This simple DIY rag quilt tutorial will teach you how to make a rag quilt in no time!
Sewing is something that I’ve enjoyed doing for quite a few years ever since my parents bought me a sewing machine for Christmas back in 2004. I like to sew a variety of items from clothing to cloth diapers to bags to quilts and just about anything that strikes my fancy. A rag quilt is definitely one of my favorite things to make. If you are looking for a great gift guide for sewing items, you’re in luck. I picked some of my favorite sewing items and put them together in a list for you so shopping for the sewing enthusiast in your life is simple.
Quilting may be my favorite sewing activity. I certainly like to make both traditional quilts and rag quilts. A rag quilt is nice because it goes together quickly and also tends to be less expensive to make than a traditional quilt.
They also make great gifts and are also beautiful and functional as a decorative throw.
My mom and I have made several rag quilts together. They are fairly simple to make and you do not need to have much sewing experience or knowledge to make one, in fact you only use a straight stitch and sew straight lines for the project.
DIY Rag Quilt Tutorial
Choosing your fabrics:
You will need to choose your top fabric, for our rag quilt, we used a Christmas/winter time themed fabric for this rag quilt. You will also need a middle layer and a backing layer. All three layers will show on top as the ragged or frayed edges.
The best fabrics to use for rag quilts are woven cotton and flannel. I personally prefer to choose woven cotton prints for the top layer and complementing flannel colors for the middle and back layers. Flannel is soft and cozy plus it frays really well.
You definitely want your fabric choices to fray easily.
I have seem some rag quilts made with minky as the backing because it is soft but it does not fray. It can be used but just know that it won’t have the same look as a looser fabric. Minky is also a lot more difficult to work with.
Another option is to make a rag quilt with batting as the middle layer. This will insulate the quilt but you will only have 2 layers of ragging instead of three. If you choose this option, be sure to cut the batting to fit inside of your seam allowance so that it doesn’t show.
Calculate your yardage:
To calculate your yardage for the amount of fabric you’ll need for your quilt, you need to decide what size quilt you want to make and how many fabrics you will use.
I like to draw a sketch of my quilt to give me a visual reference. Remember that each quilt block will be 1″ smaller when finished because you will be using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Here is a list of handy yardage calculators: Quilter’s Paradise Calculators
Supplies you will need to make your rag quilt:
- Sewing machine (This is a good starter machine)
- Complimenting fabrics (I usually shop at Jo-Ann Fabric)
- Matching thread (I like Gutermann)
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat (This is a great kit)
- Sewing pins (I like these pins the best)
- Iron (I have this cordless iron for my sewing room)
- Ragging scissors are very helpful as well (Buy them here)
- Seam Ripper-Hopefully, you won’t need on but I always do (like this one)
- Optional: Quilting squares for measuring (I like these)
I must confess, I’m not much of a pinner when it comes to sewing but it really is a good habit to get into. I’m teaching my girls to pin their projects for better finished results.
Prepping your fabric:
Begin by pre-washing all of your fabrics. You’ll typically be using 100% cotton fabric that will shrink. The fabric can also bleed colors onto each other. I wash everything of like colors on warm with color catching sheets in the wash.
I then dry them on high heat in the dryer. After they come out of the dryer I iron each piece (Can I get a collective groan here?). Now, we are ready to cut out our individual blocks.
Cutting and layering your blocks:
You will need to cut your top, middle, and bottom blocks before you can sew. Once they are all cut out I like to lay my quilt out on the floor to be sure the pattern works. You will want to have the layers all together at this point.
To layer your rag quilt, you will need to take your bottom piece with the right side facing down, lay your middle piece on top of that, and them place your top piece right side up on the very top.
Now The Fun Part
You’ll have yourself a lovely little fabric sandwich. Line your edges up as best as possible. If you aren’t great at cutting straight lines yet, it’s ok, rag quilts are very forgiving because they edges will all be frayed.
Just be sure you can catch all three layers within your 1/2″ seam allowance and have plenty to fray. You’re now ready to begin your rag quilt assembly.
***The block sizes that I used for this rag quilt were a 9 1/2″ square, a 9 1/2″ x 5″ rectangle, and a 5″ square. The finish size is approximately 54″ x 60″ and would take about 3 1/2-4yds of fabric per layer. This is a general how-to post, not a specific pattern design.***
Quilting or x’ing your layers:
Next step is to sew an “X” across each block. You can use a ruler and a washable fabric marker to get a perfect “X” or you can just eyeball it, my preferred method. Make sure all three layers are even and sew from corner to corner.
Assembling your rag quilt:
Once all of the blocks are “X” ‘d you’re ready to begin putting your blocks together. This is the part that can get you. You have to remember to sew so that your seams are all exposed on top of the quilt. Goes against every sewing bone in your body to do this.
Place the back sides of your blocks together and sew at a 1/2″ seam. Once you’ve finished each row you can sew them together. Again, make sure you are sewing your seams on top. If you mess us with the seam, just rip it out and re-sew it correctly.
When your whole rag quilt is pieced together, you need to sew all the way around the outside of the quilt at a 1/2″ seam.
Ragging or Snipping your edges:
Now, you need to snip all of the seams and around the outside on the blanket at 3/8″-1/2″ apart. No need to be exact, just snip along. Be careful to not cut into your stitching.
Rag quilting scissors are almost a must. They have a spring to help you snip right along. double and triple check your quilt for missed seams.
Fraying your edges:
Once you have all of your snipping done, wash (I always use color catcher sheets just in case) and dry the quilt several times to promote the seams to fray a lot. For me, the third washing and drying seems to be the one to do it.
After it comes out, I check the rag quilt to make sure I didn’t snip any of my stitching and cause a seam to come apart. If and when I do, I just sew the seam back up on my machine.
I also like to trim up loose threads and any really “wild” frayed areas.
That’s it, all there is to it. A beautiful rag quilt for yourself or gift to someone else to enjoy! I hope this tutorial showed you exactly how to make a rag quilt and you can get started right away!
Woven cotton fabrics are the best for rag quilts because they fray so well. I prefer a cotton print for the top later and flannel for the inner and back layers.
There is a line of fabrics called “Homespun” that are very loosely woven and make beautiful ragged edges on these quilts.
Yes, it can but it will not fray and give the same ragged look as woven cottons. It is a very soft fabric but it is also very slick so not the easiest fabric to work with either.
I like to match my top thread color with my quilt top and my bobbin thread with my backing color. This is a personal preference.
9 1/2″ square, a 9 1/2″ x 5″ rectangle, and a 5″ square.
This rag quilt is approximately 54″ x 60″.
Approximately 3 1/2 to 4 yards per layer. (note: if you use multiple fabrics for your top layer, you will have to calculate how much of each you need)
I made this pattern up in my head based off of some ideas that I saw on Pinterest so I do not actually have a pattern. You are welcome to use my measurements and design as a guideline to make your own quilt like it.
Some other rag quilts I’ve made:
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