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Making Rag Quilts

Updated: Jun 1

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 have been asked what kind of fabrics can be used for rag quilts - Non stretch. I have used cotton, cotton polyester from mens shirt and sheets, corduroy, jeans and upholstery fabrics even. Just make sure that the fabrics are the same weight. Cottons with poly cotton and light weight jeans and corudroy and upholstery fabric and heavier jeans together.

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.

Choosing fabrics
Choosing fabrics for the rag quilt

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.

Cutting squares for the quilt
Cutting squares

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.

Choosing color placement of squares
Laying down the color placement

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.

Strip piecing the squares
Strip piecing the 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.

Checking the size of the sections
Checking the size of the sections

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.

Soaking the quilt in the bathtub
Soaking the quilt in the bathtub

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 soft finished rag quilt
The soft finished rag quilt

The finished quilt drying on the clothesline after its final wash.

Blue rag quilt
Blue rag quilt

Its immensely satisfying to snuggle under a rag quilt of ones own making.

And for those who want to teach their children how to make rag quilts I have written a detailed tutorial based on my many years of experience teaching children to sew with all of my tips and tricks included.

Making a quilt is like telling a story when one uses much loved and upcycled fabrics to create it. It is a fun project which involves lots of sewing and ironing, giving the students hours of practice to hone their sewing skills.

It is important to remind them that their goal is to learn sewing in a fun way and to create something warm and snuggly that can grow with them.

This tutorial teaches how to plan the size of the quilts, pattern and color flow and how to make 2 different style quilts. The first is a quilt top with a fleece backing and self binding and the second quilt is a reversible rag quilt.

The children will learn how to sew a quilt top, how to do stitch in the ditch quilting and how to bind a quilt.

It can be found here on this site

and here on Etsy

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1 comentário

23 de nov. de 2023

What a beautiful, detailed description of the quilt making process!! Thank you for sharing!!

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