Big Scrappy Rail Fence Quilt Block (Variation)

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This tutorial will show you how to make a 20-inch rail fence quilt block using two widths of strips – so a bit different from a traditional rail fence block.

This easy rail fence quilt block is a great quilt block for beginners looking to make a quick first quilt or for more experienced quilters who want to use it as a fabric stash buster!

rail fence quilt blocks

This block is one of a series of big quilt blocks – 20 inches square – which I am going to combine into a quilt top as part of my Big Blocks Quilt Along — but these rail fence blocks can absolutely be used on their own to make a super vibrant and scrap-happy quilt.

Further down in the post I will show you how many of these giant rail fence blocks you’ll need to make different quilt sizes.

There is also a video tutorial for this block that you can find at the end of the post.

What is a Rail Fence Quilt Block?

Traditionally a rail fence quilt block is a block with between 2-5 strips that are usually all the same width as each other. The quilt blocks can be laid out in a quilt in various ways to achieve different patterns.

The image below shows two examples of traditional rail fence quilt blocks.

traditional rail fence quilt blocks
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

The strips are sewn together in strip sets and cut into square quilt blocks.

A strip set is just what it sounds like – a group of fabric strips sewn together that can then be subdivided and cut into smaller blocks. Lots of quilt blocks are made this way and some involve lots of fancy ways of cutting up the strip sets….not this block though…this block is super easy!

We are going to make our rail fence quilt blocks in the same way except that we are going to vary the width of strips and we are going to make our blocks super big!

How to make a Giant Rail Fence Quilt Block

You can make these blocks one at a time but they go much quicker if you make them two at a time so I will give you the fabric requirements for both options.

Fabric Requirments – 20 Inch Rail Fence Block

rail fence fabric strips
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
  • One Block: (4) 2.5″ x 20″ strips; (3) 4.5″ x 20″ strips.
  • Two Blocks sewn using a strip set: (4) 2.5″ x WOF strips; (3) 4.5″ x WOF strips.

WOF = width of fabric. Width of fabric is typically between 42″- 44″ so we can easily get (2) 20″ quilt blocks from strips cut the full WOF.

This means you can use jelly roll strips for the 2.5″ strips if you want to make two blocks at once.

I cut my strips with my AccuQuilt Go Big Cutter and the die numbers I used were #55017 (2.5″ strips); and #55054 (4.5″ strips).

I chose a mix of bright colors including some solids and prints as well as some white for a contrast. I also had a theme of ‘polka dots’ running through some but not all of my fabrics.

You could easily choose one color family for a quilt like this or do two contrasting colors. How ‘scrappy’ you want to make it is up to you!

Step 1: Sew Pairs of Strips

To start making these super quick quilt blocks we are going to sew our strips into pairs, right sides together with a standard quarter-inch seam.

rail fence strip quilt
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

We are going to keep chain piecing until we have 3 pairs and one extra strip.

Chain piecing just means we are going to feed the pairs of fabric into the sewing machine one after the other without cutting our thread.

rail fence quilt block chain piecing
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

This quilt block is designed to be super forgiving and easy for everyone, including beginners. Because of that, there is no set order that your strips need to be sewn together.

You can choose a set order – for example, you could alternate between 2.5″ and 4.5″ strips – or you can just let the strips fall where they may which is what I did when I made my quilt blocks.

The more varied the order of strips are the more ‘scrappy’ and random your quilt will look, the more you keep to an order with your strips the more ordered your quilt top will look – so it’s just a personal choice.

As well as choosing how to order (or not order) your strips you can also give some thought to whether you want to put strips in a color order – for example light to dark or alternating two or three colors – I just went with my gut instinct of which colors I liked next to each other.

Step 3: Joining Pairs

Once you have 3 pairs and 1 strip we are going to start joining these together.

Add the lonesome unsewn strip to any of your 3 pairs first – it doesn’t matter which side you join it too unless you are sticking to a specific strip order.

strip set
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Next, join the two remaining pairs to each other in the same way as above.

Finally join the set of 4 strips and the set of 3 strips to each other.

rail fence quilt block strip set
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
rail fence strip set
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

You should now have a strip set of all 7 strips that is either 20″ long, if you are making one block at a time or 42-44″ long if you have used WOF strips.

Step 4: Press Seams

I pressed my seams open for this block just to keep things simple but you are welcome to use whatever pressing method you like.

Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

As rail fence quilt blocks tend to be rotated to different directions to each other there are no seams to match up so you don’t have to think about nesting when pressing your seams.

Step 5: Cut your Quilt Blocks from your Strip Set

Lastly, all we have to do is cut our quilt blocks to 20″ square. This is the unfinished size. When these blocks are sewn into a quilt their finished size will be 19.5″ square.

trimming quilt blocks
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I used my 20.5″ ruler to trim down my long strip set into two blocks.

rail fence quilt block
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

Finished Big Rail Fence Quilt Blocks

Here are my finished blocks. I think they look very cheerful and happy.

rail fence quilt blocks
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
four rail fence quilt blocks colorful
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I am using these blocks as part of my Big Blocks Quilt Along which you can follow along with too (even if you are finding this in the future) by signing up to the Quilt Along here.

How many Blocks do I need for my Quilt?

These giant quilt blocks make quick and easy quilts. Here is a guide to how many quilt blocks you will need to make different-sized quilts.

The guide below doesn’t include any sashing or borders that you might choose to add to make your quilt larger, especially if you like your quilts to ‘drape’ over the sides of your mattress.

  • Baby Quilt (39″ x 39″) = 4 Blocks.
  • Twin Quilt (39″ x 78″) = 8 Blocks
  • Lap Size/Throw Size (58.5″ x 58.5″) = 9 Blocks
  • Double Quilt (58.5″ x 78″) = 12 Blocks
  • Queen Size/King Size (78″ x 97.5″) = 20 Blocks

Below are some examples of what this quilt block would like in a quilt layout with borders (which are not included in the measurements above).

baby quilt layout
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
rail fence throw quilt layout
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love
queen size quilt layout
Photo: Scrap Fabric Love

I would love to see your completed quilts using this block. Feel free to tag me on Instagram @scrapfabriclove

Video Tutorial: Scrappy Rail Fence Quilt Block

If for any reason the video does not how up below you can also view it on YouTube here:

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