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Sewing is something that I’ve enjoyed doing for quite a few years now. 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.
Quilting may be my favorite sewing activity. I like to make 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 beautiful and functional as a decorative throw.
My mom and I have made several rag quilts together recently. They are fairly simple to make and you do not need to have much sewing experience or knowledge to make one. You only use a straight stitch and sew straight lines for the project.
How to Make a Rag Quilt
You will need to choose your top fabric, for our rag quilt, we used a Christmas/winter time themed fabric. You will also need a middle layer and a backing layer. All three layers will show on top as the ragged or frayed edges. I like to use cotton woven prints on top and flannel for the inner and back layers. Flannel is soft and cozy plus it frays really well.
To figure up your yardage of fabric 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.
Things you will need:
- 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.
Begin by prewashing all of your fabrics. You’ll typically be using 100% cotton fabric that will shrink. The fabric can also bleed. 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.
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. You’re now ready to begin your rag quilt assembly.
The block sizes that I used for this quilt were a 9 1/2″ square, a 9 1/2″ x 5″ rectangle, and a 5″ square.
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.
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.
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.
Now 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 to enjoy or gift to someone else to enjoy!
Some other rag quilts I’ve made:
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