Skill Level: Beginner
A Wagon Tracks quilt block is a snap to make. Just simple half square triangles and a bit of strip piecing.
Here we'll use a quick pieced half square triangle method to get the job done.
This block is also known as the Pacific Rail Road. Other Jacob's Ladder quilt blocks are shown at the bottom of this page with links to the instructions to make them.
Wagon, ho! It's time to make tracks!
All seam allowances (SA) are 1/4".
Press units flat first to set the seam. Then open the patches and press again, being careful not to accidentally press a tuck in at the SA.
Take a minute to learn about our favorite technique to getting the flattest quilt blocks you'll ever see. Fast. Simple. Easy. Perfect every time!
Starching your fabric makes cutting and piecing much easier.
Sample Size: 6" finished / 6½" unfinished
Attribution: Ruby McKim
AKA: Pacific Rail Road (Nancy Cabot)
Design Type: Jacob's Ladder, Even 9-patch
All the four patches are set in the same direction (dark in the upper right and lower left squares) so that the units can be strip pieced with directional fabrics if you so choose.
I prefer to cut oversized #1 and #2 squares for the half square triangles, stitch and then trim to the exact size.
So for the 6" sample block, I've cut my #1 and #2 squares at 3-1/8"x3-1/8"—a 1/4" larger than the 2-7/8" listed. These patches are noted with **.
Cutting Chart for a~ Traditional Piecing ~
|Patch||Fabric||Qty||Finished Block Size|
|3||Background||1||1-1/2” x 16”||2” x 21”||2-1/2” x 26”|
|4||B||1||1-1/2” x 16”||2” x 21”||2-1/2” x 26”|
|Unfinished Block Size||6-1/2”||9-1/2”||12-1/2”|
With a pencil, draw a diagonal line on the back of each of the #2s.
With right sides together (RST) layer these marked #2s with their unmarked #1 counterparts.
Stitch a 1/4" away from the line on both sides, on both pairs.
With your scissors, cut on the drawn line to create two HST from each pair.
SAs are pressed to the dark.
Your HST should measure the size that corresponds to the Finished Block Size. Remove the dog ears. Trim if needed.
|Trim HST to...|
With RST, sew the #3 and #4 strips together along the long edge.
Press the SA toward the darker fabric.
Straighten one short side by aligning a line on your ruler with the seamline of the strip set (white arrow). Trim away a sliver with your cutter.
Now subcut this stripset into 10 units equal to the width indicated in the chart below.
|Width of Strip Set|| Subcut|
|6”||2 1/2"||1 1/2"|
|9”||3 1/2"||2 "|
|12”||4 1/2"||2 1/2"|
Stitch the pairs together, RST. Pin if needed for a good match in the centers. Press with the SA either to one side, open or twirled.
Arrange your pieced units into the Wagon Tracks design shown below. All the four patches are laid out with a dark square in the upper right corner.
Pay particular attention to the direction of the dark side of the HST. It's easy to get them flipped around before piecing them together.
With RST stitch the units in each row together, pressing with the SA toward the HST.
And finally, stitch the rows together. Pinning makes matching the points of the HSTs much more accurate, and especially on the first try!
Give your Wagon Tracks quilt block one final press and it's ready for your quilt.
...are shown below. This design family is generally characterized by a combination of four patch units and HSTs. The designs are either 4- or 9-patch based.
For design inspiration, click here to check out the Jacob's Ladder quilt pattern page.