Everything You Need To Know About The Rail Fence Quilt Pattern

Rail-Fence-Quilt-Pattern

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There are three groups of people that should definitely try out the Rail Fence Quilt Pattern:

  1. Quilters who are really good at sewing quarter-inch seams. You know who you are. You rock the quarter-inch seam. You own the quarter-inch seam. You, my friends, can take that skill straight to the Rail Fence Quilt bank, and whip out a masterpiece in no time.​
  2. Quilters who struggle with sewing quarter-inch seams. There’s no shame in this. The quarter-inch seam is a really important quilting skill to have under your belt, but guys, we all struggle with seam allowances sometimes. If you want to get really good at that quarter-inch seam, sew a Rail Fence Quilt. By the time you’re done, that quarter-inch seam will have nothing on you.
  3. Quilters. It’s a great quilt, everyone! The Rail Fence Quilt is a gorgeous, yet forgiving project that anyone can get into. It has variations galore. This pattern has something for everyone, especially when it’s finished, and you get to snuggle up under it.

This pattern is specifically near and dear to my heart because it was the first quilt pattern I ever made. Now that I think about it...it was the first TWO quilts I ever made. Wow...I must really love this pattern.

Now that you’re totally sold on the fact that the Rail Fence is for you (I know, I’m so persuasive.) you have some choices to make before your cozy Rail Fence dream becomes a reality. 

SuzyQuilts-Rail-Fence-Pattern

Below is a quick list of supplies that will make your life MUCH easier. I'll refer to each of them later, but here they are so you don't miss 'em:

​Supplies

Rail Fence Quilt Step 1. Choosing a Size​

There are two main ways to go about choosing a size. You can either focus on the finished block size of your Rail Fence quilt, or you can choose a finished strip size (more about stripping later. FABRIC stripping, you guys, geez...).

Don’t overthink this decision. Really, the only main guideline is to make it a “rotary-friendly” number. This means that if you did some fancy-shmancy division math to figure out your block or strip size based on your desired finished quilt size, you’ll want to round up or down to the nearest ⅛ of an inch, to make your life, and the life of your trusty rotary cutter, a little bit easier.

(PS don’t have a rotary cutter? Stop everything and check this one out – it's been my fave since my first Rail Fence quilt 16 years ago. Awwwww so cute, right?)

Rail Fence Quilt Step 2. Choosing Fabric​

We’ll talk in a sec about how there’s pretty much an infinite number of Rail Fence quilt variations, but there’s one basic guideline that applies to most of them: when choosing fabric, you’re going to want to look for a light, a medium, and a dark colored fabric.

The scientific reason why? Because it looks good. And you can see your pattern better, no matter what pattern variation you choose. Otherwise, your quilt gets a little mushy-looking (also a very scientific term.)

The fabric used in the free pattern is a Pastel Kona Cotton​ jelly roll and can be purchased here.

Rail Fence Quilt Step 3. Choosing a Pattern Variation

So funny thing about Rail Fence quilts… SO MANY QUILTS ARE RAIL FENCE QUILTS. There are so many variations of this quilt that if you Google it, you’ll find images pop up that look completely different. But they all have one thing in common: they’re made up of blocks that are made up of strips. Yup. That’s what qualifies as a Rail Fence quilt: it’s a repeated (or even sometimes random) pattern of strip-squares. See, I told you you can handle this. If you can cut strips, and then sew, you can make a Rail Fence quilt.

FREE-Rail-Fence-Quilt-Pattern

Now, let’s get tricky.

Some straight talk about strip piecing: I say “straight talk” like it’s all serious… when actually, it’s just amazing and fun and easy. The Rail Fence quilt pattern gives you the perrrfect opportunity to use the strip piecing technique. Simply put, some genius created strip piecing because most quilt patterns are made up of squares and rectangles of the same length, from the same set of fabric.

So, instead of cutting out each individual shape, you cut a long strip of cloth at the appropriate measurement (we just talked about that whole size thing, remember?), then sew all of these long strips together into a long, beautiful ribbon of possibility. From there… you guessed it: you whip out that strip and cut out all the shapes (in this case, a whole lot of rectangles) without worrying about wasting fabric, or running out of space next to that pesky fabric edge. Yes, it’s basically magic. You’ll love it. And if you’re prepping a Rail Fence quilt, it’s basically a must.

A different genius...or maybe the same one...it's tough to say, invented this Stripology ruler. Here's the scoop – it's a large piece of plexy with slits at every 1/2" so you don't have to lift up your ruler and adjust every time you want to make a cut. It's amazing. You'll get it and never look back.

Oh, I almost forgot…

Rail Fence Quilt Step 4. The Sewing Part

This is where that quarter-inch seam comes in. You’re going to be sewing a lot of strips. A lot. And your seam measurement? Yeah, I know you know. That 1/4" seam is going to be put into play time after time, as you piece together your strips into blocks, and your blocks into a finished quilt pattern. And as always, press those seams toward the darker-colored fabric every time. Your post-quilt critical mind will thank you.

There are some gorgeous, must-see Rail Fence quilts featured in this post but I know I missed some. Send them at me! And then get to work on a creation of your own, and become the quarter-inch-seam boss I know you can be.

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Suzy Quilts

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12 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know About The Rail Fence Quilt Pattern

  1. Liz says:

    You’re so funny! I’ve never really wanted to make a rail fence quilt before, but suddenly, I sort of want to. I’ll get there. I love it in solids, though. Thanks for the tutorial. (I agree that the Stripology ruler is AWESOME).

    • Suzy says:

      To tell you the truth, I haven’t thought much about the Rail Fence since I made my first couple quilts…many MANY years ago. Now that Kona is selling tons of great solid jelly rolls, I’m thinking it’s time to freshen up my Rail Fence game. 😉

  2. Erica says:

    AHhh… you seriously just made me order SOO many things!! lol thanks a lot 😉 But actually, thank you- so nice to get recommendations on tools and things to make the process easier! I love your tutorials!! (And your Insta-stories 😉

  3. Gayle says:

    Thanks so much for the reminder of how great a rail fence quilt can be. My first quilt was also a rail fence. We received the good news last night of a grand baby that is on the way. I think this will make a wonderful quilt for our future grandchild.

    • Suzy says:

      Congrats, Gayle!! That’s so exciting! If you’re getting a warm-weather grand baby, this would be a a quick, low cost quilt to make for outside play time. 🙂

  4. Evelyn says:

    Thank you for always inspired me. I wish I can go home and start a new quilt, I guess is going to be a long night tonight after I get home from work. Have a great week!

  5. Margaret (margiestitcher) says:

    great instructions here log cabin I cannot do never looks stratight but find these a bit easier though have not made a full quilt just used the block in sampler quilts, thanks for sharing will be back for another read when I have anothet go at a block, wills ave your link

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