Today I have a new quilt tutorial that is both fast and beginner-friendly. This quick Rail Fence baby quilt uses some great strip-piecing shortcuts to help you put a finished quilt together quickly. I was able to piece this 40″ x 40″ baby quilt together in an afternoon!
For this quilt I used Melissa Mortenson’s fabric collection for Riley Blake Designs, Derby Day.
Aren’t those bright, preppy colors fun? I’m especially smitten with that floral and that shade of green.
Derby Day is available in stores now – hopefully it’s at your favorite local quilt shop! You can also find it online from the Fat Quarter Shop.*
Fabric requirements for 40″ x 40″ baby quilt:
- ½ yard of 4 different prints
- ⅜ yard for binding
- 1 ¼ yard backing
Tips for Strip-Piecing a Quilt
This project is made so quickly using strip-piecing techniques. Before you start cutting or sewing, I strongly recommend you read this post about Strip-Piecing techniques. Sewing strips together doesn’t sound tricky (and it’s not!) but because you’re working with long strips, there are some good best practices to help you cut and sew nice straight lines and keep them from getting bowed or wonky.
For this particular project, cut 5 strips 2 ½″ x the width of the fabric (WOF) from each of the four main fabrics. Sort them into 5 sets of strips, with one of each fabric and sew them together into 5 identical strip sets.
Using a scant ¼″ seam allowance, I recommend sewing two sets of two strips together, pressing them flat, and then sewing the two sets together for the middle seam. Alternate the seam direction to prevent the strips from bowing. (Again, reference the Strip Piecing 101 post for visuals and tips.) Press seams all one direction.
Once seams are pressed, lay your ruler across the strip set, lining up a straight line from the ruler on the seams to make sure your block is square. Carefully square-off the selvage ends. By placing the ruler on the strip set you’ll get a nice square (90 degree) end. Be careful to only cut the selvage off, so that your strip set is long enough to cut 5 blocks.
Now, flip the strip set around so that the length is on the right side (assuming you’re right-handed. Do the opposite if you are left handed.) Using the newly, squared-up edge and again, lining up the lines from your ruler with the seam lines, cut off an 8 ½″ x 8 ½″ square. (Measure the width of your strip sets. If they are measuring slightly narrower than 8 ½″, cut the block to measure the same width as the height. Sewing with a scant ¼″ seam allowance will help the width across the 4 strips be an accurate 8 ½″.)
Continue cutting down the strip set to cut 5 blocks that measure 8 ½″ x 8 ½″. You’ll need to cut carefully to get all 5 blocks.
Because strip sets can tend to bow (or arc), keep using the straight lines on the ruler as a guide on your seams (not the top or bottom of the strip sets). You may need to square-off your end again after every couple of cuts to keep your blocks square.
Repeat with remaining 4 strip sets. You will end up with 25 identical 8 ½″ x 8 ½″ blocks.
Once you have the blocks cut, lay out the first row of five blocks, with the blocks rotated like this, and sew them together. Press seams toward the vertical blocks. This is Row A.
Assemble the second row starting with a vertical block and use this layout – this is Row B. Again, press the seams toward the vertical blocks. (This will help the seams nest when you sew the rows together.)
Make two more rows like Row A and one more row like Row B.
Sew the five rows together, alternating the Row A version a Row B version, and press seams one direction.
To finish the quilt, layer the top, batting and backing together. A word about the backing – 1 ¼ yards will be just larger than the 40″ x 40″ pieced top (assuming the yardage hasn’t been pre-washed/shrunk). If you would like a slightly larger backing, get 2 ½ yards and piece a larger backing – it only matters how much you are most comfortable with for quilting all of the layers.
Cutting the binding fabric into 4 strips 2 ½″ x WOF and sew them end to end. (For this project, I cut the horse fabric into bias strips for a bias binding.)
You can read more about How to Finish a Quilt here.
By strip-piecing your blocks with this method, you can make many blocks really quickly. These straight-line blocks are traditionally called Rail Fence blocks. There are so many variations you can make with Rail Fence quilt blocks. This pin board has lots of ideas:
If you are looking for a printable PDF version of this quick Rail Fence baby quilt you can find it here for $2.00. The PDF also includes fabric requirements and layout instructions for Crib, Throw, Twin, Queen, and King size variations.
Now that you know the basics, there are SO many variations you can try with Rail Fence blocks. You could make one using only two strips or three strips (as in the Strip Piecing 101 guide). You could play with varying the widths of the strips, or you could make it much more scrappy by using a larger variety of fabrics. The options are endless!
Love those colors. Thanks for the tips.
So pretty, thanks!
Awesome quilt! Thank you for the link to the pattern and the tutorial!
Thank you for the tutorial! I saw your quilt photo’s on IG and saved the idea to make a fast charity quilt! Now I can start cutting the fabrics!
Is 1 and 1/4 yards enough for the backing? I will probably do this on my domestic machine.
For me, it was enough. Just baste your quilt well, making sure you can see backing fabric around the edges of all four sides and you should be fine. Plus, it’s nice not to have to piece a back!
What an adorable quilt! The fabrics are lovely and bright. Thanks for the tutorial.
I love those preppy colors. What a pretty quilt! Thank you for your tutorials.
Happy Birthday Amy, thanks for the tutorial.
Happy Birthday! I’m also a March baby and love the month. I figure it is a combination of getting the attention of a birthday (I come from a very large family so having a full day of attention was very special) and the hope of new life, new color, new animals. This tutorial is so easy and fun. Thanks, always, for sharing your expertise.
Wow, your quilting abilities is fabulous. So beautiful! I grew up helping my mother make quilts, but I did not learn how to make them myself. Maybe it was because I was only ten years old, and hate doing quilting. Now I regret I did not learn all those years back then, because I love quilts, (home made ones).
Thank you! And don’t worry, it’s never too late to learn. I have great beginning quilting series! 😉
Can this be made with jelly rolls? New quilter.. I bought some precut jelly rolls to try a baby blanket. Than you.
Yes! This quilt is perfect for Jelly Rolls. It will have a scrappier feel because you’ll be using more than four prints, but it will be awesome. Here’s a link to another similar quilt that was more scrappy to give you an idea: https://www.diaryofaquilter.com/2013/09/easy-baby-jelly-roll-quit-pattern.html
Hello! Thank you for the pattern! I was wondering, I am at the step where I cut my strips into 8.5 inch squares. I am noticing that my strips are falling between 9.5-9.75 inches wide (perhaps my scant 1/4 was a little too scant? lol) Should I trim the edges to match 8.5? Increase my seam allowance? Thank you!!
You can definitely trim your width down to 8.5″, but before you do, I’d try resewing your seams with an increased seam allowance. If the seams are too small, they can more easily come apart later. To make sure your 1/4″ is accurate, I would measure the width with a ruler. The seam for a scant 1/4″ should fall right next to the 1/4″ mark on the ruler. This post might help: https://www.diaryofaquilter.com/2011/10/quilting-tip-scant-14-inch.html
It looks like you used only 3 fabrics in the Tips For Strip Piecing – the gray, yellow and white. Is there help somewhere as to how to do this? Thanks, Dee
Yes! You can find the information for that three-strip quilt here: https://www.diaryofaquilter.com/strip-piecing-basics/