Making Rag Quilts
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Following many requests I have decided to write a tutorial explaining how I make my reversible rag quilts.
The first thing I do is choose the color and design mix of the fabrics. If it is a quilt that I am making for someone else it is important to keep their color preferences in mind. My base line for that is that I find out which color family the person likes, greys or greens for example and light or dark. Those are my only constraints and I can then go wild :).
I made a pact at the beginning of this year that I am not buying any more fabric at all so I am challenged to find the color mixes in my stash.
The way that I design is I lay all the pieces of the relevant color mix in a pile on the table and pull out the ones that don't speak to me or jar visually.
This quilt will have deep blues and dark greys with petrol blue flannel sandwiched in between the top and bottom layers. This is also going to be a reversible rag quilt.
Once I have made my choices I need to prepare the fabrics and cut the squares. I work with 6 inch squares which become 5 inches after the sewing is completed. I use sheets and button down men's shirts and 6 inch squares allow me to get the maximum number and still have a decent sized square.
For a large queen size quilt I need 720 squares, 360 on each side and the quilt is reversible. I also need 360 squares of flannel from upcycled sheets which I use as the batting of the quilt.
I plan the color mix and placement of the squares very carefully and I like for the colors to flow through the quilt.
A quilt this size is made up of 12 sections of 30 squares each. I cut all my squares 30 different colors and patterns - 24 squares each. I lay them down in piles on the table and number each pile in the order of placement.
The first thing I do is prepare one of the sections so that if the piles have to be moved or get moved around by accident I have a reference piece for my design.
I strip piece them on the sewing machine using a 1/2 ich seam width. If I wanted a more fluffy raggedy look I would have used 2 inch seams. I don't sew Xs on this size square as I like for the squares to be soft and from experience sewing an X on this size makes the square feel like cardboard. I do sew Xs when using larger squares.
I learned my lesson regarding the snipping of the edges. The last time I made a huge queen sized rag quilt, I sewed the entire quilt which was the size of my sewing room floor and then had to snip the edges. It was a big mistake! The quilt was very heavy to move around.
What I do now is sew all 12 - 30 square sections and snip them when they are this size. It is manageable this way.
I also lay the sections down on each other before joining to make sure that they are the same size.
The next step is to sew 3 rows of 4 sections in each with the 6 squared side laid down as the width of the quilt so that it will be 18 squares wide and 20 squares long. I also snip the seams after sewing each section. After that I join the 3 long sections snipping the seams after sewing each one.
Finally I sew twice around the entire quilt 1 inch in from the edge and then snip the edges.
The house at this point is full of threads :) It still needs to be washed and dried to fluff up properly.
Almost done. Have to wash and dry about 3 times to rag it and get rid of all the fluff.
I wash in the bath tub first so that I don't clog the filter of the washing machine. I use a net to catch the fluff when I drain it and I pick the quilt up in stages and rest it on the taps or a metal stool till most of the water runs out of it and then I put it in a bucket to carry to the washing line.
This is the lint that I have collected from the dryer. It will be used as doll or bead stuffing.
Its beginning to look ragged. It softens even more after each wash and becomes a soft and warm blanket.
The finished quilt drying on the clothesline after its final wash.
Its immensely satisfying to snuggle under a rag quilt of ones own making.