How to Make an Easy Rail Fence Baby Quilt
I love making baby quilts! As a mom and a grandmother, a new baby is always exciting. Plus, the size of a baby quilt makes them a generally quick project. Smaller size quilts are also a perfect opportunity to try something new without committing to a huge finished piece. So, if you’re looking for a fast project or want to learn how to make an easy rail fence baby quilt, this little beauty is just for you!
Which Fabrics To Use
Since I’m trying to limit myself to using only the fabric I have on hand right now, this sweet little rail fence quilt came together from the scrap pile. The original on-point quilt made with this fabric used fat quarters. Those leftover strips are what I used for this easy pattern. This is not your ordinary baby quilt with typical newborn colors, but you can certainly use any fabrics for your own variation. Though, with little quilts like these it’s fun to reach out and try new and interesting color combinations. These batik fabrics worked out great in the original quilt and look just as fabulous in a smaller version.
What Is A Rail Fence Quilt Pattern
A quilt block made up of stacked rectangles is the easiest way to recognize a rail fence quilt pattern. A rail fence quilt pattern is made up of many blocks of stacked rectangles placed in different directions to create a multitude of patterns. This black, white & batik baby rail fence quilt is laid out in a zig zag pattern, which is probably the most common and easy to recognize rail fence design.
A rail fence block may consist of two to five strips of fabrics in one block. Then the blocks are then laid out to create a geometric design. The original name for the rail fence quilt pattern comes from the wooden rail fences used on farms. The pattern reflects the zig zag fence poles stacked up on each other around the perimeter of fields.
How to Choose Colors for a Rail Fence Quilt
The rail fence quilt pattern generally consists of a single block of stacked rectangles. You may choose a simple fabric combination of light and dark like this baby quilt or a monochromatic gradation of colors which is very popular. Then there is also the opposite end of the spectrum with a scrappy rail fence quilt filled with every color imaginable. Or, for a more modern look, try an asymmetrical block in two different block color schemes for a triple rail fence.
The organized stacked rectangles of the rail fence pattern keep all those scraps nice and orderly, so you don’t have a chaotic collection of competing colors. If you have a large scrap pile that needs some trimming down, this could be your answer.
How to Make a Rail Fence Quilt Block
How to Strip Piece Rail Fence Blocks
This rail fence baby quilt is made using the strip piecing method. Since the original quilt was made with fat quarters, the leftover fabric pieces used here are 18” long in varying widths. This is perfect for strip piecing. Then, I also added some extra teal fat quarters as the dominant color to alternate between the other brighter colors. After each piece was cut down to 3” wide x 18”, the light and darks were paired together.
Using a ¼” seam, each pair of light and dark fabrics are sewn together on the long edge. Once all the strip pairs are sewn, each is pressed well with the seam allowance facing the darker fabric. That way the seam allowance won’t show through the lighter, white fabrics.
How to Crosscut Blocks from Strips
After sewing two 3” strips together with a ¼” seam, the fabric strip measures 5 ½” wide. Next, to make your individual rail fence quilt blocks, each strip is crosscut into 5 ½” lengths. Each 18” strip will yield three individual blocks. If you’re using the full width of fabric, you will cut at least six blocks. Depending on the width of your fabric after cutting off the selvage, you might get seven blocks. If not, save those end pieces to use in the border or for a quilt backing design.
Remember that this block dimension will depend on your actual seam allowance. Measure your strips in a couple different places to see if its width is 5 ½”. If not, crosscut your strips to make them even squares. It’s important to have nice squares so your quilt goes together easily.
How to Design A Rail Fence Quilt Top
Decide Which Block To Use
This quilt measures 40” x 45” with 72 blocks laid out in eight rows of nine blocks each. The blocks measure 5 ½” before being sewn together, with a 5” finished block. Since this is a more modern fabric with lots of graphic batik prints, I kept the modern feel and omitted any borders.
While sewing rail fence quilt blocks is a simple process, deciding on the layout may take some time. There are many different ways to design your quilt top. The two-strip block in this rail fence quilt is called the Brick Path or Half Square block. The block works perfectly with this fabric as it emphasizes the stark contrast of light and dark. If you’re looking for a strong rail pattern, high contrast fabrics are your best choice.
There are quite a few different rail fence quilts on my Pinterest rail fence board if you want a few more ideas.
How to Assemble Blocks By Rows
This quilt is assembled using the chain piecing method by sewing nine rows of eight blocks each. The even and odd numbered rows each have a different block layout. Therefore, the pattern is alternated in each row. Another method that may be more manageable for larger size quilts, is to pre-assemble your blocks into a 4-patch. These 4-patch blocks are then also assembled as rows.
How to Assemble a Rail Fence Quilt 4-Patch Block
The alternate 4-Patch method combines both rows together eliminating the need to alternate your row layouts. An additional ‘Row A’ needs to be added to the bottom for this size quilt since there are an odd number of rows.
Since the 4-patch combines two rows together, there is no need to alternate each row individually. This works especially well with big quilts since the 4-patch block ensure your pattern repeats correctly throughout. For this rail fence baby quilt, you may choose to make it square to eliminate the need for an additional extra 9th row. The resulting quilt will measure 40” x 40”.
How to Sew Your Rail Fence Quilt Blocks Together
Whether you decide to sew your blocks individually, or as a 4-patch, initially sewing your quilt top into rows eases the process. Continuously sewing all the blocks into rows first, makes the second step of sewing the rows together much easier.
As you sew your first two blocks together for the first row, you then add the first two blocks of the next row without cutting your threads. Repeat this process working from top to bottom for eight rows. Then return to the top and open your sewn blocks. Add the next block to each row. As you chain sew them together, your blocks hold together nicely.
Now Sew All Those Rows Together
Once all the blocks are sewn together in one direction, it’s easy to find any blocks that may be turned in the wrong direction. If everything looks the way you want it, sew all the rows together and your quilt is finished. You may also add a border or two to compliment your quilt colors.
Now Make Your Own Rail Fence Quilt
The rail fence pattern is quick and easy, but also provides lots of different design options. Try some new color combinations. Start small to get an idea of what colors you like best. Reach out of your comfort zone and try adding a color you’ve never quilted with before. It’s such fun to see a new color scheme develop as your blocks are assembled. Enjoy the process and relish the journey as you expand your designs.