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There are three groups of people that should definitely try out the Rail Fence Quilt Pattern:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Rotary Cutter
- Self-Healing Mat
- Stripology Ruler (Haven't heard of this? Oh boy are you in for a treat!)
- Jelly Roll (A jelly roll is a pre-cut bundle of 2 1/2" x 42" strips of fabric) - get this, and half of your cutting is already done for you!
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.
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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