How to Make a Rail Fence Quilt

    by Amma Marfo

    About the Author

    Amma Marfo is a higher education professional and writer. Presently, she shares her writing expertise in the Office of Student Activities and Multicultural Programs at Emmanuel College in Boston.


    When it comes to quilting, there are hundreds of patterns and fabric choices. A good starter is the classic rail fence pattern. With simple fabrics and uncomplicated piecing, the quilt can be finished in a few focused days of sewing and quilting. Take your time choosing fabrics that contrast and work well together and carefully choose border, backing and binding fabrics. Rail fence quilts often feature a monochromatic color scheme. Whatever your choice, enjoy making this simple beauty.

    Things You'll Need

    • 1/2-yard light colored cotton fabric
    • 1/2-yard dark colored cotton fabric
    • 1/2-yard medium colored cotton fabric
    • 2/3-yard border fabric
    • 1 1/2-yards backing fabric
    • 1/3-yard binding fabric
    • Rotary cutter
    • Ruler
    • Self-healing cutting mat
    • Iron
    • Sewing machine
    • Safety pins
    • 45-by-50 inch batting
    • Needle and thread
    • Quilt label

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    Cut the light cotton fabric into 30 2-inch by 6-inch strips, using a rotary cutter, ruler and self healing cutting mat. Cut the medium and dark cotton fabrics in 30 strips of the same size. Sort the strips into piles of dark, medium and light fabrics, lined up in that order.

    Sew together the light and medium strips with a 1/4-inch seam, using a straight stitch and a sewing machine. Attach the dark strips to the medium strips to complete the block. Press your seams toward the darker fabrics with an iron. Complete the piecing until you have finished all 30 blocks.

    Lay out your blocks as a grid that is five blocks across and six blocks down. Rotate the blocks to create a continuous zigzag pattern that runs diagonally down the quilt. Once satisfied with your placement, begin sewing the blocks together by rows.

    Cut your border pieces into strips that are 6 inches wide; two strips should be 36 inches long, and the other two should be 42 inches long. Sew the shorter border strips to the five block sides. Sew the longer borders along the six block sides.

    Cut the backing fabric to the same size as the completed quilt top. Lay the backing fabric right side down on the floor or a large table. Spread the batting over the backing. Add the quilt top, right side up, over the batting. Safety pin the quilt layers together every 6 inches.

    Quilt through all three layers by hand or with a machine, working from the center outward, following the seam lines of the rail fence pattern.

    Cut five 2-inch wide binding strips that measure the width of the quilt. Piece the binding to form one long strip. Fold the binding strip in half lengthwise and press. Attach the binding to the front of the quilt with all raw edges aligned. Turn the folded edge over the backing fabric and tack it down with small hand stitches.

    Finish the quilt by hand stitching a label on the back of the quilt, listing your name, the date and the location.

    • For strip piecing, cut each of your three fabrics into long 2-inch wide strips and sew the strips together. Once pressed, cut your strips into 6-inch blocks.
    • Pre-wash and iron all of your fabrics before you begin sewing to reduce the chance of dyes bleeding into fabrics over time.