Monday, July 11, 2011

Rag Quilt Tutorial

Last summer I made a rag quilt for Abigial, and I just finished one for Zachary. They are so easy to make. Each step progresses quickly into the next. I finished this one, from fabric selection to on the bed, in about a week and a half, just working on it an hour here and an hour there.

I made Abigail's after reading a bunch of blogs with other tutorials. My two favorites were from Green Apple Orchard and Jen Yu.

The following is my personal flannel rag quilt tutorial.

In each quilt I let the kids pick their own fabrics. So even if a few fabrics stand out to my eye, the kids love 'em. The tutorial will follow Zachary's quilt, but I'll refer to Abigail's a few times, since they were done a bit differently. These are also directions to make a twin sized quilt, but it would be simple to just use less squares to make a throw size or a baby size. Figuring out the math is one of the funnest parts! (Really, my mommy brain loves a minor challenge here and there.)

Materials needed:
Flannel to cut 240 8" squares. (DO NOT PREWASH)
     We used 60 of the green, 60 of the blue, and 10 each of 12 random fabrics.
     So I bought 3 1/2 yards each of the blue and green and 1/2 yard of the 12 randoms.
Batting to cut 120 6.5" squares (I like Warm and Natural 100% Cotton)
Matching thread
Walking foot for your sewing machine (Optional, but hugely helpful)
Rotary mat, ruler and cutter
Ragging Shears

First step is to cut away! The batting squares need to be 1.5" smaller than the fabric squares. Since I did 8" squares of fabric, I needed 6.5" squares of batting. This was perfect, since my rotary ruler is 6.5" I could measure and cut very quickly.

Next cut all the fabric into 8" squares.
Here is everything in squares, except the green is missing. Perhaps I did bad math earlier in the week and didn't buy enough fabric. Perhaps I needed more coffee also.

The next step is assembling little fabric sandwiches. You will layer fabric, right side down, a batting square, and then fabric on top, right side up. Then sew and X across each square, sewing from corner to corner. The fabrics stick together well enough I don't pin.

I do this assembly line style, sewing a stack one direction, close together, snipping between, and then sewing the other way. You do not need to do the reinforcement stitch at this point.
Finishing the X the other way

After you have all the squares into a sandwich, lay out your pattern. (Abigail's quilt was in a set pattern, so I figured it out on paper, and then just grabbed the squares as needed.) Zachary wanted his quilt random. So I laid out the blue and greens in a pattern first, and then he placed all the fun fabrics between.

He ended up not very random, though, but wanted each fabric to run 5 in a row on the diagonals, with a little fudging in the corners to make it work.
I took one picture of it all for my reference in assembling.
I also decided to pin the numbers 1 through 12 on the left most square. Then I picked them up in order, and stacked them.

Next lay out one row at a time in order.

You will be sewing the entire quilt with the seams facing up. So to help remember which seam to sew, I literally pinch each intersection up so I know what edge I will be sewing.
Assemble each row, sewing with 1/2" seam allowance. I marked 1/2" with a fancy masking tape and sharpie line. You still do not need to pin or do the reinforcement stitch each time.

A completed row. Note all the seams sticking up at each intersection.

Once all the rows are completed, start putting them together. My little numbers helped here, especially, so I didn't have to keep referring back to the picture. Line the two rows up, and make sure you think through which side to sew so that the seams all remain up in the same direction.
Now it is time to pin. You have two choices with the intersections. You can either send the top one way and the bottom the other way, like the first picture, or split each side, like the second picture. I prefer the top way, but it makes no difference in the end, as each seam intersection will be clipped apart. I just think this way was easier to feed through my machine. Add in the reinforcement stitch now, too.

Here are two completed rows, with the view from the top, with all seams up.
And here is the view of the smooth bottom.

After it is all assembled, finish it off by stitching all the way around the exterior, with the 1/2" seam allowance.

Almost done! Now it is time to snip and snip all the seam allowances. You can do it with scissors, but these Fiskars ragging shears work so well and make the job easier and faster. I have one pair like this, and one pair that looks more like regular scissors but have a spring to make them bounce back. They both work well, but I prefer the ones in the picture. (Having a second pair came in handy when Nathanael helped me snip half this quilt, though!)
Snip about every 1/4", making sure not to go through the seams. (No big deal if you do, but it will need to be resewn.)
When you get to each row, first clip once at each side of the intersection, and then the quilt will lay flat when you fold it along the seam.
And then you can continue to clip along the length of the quilt. The intersections can be a bit tricky, but any technique will work as long as you get though all the layers.
After it is all clipped, you need to wash it. Some blogs said to take it to a laundromat, but I didn't have any troubles in my washer. I use Shout Color Catcher sheets in the washer. They look like dryer sheets, but grab any color that may bleed, since the flannel isn't prewashed. After the first wash take it outside and shake out as much of the lint as you can. Then dry, checking the lint trap every 15 minutes or so to clear it out. I washed and dried twice before calling it done, but it will keep getting softer and fluffier along the ragged seams with each wash.

Abigail's quilt used 7" squares, 1/2" seam allowances, so 6" final square. It was 11 rows by 14 columns, final dimensions 66"x84". She picked 10 different fabrics, and wanted them in a nice pattern. The first row used fabrics 1-10 sequentially, plus an extra #1. The second row went 2-10, plus 1 and 2. The third row went 3-10, then 1-3, etc.

Zachary's quilt used 8" squares, 1/2" seam allowances, so 7" final squares. It was 10 rows by 12 columns, final dimensions 70"x82".


  1. I know this is an old most and you may never read this but thank you so much for sharing this. Your tutorial was so clear and the pictures are a huge help. I feel like I can finally make one now.