Rail Fence Quilt Patterns

Don’t you love the way so many quilt patterns got their names from everyday scenes in pioneer life? The Rail Fence quilt pattern got its name from real fences like this one at the Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas, United States.

Zig-Zag Rail Fence Pattern

The classic Rail Fence pattern is made from square blocks made from several fabric strips. The number of strips in each block is up to you. Here’s how the Rail Fence pattern looks when the blocks have three strips: 

Here’s the same pattern when the quilt blocks have four strips:

And five strips:

One of my all-time favorite quilts to make  is a variation on the basic Rail Fence Design that alternates three-rail Fence and two-rail Fence blocks. I first found a variation of this pattern in the book Time to Quilt, and I’ve used it many times since then, mostly using a variety of batik fabrics in each quilt. Here’s one I made a couple of years ago:

The secret of the pattern is to turn the three-rail blocks in one direction, and the two-rail blocks in the other direction. The pattern looks like this:

Here’s another variation on the Rail Fence pattern by Heidi Elliott. She uses six strips in each block, but mixes up the strips within the blocks.  This eliminates the zig-zag and makes the quilt look like a basket-weave pattern. Fun!

Edited March 28 to add: Here’s a new rail fence quilt I just found, by Becky Fiedler on Flickr.com. This one was made in a quilt-as-you-go style with sashing between the blocks. Another noteworthy feature is the uneven widths of the rails in the individual blocks, which gives the quilt a lively sense of energy.

Photo by BeckyF, Flickr.com

Featured photo by gina pina, Flickr.

  • February 21, 2012

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Felicity Walker

Felicity Walker is the author of the best-selling Quilting for Beginners book series and other books for quilters. She has been quilting for nearly twenty years and loves finding easier, faster, and more fun ways to make quilts.

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