/2" patches together to create each of the 120 quarter blocks, or
- Make shorter strip sets from a variety of fabrics -- you'll need the same number o 6-1/2" segments, 120. If using short strip sets, try to keep contrast placement similar from set to set -- for instance, move from dark to light in each set.
Use Jelly Roll Strips to Make a Rail Fence
Jelly rolls can be used to make Rail Fence quilts. Jelly roll strips are 2-1/2" wide and will make blocks that finish at 16" square. The rolls are available with varying numbers of strips.
Continue to 3 of 3 below.
- Cut 8-1/2" inch segments when using 2-1/2" wide jelly roll strips. If you are careful to remove just a bit of fabric when squaring up, you can probably cut five segments per strip set.
- If five segments per set are possible, you'll need 24 jelly roll strips of each fabric used. Jelly rolls work best for scrappy quilts.
03 of 03
Make Rows and Finish Sewing the Rail Fence Bed Quilt
- To finish the Rail Fence quilt, arrange five quilt blocks as shown, top. Sew the blocks together to create a row, bottom (if you didn't press center seams of individual blocks, do it now, pressing adjoining seams in opposite directions before sewing blocks together).
- Create five more rows.
- Press seam allowances between blocks in opposite directions in adjoining rows.
- Join the rows and press.
- Use 2" wide dark black strips to create inner butted borders for the quilt. If you're a new quilter, read How to Sew Borders to a Quilt before measuring and sewing.
- Press seam allowances towards the borders.
- Use 5-1/2" wide strips to create the outer border. Press seam allowances towards the borders. Press the quilt top again.
- Mark for quilting if necessary. Sandwich with batting and backing and baste. Quilt the quilt, and then remove excess batting and backing, squaring up corners carefully if necessary.
- Sew doublefold mitered binding around the edges of the quilt.