On The Fence


One of the simplest blocks you can learn as a quilter, the Rail Fence is made from three or more pieced strips . Don’t let that simplicity fool you, though: this straightforward block creates varied and unexpectedly beautiful quilts.

Rail Fence blocks can be put together to create the Roman Square, Fine Woven or Basket Weave, Beggar’s Blocks, Cat and Mice, and Spirit of St. Louis. See samples of these blocks  here.

Quilts made with this block allow color to be a star player. You can use high contrast to creating strong, geometric figures, or use shades with similar values for a subtler, less formal, effect.

This quilt, made sometime between 1920-1940, has a very Art Deco look to it, with the lighter colors thrown into strong relief against the dark background, making them float on top. (International Quilt Study Center and Museum, Object ## 2000.007.0034.)

Maker unknown. Made in Ohio (?), c. 1920-1940. See record here.


This Basket Weave design using the Rail Fence block has a much softer, homier feel to it.

This Basket Weave design is created using the basic Rail Fence block, dating c. 1901-1929.See the record here.


The light and bright colors of this Rail Fence have a fresh, modern look, even though it was made over 60 years ago.

This Rail Fence was made by Vera Wandling Mulford, c. 1930-1949 from the Arizona Quilt Documentation Project. See the record here.

The long and short of it is, quilters, that your Rail Fence will be beautiful, no matter how you build it!

Happy Stitching!

Marsha’s step-by-step instructions for the Rail Fence block are here.