Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rag Quilt Tutorial

*Caution: This post is long. I wanted all the info in one post so you could easily refer back to it at a later date. 

Step One: Pick the fabric
I like to find one really cute patterned flannel as my base. I use that pattern to inspire two coordinating solid color flannels. I buy a yard of each fabric. You won’t use the full yard for all of them but I like it because then my strips are automatically the same length.

Step Two: Cut the fabric
I cut my fabric into strips for a typical baby quilt. I always use my trusty rotary cutter. When you get really gutsy you can tear flannel. If you tear in the right direction it is a breeze, if not...it's no good. So I cut because I am a coward. :)

-I cut the patterned fabric into 7 inch wide sections. It gives me six strips that are 7” x 36”.
-I pick one of the solids and cut it into 5 inch strips. I cut six strips that are 5” x 36”.
-Finally, the last solid (generally the darkest) is cut into 3 inch strips. I cut eight strips that are 3” x 36”.
**Note: You can cut as many strips as you want but make sure you cut an even number.

If you decide to make multiple blankets you can save time by doing all the cutting at one time and all the sewing at one time.

Step Three: Lay the strips together
Grab two of each of your strips. The solids don’t really have a right and wrong side, which is lovely, so place them on top of one another. Now take your two patterned strips and place them WRONG sides together. You should now be looking at three double thick strips. Make sense? I hope so. Do that again for all your strips. (From now on when I say strip I mean the double thick one you are looking at now.)

I didn't take pictures of the cutting process because I did that before I decided to write a tutorial. He he. But in the next step you can see how I sew the double thick layers.

Step Four: Sew!
Check to see if your pattern has a visible up or down. For example, see my birds? I don’t want them upside down so I make sure they all face the same way. 

(I didn’t do this carefully enough so my birds were upside down here. I’m using TMJ’s “seam ripper” aka box cutter. It is quite efficient but you need to be careful and gutsy.)

Pick two of your strips and sew them together using a wide seam allowance. I actually take the edge of the fabric to the very largest seam allowance visible on my machine. 

HUGE seam allowance:

Two layers of brown, two of green. See? (remember two layers=1 strip)

Once you have sewn the strips together one side will look like a proper quilt. 

The other side of the quilt has visible raw edges. It is completely counter intuitive! Your gut says to hide the raw edges. Your gut is wrong! J

 I generally sew the smallest strip to the middle strip then the middle to the largest. (This seems nitpicky but it will make sure your pattern doesn’t get messed up.) I’ll put that set of three strips to the side and do that whole process again with my remaining strips. I do that because smaller chunks are more manageable. It isn’t totally necessary.
Now sew your groups of three together. (You’ll have one extra of the small strip. I like it this way because it means I have one on each end of the blanket, like a frame of sorts.) At this point you should be like, “Dude! It looks like a blanket!”

Last but not least, sew around the edges. I lay open the edges of the strips as I sew over them. I don’t think it’s totally necessary but it makes life easier on your sewing machine. I also use the large seam allowance here because you’ll be cutting everywhere!

Did you notice that I NEVER used the word PIN? Bwah ha ha. That’s right; I don’t pin. Also, your lines don’t have to be perfectly straight. No one will know if you mess up a little! Heck, your cuts don’t even have to be totally straight! It’s awesome!

Step Five: Cut
Now you are going to clip the raw edges about every half inch or so.
(For this picture I held the scissors with my foot. That's how much I love you guys.)

I bought scissors specifically for rag quilts. They have short blades and are spring loaded to save your hand from cramping. I bought mine with a coupon from Joann’s. I think I spent $10 but it was totally worth it for me. I have made a ton of these blankets.

Most scissors are strong enough to go through 4 layers of flannel so I will cut two at once. It just makes sense. (My words don't make as much sense here as the picture.) 

Step Six: Wash/Dry
Place your beautiful blanket in the washer. To avoid an unbalanced load I wash it with a hand towel. Don’t wash it with anything else! This bad boy is going to generate a ton of lint and loose thread. Since the majority of the blankets I make are for babies I like to make sure I use dye-free, fragrance-free detergent. I bought a bottle of All Free and Clear that I use for these quilts.
For drying: Make sure your lint trap is empty! Dry it alone or with that one little hand towel.

Step Seven: Shake it like a Polaroid picture
I take it out of the dryer and shake the crap out of it. Lint and thread will be everywhere. Your lint trap might be fuller than you have ever seen it.
The floor after the shaking step: And my lint trap.

Oh. You want more lint? Okay! 

If it doesn’t look like a hot mess then you are smarter than I am.

Step Eight: Repeat Steps 6 and 7
This is optional. However, washing and drying it multiple times will make it easier for your gift recipient. This blanket will soften and fray with every wash. I find that after two washes the amount of lint generated is much more manageable.

Step Nine: Lint Roll
I lay the blanket on the floor and use my lint roller to clean it up. I actually received a sweater shaver for Christmas. I use this too. I LOVE it. Now your blanket will have the nice, clean look you have been hoping for. 

Frayed side:

Flat side:

I have also typed up a “Rag Quilt Care Sheet” for my gift recipients. It lets them know what to expect when washing and it reassures them that I have washed their blanket with baby in mind!

Step Ten: Comment
Come back here and share your success! I seriously can’t wait to see your projects. I would flip out to learn I actually inspired/taught someone to make a blanket! 


  1. If I knew how to sew or had a sewing machine I would definitely be inspired. Since I can't and I don't, I will go and enjoy my Hammock original! Thanks again for the great quilt.

  2. This is a great tutorial! I do regular quilting, but haven't tried a rag quilt & it sounds like fun. I like "instant gratification" projects to do between some of the more detailed things. I think this will do the trick. I'm a new follower. Your blog looks like fun. Stop over for a visit some time!



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