Friday, 13 December 2013

Rag quilt...perfect for beginners!...

Mrs P's has some wonderful customers and there are also those that come in and gaze at the fabric...reach out and touch it- only to quickly withdraw and say with a laugh, "it's so beautiful, but I don't quilt."  The following is a blog for you....those that don't quilt- but maybe want a rustic quilt on your couch to snuggle up in on a day like today- snowy and cool. 

We'll show the 'finished' pitcure 1st...just to keep you motivated!  It's a very simple rag or ragg quilt.  There is batting between all of the squares but some patterns say, no batting needed.  Your choice.  It's a good opportunity for non quilters to see what batting does.  It's an extra layer for warmth but it also gives different hand or feel to the fabrics- more bulk but not a lot of weight.  Here, simple cotton or poly cotton was used for the batting and the back patches will be flannel in this case.   

Not being a 'quilter', batting may be an area you are unfamiliar with.   It may be made of polyester, polyester/cotton blend or poly cotton, just cotton or wool.  Batting is really wide stuff by comparison to fabric- so either buy 1/2 m or a twin size bag to start.  That's enough to find out if you like it without breaking the bank. The helpful people will usually ask what's it's for and you will freeze.  You don't want to admit to trying this and have someone 'judge' you.  Meanwhile, they really only want to help you get what you need for your project- not judge you or your project.  Let them know you want to try to make a rag quilt and they will offer all sorts of helpful hints from when they made one or admit wistfully, they have always wanted to make one...

First, a square of 7 inches was used.  That gave 5 or 6 squares per each 7 inch width of material.  The cotton on top is Kansas Troubles Classics woven ( means the colour way is woven in the fabric- hard to tell the back from the front and will look nice in a ragged edge) by Moda. Fabric will fray, so theoretically any cotton will work. Part of our hesitancy to try try this ( and quilting in general), is thinking we need an exact match to the picture- as you can see, only a sampler of 6 patches was made.  This was so that I would see how it works.  So, go grab some of your stashed cotton fabric and cut out six 7 inch squares from it for the front.  

The back will need the same amount of squares as the front.  

In this case, flannel was used, Willow flannel by Timeless Treasures.  Muted but rich colours were chosen to compliment the front- but again, as a test to see if you like this technique and to see how to do it, grab six more 7 inches squares from your stash- flannel or a softer cotten is nice as this is the side you will snuggle under...

So, in case I've confused us, six 7 inch squares for the front, six 7 inch squares for the back and some batting.  The batting is cut 5 inches square, more or less.  (The batting will be 2 inches smaller than the square size you decide on. ) 

Here is a 'quilt' sandwich...the flannel is on the bottom (right side down), a square of batting on the flannel and the cotton pulled aside.   I pinned the 4 corners of the sandwich making sure to pick up the batting at an angle ( see pins on right side of picture) , so I could stitch across the square diagonally- from corner to corner, in a straight-ish line.  Try not to sew across the pins- it can break your needle and cause discouragement. Sew up to the pin and put the needle of the machine down in the fabric and remove the pin.  This helps to keep the fabric where it is and not do 'the slide'under the pressure foot of the machine.  Taking a deep breath, sew across the diagonal keeping the seam as straight as you can.  No worries if it's a bit off- a rag quilt is very forgiving and people love the quirkiness of them.  

Sew across the other diagonal.  This doesn't always work as well as expected with some pulling or puckering showing up but let your OCD tendencies go.  It's adding charm to the quilt and it may not show when all is finished.

Here, all six sandwiches are back from the sewing machine.  They were a blast to make.  They felt nice in my hand and the sewing machine hummed right along with me.  Not all are perfect, but if you go back to the finished picture, they look fine in unison.  

Now the 3 squares in the bottom will be sewn together in a row.  A hearty 1 inch seam was used.  If you want to use a smaller seam size, increase the batting size.  The 1 inch seam seems huge if you've been working with 'scant 1/4 inch' seams in quilting blocks.  The 1 inch allows you room to clip the seam ragged at the end.  Remembering that the edge seams need to show on the front to be clipped, so sew wrong sides together.

 I pressed the seams open, matched the seams together and joined the 2 rows.  Here is the finger pressed result. 

So far, a lot of fun.  Then I went back around the edges with just a regular stitch line- 1 inch in from the edge.  

You can see, it's not perfect. To get a 7 inch square from a flannel, I cheated & used part if it's salvedge.  Others are a bit off- no's time to get the scissors/clippers out and cut down to but not through those big 1 inch seams. 

Above is the back before clipping.  Below, the clipping the upper left corner...

It took awhile to get it clipped.  This is the slowest part of making this quilt.  Spring loaded scissors work best but even with those, it takes time to clip. I had threads all over me and gasp...I had clipped through those far away 1 inch seam lines by mistake, but with gusto.  I probably should have just re-stitched then and there- that small boo- boo, but I decided I wash it and see what happened if you did clip in error.  (Turns out there was more than the one boo-boo I knew about.)

All clipped and ready to wash!  Most recommend using a laundromat to wash a rag quilt in. This is probably a very good plan. I only made 6 squares and there were a few threads in the washer when I peeked.  I also used a washer with an agitator and because the sample size was small- I threw in a pair of jeans to help 'beat' the seams a bit. 

It had a tumble around in the dryer a bit, too.  Definitely check the lint trap in the dryer after 5 minutes or so and keep checking as there will be lots of threads and lint getting caught. 

Ta da!  Except, I noticed my finger went though where it had been 'over' clipped and another couple of side seams were not as strong- probably more of the same 'over' snipping technique was used.  My only excuse is- it was fun!  I reinforced the bad seams by stitching over them again. Noticeable more on the back than the front in part, because of the thread colour. 

The left side has newer stitching & not been washed- so the fabric isn't 'filling in' around the stitch line.

A great beginner project.  Big seams, easy straight lines to sew and as the quilt is washed, it gets softer and more cosy.  I hope you will create one- especially if you have always wanted to quilt.  It is a quilt as you go type of quilt.  No big frames needed and machine stitching is perfectly acceptable.  

Have fun!


  1. Very cute!! I had seen these cute rag quilts but had no idea how to make one!! Now I do!! Thank you sooooooooooo much for the great tutorial!! I have the perfect fabric for this quilt technique!!