Quilt Block Pattern: Virginia Worm Fence
This “How to Sew” a Virginia Worm Fence Quilt Block tutorial is the second block that I plan to use in a sampler quilt which will showcase several simple quilt blocks. If you don’t want to make a sampler quilt, you can use this quilt block for a project of your own design. Or maybe even several projects once you see how fast this quilt block comes together.
I chose the Virginia Worm Fence quilt block because I found the name interesting and because this block is an easy pattern to master. Even better…this simple quilt block (which is a variation of a Rail Fence quilt pattern and also known as a “Two by Three'' quilt block) is pieced using strips of fabric, so it comes together super fast.
The finished block will measure about 12” x 12” when sewn together
Though I’m using two colors for this block (don’t judge me on my choices here…for some reason the pink and orange are making me smile), there are plenty of other color variations you can do. I will cover a few additional options at the end of this blog.
For this tutorial, I am using a fat quarter bundle that has five coordinating fabrics. I used this bundle for my last block, (see Sheepfold Quilt Block tutorial), and I will be using it for additional blocks for my sampler quilt in the future.
Let’s get started!
Supplies & Tools List
Two coordinating fabrics (a fat quarter of each)
Ironing board or pressing mat
¼” Quilting Foot with Guide or ¼” Quilting Foot
Matching or neutral thread
Thread snips or small scissors
- Seam ripper (just in case)
Instructions to Sew a Virgina Worm Fence Quilt Block
Step 1 - Prepare Your Fabric
Wash, dry, and press your fabric if you are using a normal cut of fabric. I don’t recommend prewashing precut fabrics like fat quarters as they tend to fray. Trust me, I learned the hard way.
To finish preparing your fabric, cut off any selvages. If you are using fat quarters like I am, only one side will have a selvage (The selvage is the thicker, tightly woven edge of the fabric.)
Step 2 - Cut Your Strips
NOTE: The cutting instructions below are for fat quarters. If you are using larger pieces of fabric, then you may be able to cut fewer strips to get the same number of pieces. Make your adjustments accordingly.
Cut three 2 ½” x 18 ½” strips from Fabric A. (FYI - Your fat quarter will be 18 ½” x 21” so you are cutting the shorter direction same as where your selvage was.)
Take one of these Fabric A strips and cut one 2 ½” x 4 ½” piece. (If the short end of the strip is not even, even it before cutting your piece.) You won’t need the rest of this strip for this block.
So, you should now have two 2 ½” x 18 ½” strips and one 2 ½” x 4 ½”” piece (mini strip) of Fabric A.
Cut three 2 ½” x 18 ½” strips from Fabric B.
Take one of these Fabric B strips and cut one 2 ½” x 4 ½” piece. You won’t need the rest of this strip for this block.
So, you should now have two 2 ½” x 18 ½” strips and one 2 ½” x 4 ½” piece (mini strip) of Fabric B.
Save the leftover fabric to use in future blocks especially if you are planning to make a sampler or perhaps even a scrap quilt.
We could cut each strip into the nine A and nine B pieces as depicted in the diagram above and that would be perfectly fine but there is a faster way. If you are like me, short cuts, if they work, are great because then the project comes together quickly and who doesn’t want to save time so you can…make more things? I know I do.
Step 3 - Sewing The Block - Part 1
We are going to sew before we do any more cutting. For sewing, I used the ¼” Quilting Foot with Guide. This way my seams are consistent throughout the construction of the quilt block.
Sew over a scrap piece of fabric and stop sewing when the edge of the scrap is just before the needle. Do not raise your presser foot. Take a look at the stitching to make sure it looks okay. If not, make necessary adjustments in tension, etc. and sew over your scrap again. Once you are satisfied that your stitches look good you will chain sew.
Sew a long strip of Fabric A to a long strip of Fabric B with right sides together while using a ¼” seam allowance.
TIP: If you worry that your strips might slip alignment, you can always use clips to help hold the strips together. Just remove the clips before they hit the sewing machine plate as that could also throw off the alignment.
Stop at the end of this strip but do not remove it from the machine. We will be chain piecing.
Sew your other long Fabric A strip to the remaining long Fabric B strip. Repeat this step for the mini fabric strips.
Cut the fabric scrap and the chain pieced strips apart from each other.
You will end up with two long and one mini A + B combined strips.
Step 4 - Cut Your Units
Grab one long strip and if the edge you’ll be cutting from is not straight, even it out. Open this combined strip, measure the width and make a note of it. We’ll call this measurement “Z inches” or Z” for short.
TIP: Don’t skip this step as it will cause you extra work. I know because I learned the hard way while doing this blog.
I thought to myself, if both of my strips are 2 ½” wide and I sew a ¼” seam allowance then the resulting combined width should measure 4 ½”...I was wrong. The width of my combined strip was 4 ⅜” wide.
Why? What happened?
When you sew, using a ¼” foot with/without guide, you are sewing ¼” from the edge of the fabric...but because the thread will eat up some of your fabric, after you press you are likely to have a measurement that is different than expected.
Cut this long combined A + B strip into four 2 ½” x Z” pieces. Repeat this step with the other long combined A + B strip.
TIP: Since you’ll be moving your ruler over as you cut, double check your measurements before cutting. I’ve made the mistake of not doing this step before…it’s no fun.
Cut your mini combined A + B strip to the same 2 ½” x Z” measurement.
Next, press these pieced units open toward the darker fabric. If both fabrics are of about the same value, then press toward one color consistently.
These opened combined pieces will each be a Z” square unit that consists of fabric A + fabric B.
TIP: If, like me, you forgot to get your Z” width earlier, then you will need to trim the length of your units to the Z” width to get your square units. Do this now before going forward.
For those readers that know about it, don’t hate me, but I won’t be covering scant ¼” seams in this blog…
In all you should have a total of nine, square, fabric A + fabric B units.
Step 5 - Sewing The Block - Part 2
For this next section, I’ll be referring to the below diagram.
Unit 1 refers to the units where the colors run horizontally. Unit 2 refers to the units that run vertically. You have three rows of units in the Virginia Worm Fence block. The top row is Row 1, the middle row is Row 2 and the bottom row is Row 3.
I like to lay the units out before I start sewing. This is a good cross-check to make sure you have all of the units needed and that they are in the correct position for the quilt pattern you are making.
TIP: I like to use “sticky notes” to label my rows so I know exactly which one is which. That way, if I need to step away from my project for a little bit, it’s easy to start right back up.
Again, you are going to chain piece one unit after the other to save on thread and time. We’ll also use two small scrap fabric pieces this time so that we don’t have to stop our chain piecing.
Sew over one scrap piece and stop sewing when the edge of the scrap is just after the needle. Do not raise your presser foot. Take a look at the stitching to make sure it looks okay. If not, make necessary adjustments in tension, etc. and sew over your scrap again. Once you are satisfied that your stitches look good you will chain sew as follows:
From Row 1, sew Unit 1 to Unit 2 with right sides together while using a ¼” seam allowance.
From Row 2, sew Unit 2 to Unit 1 with right sides together using a ¼” seam allowance.
From Row 3, sew Unit 1 to Unit 2 with right sides together using a ¼” seam allowance.
Sew through your other fabric scrap and stop once you are at the edge of the scrap.
TIP: Double check that you are sewing the correct edges together so that you don’t have to reach for the seam ripper. Sewing the wrong way happens…I know from experience.
At this point, clip the threads between your first scrap fabric and between all of your sewn units and the scrap fabric that is currently under the needle on the machine. Lay the sewn units back out in their spots as shown in the below picture.
Now we will continue our chain piecing.
From Row 1, sew the remaining Unit 1 to your Unit1-Unit2 piece.
From Row 2, sew the remaining Unit 2 to your Unit2-Unit1 piece.
From Row 2, sew the remaining Unit 1 to your Unit1-Unit2 piece.
Sew through a fabric scrap and stop once you are at the edge of the scrap.
Clip the threads between your scrap fabrics and fabric strips. Lay your sewn rows out in order so that they look like the picture below.
Before we go any further, we are going to press our seams. You’ll want to press Rows 1 and 3 in one direction and Row 2 in the opposite direction. After pressing, lay the rows back out again as in the picture above. I like to do this here to make sure I sew the rows together correctly. (Trust me, I’ve skipped this double check before and had to grab my seam ripper to fix things.) Then we’ll be ready to sew again.
Step 6 - Sewing The Block - Part 3
Now you are ready to finish sewing your block together!
Take Row 1 (top row) and flip it down over Row 2 (middle row) so the right sides are facing together. Line up and nest your seams together.
For this next step, I like to use pins next to each seam to keep the seam from moving during sewing (some quilters put them in the seam, do what works best for you). This helps get a more accurate seam in the end. Before you start sewing, double check that the seams or strips didn’t shift while you were pinning. If they did, re-pin now so you don’t have to take out the seam with a seam ripper and re-do everything. (Trust me, I’ve skipped the double check step before and regretted it.)
Sew these strips together with a ¼” seam allowance. You should get matching seams when you are done.
Finally, take Row 3 and flip it up onto the bottom of Row 2 so the right sides are together. Match up and nest your seams. Pin and then sew using a ¼” seam allowance.
Step 5 - Press and Square-Up the Block
For this press, close your strips over themselves so you can see the stitching on the wrong sides and press, holding your iron in place for a few seconds to “set” the seams. This step helps nestle the threads down into the fabric so that you’ll get flatter seams.
Then, open your block and press your seams to the side, preferably toward the darker fabric if there is one. If the fabrics are of equal or near equal values like mine are, then press out toward the edges of the block.
Your finished block might not be quite 12” x 12” as the seam sewing may have taken up some of the size. If you are going to make several of these blocks for a project, be consistent in how you make them. This is when you will straighten your edges and square up your block.
TIP: Measure in both directions to see what the shortest width is of your block and square it to that. I like to measure through the middle, and through both corners, better more information than not enough. And…if you have a slightly different way to square up your block, feel free to do what works for you.
Mine is 11 ⅞” so my block will be 11 ⅞” x 11 ⅞” square. (I’m pretty happy with that!) Be careful not to over-cut while squaring up.. I use my self-healing cutting mat, cutting ruler, and rotary cutter for this part.
You did it, you have a finished Virginia Worm Fence (aka: Two by Three) quilt block. It’s that easy!
Prefer to see it all in action? Watch the YouTube Video: Quilt Block Tutorial: Virginia Worm Fence Tutorial.
Projects You Can Make with the Sheepfold Block
There are many different projects this block would be great for so don’t limit yourself. Here are a few ideas to get your started.
One block pillow: For the design, you can leave it all about the block or add a coordinating border
Table Runner: Put a few of these blocks side by side to the length you need.
Table Centerpiece or Wall quilt: Put several blocks together in a square.
Baby, Lap, or larger quilt: All of these would come together quickly using the strip piecing method we learned in this How To Tutorial.
Additional Color Options for the Two by Three (aka: Virginia Worm Fence) Quilt Block
Have fun with the colors you choose for this block. Let’s see some options you can try.
Here is the original block we did and one with one color change.
Totally changing the colors gives you another option. I like bright colors but maybe you like things in Black, Grey & White.
Or perhaps you love when shades run a little bit Ombre like in the idea below.
Have fun….just be careful if you pick prints since you’ll be turning the block units as you sew.
Today, you learned how to make a simple quilt block that sews together easily while using two strips of fabric. The design and project possibilities are endless. Have fun making your block and then making a project or two or more!
Watch how to make this block on YouTube:
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Quilt Blogging for MadamSew.com
Catherine (Cathy) Jaynes often dreamed of being able to quilt. After she got married, her husband bought her a sewing machine. She read a lot of quilting books and magazines. Then she started to teach herself but it was really slow going. Regardless, she collected lots and lots of fabric…over three utility shelves worth! She knew that someday her dream of quilting would come true. Then one day, a few years back…while picking up brownies for her husband at a local bake shop…she noticed a new storefront had opened across the street. It was a special place with quilts and other sewn items in the window…a school for learning how to sew and quilt. Cathy signed up for lessons that very day and hasn’t looked back since!
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