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How to Make a Rail Fence Quilt
The 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 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 and is repeated in the binding.
The quilt blocks finish at 12-by-12-inches square and the quilt finishes at about 73 inches by 85 inches. A smaller quilt can be made with the easy rail fence baby quilt pattern.
Choose any colors. If you prefer, focus only on a color value (contrast) and create strip sets from many fabrics to make a scrap quilt.
For example, if you want red strips to pop out a bit in the layout, placing a dark brown strip next to them gives the red more depth without overpowering its warmth. Next, add a muted gold. This warm color is readily visible but doesn't overwhelm the others. 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.
Quilting Fabrics and Other Materials Needed
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- Red: 1 1/3 yard for quilt blocks
- Dark brown: 1 1/3 yards for blocks and 1 1/2 yards for the border from crosswise grain strips
- Gold: 1 1/3 yard for quilt blocks
- Light neutral: 1 1/3 yard for quilt blocks
- Very dark: 1/2 yard for the inner border from crosswise grain strips, plus more for binding (below)
- Quilt backing: A panel about 83 inches by 95 inches, 5 1/2 yards, or as required by longarm quilter if sending out
- Batting: Same as backing.
- Binding: About 341 continuous inches of double-fold binding, yardage depends on the strip width
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Make Quilt Blocks
Make 30 quilt blocks. Each block is created from four easy strip-pieced segments. Use a quarter-inch seam allowance throughout.
Begin by cutting one strip of each fabric to make a test strip and quilt block.
- Cut (20) 2-inch 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 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 6.5-inch segments as possible (probably six). 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) 6.5-inch 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 12.5-inches-by-12.5-inches 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
If you want to make a scrap quilt, use one of these options:
- Sew four 2-inch-by-6.5-inch patches together to create each of the 120 quarter blocks.
- Make shorter strip sets from a variety of fabrics. You'll need 120 of the 6.5-inch segments. 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 roll strips are pre-cut fabric strips that are a great convenience for quilters and can be used to make rail fence quilts. Jelly roll strips are 2.5-inches wide and will make blocks that finish at 16 inches square. The rolls are available with varying numbers of strips.
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- Cut 8.5-inch segments when using 2.5-inch 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.
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Make Rows and Finish Sewing
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- 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-inch-wide dark black strips to create inner butted borders for the quilt.
- Press seam allowances towards the borders.
- Use 5.5-inch-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 double-fold mitered binding around the edges of the quilt.
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Enjoy Your Quilt
Now you've finished your quilt. Your quilt will keep you warm or can be given as a gift.