Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rag Quilting

 Hey, Y'all!  This week has been crazy busy!  We are in the middle of building up our homeschool co-op, I have taken up a volunteer position with our Girl Scout service unit (plus, actually just gearing up for our troop to start back up for the fall), we are prepping for our craft shows coming up soon, all on top of the normal mom and wife day-to-day activity.  

I did however manage to churn out a lovely little crib size rag quilt for some friends who just had the sweetest little baby girl.  Since I was already making the quilt, I figured I would put together a tutorial for you!  I tend to do things a bit differently, so this is just the method that works best for me and has given me the best end results.  I have made several of these quilts at this point, so you get the benefit of learning from my (many) mistakes.  :)

     First things first, the supplies.  This quilt is crib sized (measured 47.75" x 52.25" when it was finished), but you can always make it to whatever dimensions you wish.  These are the fabrics I used:

3 yards solid color flannel fabric, cut into 110 6" squares
3 yards backing fabric, cut into 110 6" squares

 1 yard each (28 6" squares of each) of four coordinating top fabrics  

      Bear in mind when picking out your flannel and backing fabrics, that they will show on the front of the quilt, so they need to coordinate with the top fabrics.

     Other supplies you will need are your rotary cutter and mat, ruler, iron, coordinating thread, pins or quilting clips (these are awesome) and snips:

These snips and your iron will be your new best friends.....not hide-a-body best friends, but more of a saved-me-from-a-carpal-tunnel-flare-up bestie.

Ok, the first step is to cut all of your fabric into 6" squares (yes, you can adjust the sizes however you prefer, this is just my method).  If you are new to quilting and want a good tutorial on squaring up your fabric and using a rotary cutter, this is a good one by Leah Day on Youtube.  You will need a total of 110 squares for each layer, so 330 all together.  After you have everything cut, you need to line them up.  Lay you backing fabric down face down, then your flannel, then your top fabric face up, making sure that all of the edges line up together.

When you are done, you should have four piles of 28 squares ready to go (you will have 2 left over at the end).  I always stack mine catty-cornered so that they are easier to grab while I'm sewing:
Ok, now tippy-toe over to your machine (if you are like me and sew while your kids are asleep). Now you are going to sew diagonally from corner to corner on each square.  Make sure all of your edges are lined up and then off you go. When you get to the corner of each square, rather than stopping and cutting and starting again each time, just pull the square back a bit and start the next one.

When you are done you should have a big pile, something like this:
Now you just need to sit down and snip the squares apart and trim the threads.  Use the snips, embrace the snips, I promise you will thank me.  I've tried regular scissors (first rag quilt, 2 weeks in a wrist brace afterward), spring-loaded scissors (just as bad), and then I tried the snips. No wrist issues whatsoever. 

Once you are done trimming up the threads, the squares should look like this:

Now, repeat the diagonal line in the other direction and trim again.  Then it should look like this:

All done with all 110 squares? You are? Yay! Congratulations! Now, lay all of your squares out on the floor in whatever pattern you would get my dimensions I did 10 squares across, 11 rows down:
Now starting at the top left-hand corner, stack up your rows from left to right.  Label each stack with the row number as you go, so that you can keep them in order.  You should have 11 stacks.

It's time to put it all together!  Grab your Row 1 stack.  Take the top square and the second square and line them up back sides together.  Pin or clip them together,  first square on top, second square on bottom.

Sew along the right side with a 5/8" seam allowance using a STRAIGHT STRETCH STITCH (sorry about the caps, but this is super important!). Using this stitch will keep your quilt from coming apart in the wash, and prevent you from spending hours repairing holes in the seams. Make sure to hold your fabric flat while using this stitch, as the back and forth motion of the feed dogs tends to create wrinkles if you try to go too quickly.  It looks like this:
  Then open them up and clip the third square to the second one:

Again, sew along the right side with a 5/8" seam.  Keep your Row Number pinned to the first square of each row.  This will help later on with keeping your pattern straight.  Then add the fourth square to the third and so on until you get to the end of the row.  Lather, rinse, repeat with the other 10 Rows.  The rows should look like this:
 Then fire up your trusty iron.  Seriously, the only reason I own an iron is for my sewing.  Ironing clothes?  Who has time for that?  Open up those seams and press them open.
Then flip the row over and press the back of the seams.

After you have all of your rows pressed, it's time to put the rows together.  Conventional process would tell you to start at Row 1 and work your way down until you get to the bottom.  I, however, like to put 3 rows together at a time and then attach the sections together.  This alleviates a lot of the struggle with trying to manage the bulk of the fabric.  To put your rows together, line up your seams and pin or clip them together.  Remember to keep your rows in order and make sure that you are matching up the ends with the Row Number Labels together.  Row 1 should be on the bottom, Row 2 on the top here:

Sew them together using a 5/8" seam allowance and the straight stretch stitch again.  When you go over those bulky seams, make sure that the seams are opened flat.  You are already sewing through 12 layers of fabric, you don't want to add any more to it. Take your time here and let the feed dogs do most of the work.  if you try to pull too hard on the fabric or go too fast you could bend or break your needle.  I've actually bent my needle housing due to my lack of patience before.  Thank goodness for my handy hubby.

After you sew each row, stop to press it out, front:

and back...

Sew rows 1-3, then set that section aside and sew rows 4-6, then 7-9, and finally 10-11.  You should have 4 sections of quilt.  Sew section 1-3 to section 4-6.  Then sew section 7-9 to section 10-11.  Now you have two halves of a quilt, right? Right. Only a few more steps, you're almost there!!! Sew that top section to the bottom.  Please, please, please make sure that your pattern is lined up correctly! 

Once all of your rows are sewn together and everything is pressed flat, Sew a 5/8" perimeter around the entire blanket using the same straight stretch stitch.  Start in the middle of one side, and when you get to a corner stop, lower the needle, raise your presser foot and turn the blanket to the next side.

You're all done sewing peeps!  You're quilt should look something like this:

Alrighty, grab your tv remote and a margarita and settle in for the long haul.  Pick your favorite show on Netflix to marathon and get to snipping.  All the way around the perimeter...

 and every single center piece, being very careful not to cut through the seams.

When you're all finished snipping, you should have this!

Lay your quilt out and double check to make sure that you snipped everywhere.  Now toss that bad boy in the washer and dryer!  Make sure that you empty your lint trap every 5-10 minutes the first few times you wash your quilt.  It will fill up very quickly.  Once you are all nice and dry, take your quilt outside and shake it out. A lot.

That's it!  You're all done!  Thanks for hanging in there!  I love the colors in this quilt. The pink backing fabric only shows through on the seams so it's not too overpowering.  These quilts are by far my kids' favorite blankets.  They use them on their beds, take them on road trips, wrap themselves up in them like burritos.  Even the teenager.  Have fun, ladies and gents and see ya soon!



  1. My daughter wants to make a quilt. Hope it's as easy as it seems.

    1. It really is easy, and super forgiving. Thanks for checking us out!

  2. That quilt is beautiful! I feel like quilting is a lost art.

    1. Thank you! I come from a long line of quilters! I'm just learning as I go. :)

  3. Beautiful, Will have to try this. I started one 29 years ago for my oldest. never finished. I think it is time to get r done!


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