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Making Rag Quilts: an Overview

Updated on January 15, 2013
Make rag quilts to use up fabric scraps.
Make rag quilts to use up fabric scraps.

The Easiest Way to Quilt as You Go?

Are you looking for ways to speed up your quilting (and have more fun while you sew?) Then let me introduce you to the quick, simple, and versatile rag quilt. Here's why rag quilts have become my favorites:

  • You can make your quilt in small sections. A rag quilt is layered and quilted one block at a time. THEN you sew the blocks together into a whole quilt. I can't tell you how much easier this is than painstakingly basting an entire quilt top and wrestling the bulky quilt sandwich under the throat of your sewing machine.
  • Precision not required. The ragged seam lines between the blocks cover up any errors you make when you cut the blocks or when you sew them together.
  • The look of sashing, without the trouble of actually making sashing! A rag quilt's seams are snipped so the back layer of the quilt shows on the front side. This provides a built-in sashed look that is a lot easier to make than actual sashing.
  • Good for machine quilting practice. Your quilting can be as simple as sewing an "X" across the center of each block (yes, that's all you need!) You can also use the blocks to practice new free-motion quilting patterns. Quilting as you go is also a good way to get better at free-motion quilting.
  • No binding! Instead of assembling the traditional binding strips and sewing them to the quilt, I add a border all around the quilt and knot it into a fringe. The end results looks less formal and (I think) more homey than a traditional quilt.

A rag quilt's fringed outer border replaces traditional binding.
A rag quilt's fringed outer border replaces traditional binding.
Flannel-backed baby rag quilt
Flannel-backed baby rag quilt | Source

Adapt Rag Quilt Fabrics for Warm and Cold Climates

Like every other quilt, a rag quilt consists of multiple layers of fabric that are permanently stitched together. Rag quilts are sewed together in a way that shows all three layers on the top of the quilt. Because every layer shows, rag quilters usually dispense with standard batting and use a middle layer of fabric instead. Flannel is popular for rag quilt layers because it is softer and warmer than ordinary quilter's cotton. Here are three different ways to layer a rag quilt for different climates:

  • Warm climate: three layers of cotton (or bamboo) quilt fabric.
  • Medium climate: three layers of flannel. If you use flannel, I recommend washing and drying it at least twice before sewing, to minimize shrinkage.
  • Cold climate: a top layer of quilter's cotton or flannel, and a bottom layer of polyester fleece.


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    • cdmwriter profile image

      cdmwriter 5 years ago

      As soon as I get through the Christmas crafts crunch (starting right now in my sewing room), I'm planning to try some rag quilt innovations. Stay tuned.

    • homesteadpatch profile image

      homesteadpatch 5 years ago from Michigan

      Always loved the look of the rag quilt. Thanks for sharing!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      This is a great introduction to rag quilts. Voted up.