The Three Rs, Cowboy Style

Posted by ShellyP on Monday, May 28th, 2012

Howdy, folks! It's me, Shelly Pagliai (Polly-Eye) from Prairie Moon Quilts, back again . . . this time with a tutorial for a quick and easy throw quilt. I managed to swindle My Cowboy, along with his trusty steed, Chip, the Wonder Horse, and their faithful companion, Blueberry, the SuperDog, into taking part in the photo shoot. Naturally, I chose the exact moment that a storm was rolling in and the wind was blowing furiously.

Finished Quilt

This quilt uses pieces from the Saddle Up! fabric line by Samantha Walker. (Can you tell I'm pretty much smitten with this collection?) With 20 easy pieced blocks and a bit of simple applique, it’s real quick to put together.

Here's the printable version for you to download, complete with full-sized templates.

The pieced block in this quilt is a traditional block called Chisholm Trail, named after the famous Chisholm Trail that ran from Texas to Kansas in the 1800s.

Finished Block

Here’s a little history trivia for you . . .

The Chisholm Trail was formed when a Cherokee trader named Jesse Chisholm drove his wagon through what is now Oklahoma to and from his trading post near Wichita, Kansas. Later, cattle drivers used Jesse’s tracks to drive their cattle to Abilene, Kansas, and so named the trail after him.

Cattle drives along the Chisholm trail commenced around 1867. The trail began near San Antonio, Texas. Cowboys liked the Chisholm Trail because it had no towns, hills, or wooded areas. It is said that in a period of three years of using the trail, 1.5 million cattle were moved along it. Over the entire period of the trail’s usage, an estimated 5 million cattle were driven.

The route of the trail eventually shifted as the railroads moved west, moving it closer to towns that became terminal points for shipping the cattle by rail. As the railroads pushed ever further west, and farmers put up fences on their homesteads, the cattle drives ended and the trail was no longer used.

The 1948 movie, Red River, starring John Wayne, is a fictional story about the first-ever cattle drive along the Chisholm Trail.

There can be no doubt that the cowboys who used the Chisholm Trail were well versed in “The Three Rs.”

Do you feel ever so much smarter now? Ready to sew? Well, then . . .

I do recommend that you read through all the instructions before beginning, and let’s get started!

Here are the materials you’ll need to make your quilt:

    Gray check for background: 3 1/2 yards

    Blue for star points: 1 1/4 yards

    Yellow for center squares: 5/8 yard

    Brown for blocks, applique, and binding: 2 yards

Here are the ones I used in my quilt:

Fabrics I Used

For the applique background, you’ll need your gray check background fabric.
From it, cut 8 strips 6 1/2" by the width of the fabric (WOF). Remove the selvedges.

Cut 3 of these pieces in half on the fold to make 6 1/2" x ~22" strips.

Sew a long WOF strip and a short 22" strip together end to end to make one longer strip. Press the seam to one side, or open, if you prefer.

Repeat to make 5 long strips. You will have one short strip left over. Set it aside.
Trim each long strip to a length of 60 1/2". Here are mine, all pieced, folded, and ready.

Applique Strips

Prepare the applique letters:
Full-sized templates can be found in the printable version. You'll need to download the file and print them out.
If you will be using the needle-turn method of applique, you will need to add seam allowance to each piece.
If you will be using the fusible method of applique, the templates will need to be reversed before use, but no seam allowance is necessary.

Cut letters from the brown fabric to spell out the following words:

The Three Rs




On the long background strips, position the letters and applique them down as follows:

The Three Rs is centered on one long strip.

Ridin’ is positioned approximately 3" in from the left edge of a strip.

Ropin’ is centered on a strip.

Ranchin’ is positioned approximately 3" in from the right edge of a strip.


The fifth strip is for the bottom edge of the quilt. In my quilt, I left it blank, but if you’re making yours for a special cowpoke in your life, you could use this space to personalize your quilt. Just a suggestion . . .

When you are finished with the applique, press each strip gently from the back side. Set them aside while you make your pieced blocks.

I always suggest that you cut and piece one block by itself at first. That way you can tell if everything is going to work out all right before cutting up all your fabric. To that end, I’m giving instructions here for cutting ONE BLOCK ONLY. I’ll give instructions for the rest of the cutting right after the block piecing instructions.

From the gray check background fabric, cut:
    One 7 1/4" square
    Three 3 7/8" squares
On the back side of each of the small squares, draw a diagonal line with a marking pencil.

From brown, cut:
    Three 3 7/8" squares

From yellow, cut:
    Two 3 1/2" squares

From blue, cut:
    Four 3 7/8" squares
On the back side of each of these squares, draw a diagonal line with a marking pencil.

First, we’re going to make all the units needed for the block. We need triangle-square units, and Flying Geese.  We’ll start by making the triangle-square units, otherwise known as half-square triangles, or HSTs.

Match each brown square up with a gray check background square, right sides together.


Stitch 1/4" on each side of the drawn line. Cut apart on the drawn line.


Press seams toward the brown. Trim any dog ears.


You should end up with 6 brown/background HST units (for one block).

Next we’ll make the Flying Geese units.

This method for making Flying Geese has no waste, and requires no cutting or sewing triangles, and no special ruler.

For our geese, we’ll be using the following pieces that we’ve already cut:
    The 7 1/4" gray check background square
    The four 3 7/8" blue squares that have the diagonal line drawn on them

Here’s how to do it:
Lay the large square right side up on your work surface. With right sides together, lay two of the smaller blue squares on top of it with the marked diagonal lines running as shown. They’ll overlap in the center just a bit — this is OK. Pin in place, and then stitch on each side of the marked line, clear across all the pieces.


Cut apart on the drawn line, and press the small triangles out. You will have two units that look like this.


On each of these, lay one of the remaining blue squares, right sides together, with the diagonal line running as shown. Again, stitch on both sides of the diagonal line, then cut them apart on the drawn line.


Press the triangles out, and like magic, you have four perfect Flying Geese units, with no waste, no special ruler required, and no cutting or sewing triangles.


Now that you have all your units made, we’ll start assembling the block by putting together the center portion. You’ll need two of your HST units, plus the two yellow squares. Lay these out together as shown. Make sure you have the HSTs turned correctly.

Center Layout

Join these in pairs, pressing the seams toward the yellow squares.
Then join the pairs together to complete the center. Press the seam to one side, or open, if you prefer.

Center Done

Now you’ll need those Flying Geese. Add one to each side of the center unit, making sure you have them turned as shown. Press seams toward the center.

Middle row

To the two remaining Flying Geese units, sew HST units to each end, again making sure to have them turned correctly. Press seams away from center.

end rows

Add one of these units to the top of the center section, and one to the bottom, to complete the block. Press the seams to one side, or open, if you prefer. The block should measure 12 1/2" square.

Finished Block

Now you only need to make 19 more just like this!

Cutting instructions for the remaining 19 blocks:

From the gray check background fabric, cut:
    19     7 1/4" squares
    57     3 7/8" squares
On the back side of each of the small squares, draw a diagonal line with a marking pencil.

From brown, cut:
    57     3 7/8" squares

From yellow, cut:
    38     3 1/2" squares

From blue, cut:
    76     3 7/8" squares
On the back side of each of these squares, draw a diagonal line with a marking pencil.

Use these pieces to make 19 more blocks, for a total of 20 pieced blocks to use in your quilt.

Now you’re ready to assemble the quilt top.

Sew five of the pieced blocks into a row as shown below, turning every other block. Make 2 rows like this. Press seams to either side or open, whichever you prefer.
We'll call this Row 1:


Then sew five of the pieced blocks into a row as shown here. Make 2 rows like this. Press seams to either side or open, whichever you prefer.
We'll call this Row 2:


What I’ve explained above is how I arranged my blocks. However, feel free to play with the arrangement of the blocks. If you want all your rows to be the same, or all your blocks turned a certain way, that is completely up to you. Have fun with it.

Once you have your four rows made, it’s time to put them all together with the applique strips.

First is The Three Rs applique strip at the top.

Then a Row 1 strip of pieced blocks.

Next is the Ridin' applique strip.

Then a Row 2 strip of pieced blocks.

Then the Ropin' applique strip.

Another Row 1 strip of pieced blocks.

The Ranchin' applique strip.

Another Row 2 strip of pieced blocks.

And the blank strip on the bottom.

Sew the rows together to complete the quilt top. Press seams toward the applique strips.

Finished Top

You’re now ready to layer and quilt your quilt. In my quilt, I used Warm ‘n’ Natural batting, a solid brown backing, and the same brown fabric I used in the blocks to do the binding.

I quilted a cowboy boots, hats, ropes, and horseshoes design in the block portion, then outline quilted the appliqued letters, and did a small meander to fill in the background.
And with that . . .  you’re finished!

Be sure and download the printable version. There's an extra layout suggestion included in there that you might like, especially if you don't care for applique.

And if you'd like to see some outtakes from our sad attempt at a photo shoot, be sure and visit my blog. Everyone needs a belly laugh now and then!

Thanks for visiting Riley Blake Designs Cutting Corners College, and I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial!

Category: Quilts


  1. Yay! Thank you for this super cute quilt tutorial! I'm excited about the fabric collection colors and prints! A definite must make for this ranch wife!
    by Ranch Wife
    May 28th, 2012 at 3:50 p.m.
  2. Great pattern! Thank you!!!!
    by Rose E. Glasses
    May 29th, 2012 at 10:36 p.m.
  3. Love it and think my brother may too -- he's a Florida cracker cowboy -- the view from our French doors is of mama cows and calves in the pasture. My father, grandfather, and greatgrandfather were cattlemen. Thanks for the pattern!
    by MarciaW
    May 30th, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.

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