Gettin’ Raggy With It – Rag Quilt Tutorial

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Awhile back I shared a rag quilt I made (you can read the post here), and I promised to share a tutorial.  Well, it’s been a little longer than I had originally planned, but let’s face it….  sometimes the crafting itself can suck us in and alter all sense of time and space, and I just couldn’t pull myself away from my toys LOL!  Couple that with a move across town, and, well….  you get the idea.  But, I actually had to make my newest granddaughter a rag quilt – so I had the perfect opportunity to photograph the steps!

The nice thing about rag quilts is that you can virtually make them any size you want, and there’s not a lot of technical skill involved.  If you can sew a fairly straight line – you can make a rag quilt!  As a matter of fact, a rag quilt is a great project for a beginner to learn how to use a sewing machine.

Supplies needed:

  • flannel (amount depends on size and style of quilt)
  • rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • sharp pointy scissors

First thing’s first…Let’s talk about flannel… how do you figure out how much you need?  Well, the first step you need to take is to decide how big you want your quilt to be.  If you don’t have an exact size in mind or do not know what size you need, check out this quilt size guide from Suzy Quilts!  You can either decide your overall size 1st and then divide that by the size of quilt squares you want to make – that’s what most folks do.  But y’all know by now, I’m not like most folks 🙂  I actually almost always use a 6″ quilt square, which yields a 5″ square once it’s all sewn together due to that 1/2″ seam allowance on all sides.  I  usually like to play around with the overall shape of the quilt versus making sure the quilt matches the exact standard size.  So sometimes I just cut out a ton of 6″ squares and then play around with it to decide what I want to use.

But, I’m going to lay out this tutorial using some easy math so that it takes the guess work out of it for you 🙂

When you’re in the fabric store looking at the flannel, decide how many different prints you want to use in your quilt.  You can make yours all one print, or mix it up with all different designs.  Let’s say you decide you want to make a baby quilt, which according to the size chart on Suzy Quilts, measures 30″ x 40″.  So if you are going to use 6″ squares (which yield 5″ finished), you will need 6 squares across (30″ divided by 5″ finished square) by 8 squares down (40″ divided by 5″ finished square).  But you’ll need 2 or 3 layers depending on how thick yu want your quilt to be.  To deterine the total number of squares you need, simply multiply the number of squares across by the number of squares down, and then either double or triple that number, depending on how many layers you want:

6 squares across x 8 squares down = 48 squares needed (for each layer)

I like to do 2 layer quilts so they’re lighter weight – so in this case, you’d actually need 96 squares total.

To determine how many 6″ squares you’ll need from each color/pattern for each layer, divide the total number of squares you need by the number of different fabrics you use.  For example, if you wanted to use 4 different prints, you would divide 48 by 4, which equals 12.  So you’d need 12 6-in squares out of each print for each layer.  For the rest of this tutorial, we’re going to work with just 2 layers.  But if you want to make your quilt thicker, just add more layers in between the top and bottom layers.

Flannel on the bolt is usually around 42-44″ wide, so you can usually get 7 squares across.  I’d always double check the bolt though just to be safe.  If it’s not that wide, you’ll need to buy more in length to compensate.  But let’s assume it’s a standard bolt, shall we?  🙂  That means you’ll need 2 rows of 6″ – which comes out to 12″.  That equals 1/3 of a yard per layer, so the bare minimum is 2/3 yard.  You could just buy that, but it’s been my experience that there could be small irregularities in the fabric, or the fabric might not be cut straight off the bold, so I always buy a little extra just to be safe.

Once you have your fabric purchased, now we get into the fun part – cutting all those squares!  But it’s important to note that you should NOT wash the flannel before cutting!! I recommend cutting 6″ strips, and then cutting those strips into squares.

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Cutting 6″ strips

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Cutting strips into squares

Once you have all your squares cut, you’ll need to arrange them with one layer on top and one layer on bottom, both with the right side of your fabric facing out.  You want to be sure to have any patterns or prints facing the same way, so that your square looks the same on both sides.

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Both layers have the right side facing out

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Match the direction of the print on both sides

Next, use your sewing maching to sew a big “X” acros each square.  It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty, just do the best you can.  This X just holds the layers together.

Now, if you are going to monogram  one of the squares like I did here, you’re going to want to do the monogram on the top layer only.  You’ll then put your two squares together with the right sides facing out, and just sew lines from the corners in toward the center until you reach the monogram.  Don’t sew over the monogram!

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Sewing from corners to edge of monogram

Once you have sewn the X on all your squares, you’ll want to clear a big ol’ space on a table or the floor (if you can keep kids and pets from trying to “help”, lol), and lay out all of your squares.  Play around with the layout until you come up with the design you want.

Then pick up the squares, making one pile for each row.  Be very careful to keep your squares in order, as well as the piles for each row, otherwise you’ll end up with a finished design you weren’t expecting.

It’s time to start sewing!

The big trick with rag quilts is to make sure the seam is kept to the outside on the top layer.  I know that seams counterintuitive for some folks, but it’s crucial to get the “rag” finish.  Pick up your 1st 2 squares, and put one on top of the other with the back sides touching.  Then sew that seam, using a 1/2″ seam allowance!

When you open the pieces back up, that bulky seam should be on the top.

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Squares sewn together with seam on top

Continue sewing all the squares together for each row.

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All the squares sewn together for the 1st row – and a sneak peak of my new pedicure 🙂

When all the rows are stitched and you’re ready to sew the rows together, it’s a good idea to pin the seams open.  It will help the fabric move more smoothly through the machine.  Just be sure to pull the pins out right before the needle hits them – or there could be a trip to your ER and the sewing machine repair man in your future.

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Seams pinned open

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2 rows sewn together

Continue sewing all the rows together until your quilt is completely assembled.  The last task on the sewing machine is to sew completely around the border of the quilt, using the same 1/2″ seam allowance as the rest of the quilt.

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Sew around the edge of the quilt

Whew – you’re done on the sewing machine!  Now comes the most tedious part for me – but it is the absolutely most essential component.  Bust out those sharp pointy scissors (but of course, don’t run with them), and start clipping those seams almost to the stitching.  But be very careful not to cut the stitching or your quilt could fall apart.  I typically make the snips and clips about every 1/4″ or so, but the exact spacing isn’t important.  Just eyeball it, and it’ll be all good 🙂

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This is how I snip and clip – please disregard my raggedy cuticles… although I guess it does fit the theme – hehehe!

Be sure to snip ALL the seams.  (This is the most time consuming part for me – I usually have to take a few breaks to let my hand rest).  When you get to a cross seam, I just cut the seam loose close to the stitching so that it will stand up and be clipped.  No worries, though – you won’t even be able to see that once it’s all said & done.

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Snipping the cross seam

Once you’ve snipped and clipped all the snippables and clippables, all that’s left is to run that bad boy through the wash!  The process of washing and drying it will cause the clipped areas to fray like crazy, which is what makes it raggy.  The amount of fray may vary, so if your quilt isn’t raggedy enough after the 1st wash and dry, run it through once more.

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All seams clipped

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The seams after being washed and dried

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The completed quilt

Voila!  Horray!  WOO HOO!  You’ve done it!  You’ve made a great keepsake for someone you love, or even like a little 🙂

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As an added note, this would be a great project for a memory quilt!  Think about it – if you have a bunch of flannel shirts from a loved one, cut those into squares instead of purchasing new fabric.

Also, work this on a much smaller scale for a throw pillow!

The raggedy possibilities are endless!

 

 

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