/ / How to Sew a Soft and Cozy Rag Quilt {sewing tutorial}

How to Sew a Soft and Cozy Rag Quilt {sewing tutorial}


soft and cozy rag quilt tutorial

Update: I recently wrote a more comprehensive tutorial for How to Make a Rag Quilt – including lots of fabric ideas. Don’t miss it!

My kids love rag quilts, and this is the best one I’ve made yet. At least according to them. I wrote last Saturday that they had it on a rotating schedule so everyone got a chance to sleep with it. They are now all snuggled up watching a movie under it, and I haven’t had the chance to enjoy it yet! Well, I really do enjoy seeing them use it so I guess that’s good enough for now.


rag quilt tutorial

Why is this my best rag quilt yet? We think it’s in the combination of fabrics.

The spooky and sweet quilting cottons I used are Spooktacular Eve from Blend. They add personality to the front. The back is fleece for softness and warmth. The inside of the quilt has a layer of flannel. I used flannel instead of batting so I wouldn’t have to quilt the layers together. This saves lots of time. Plus the flannel frays wonderfully for that ‘rag quilt’ look. 

This quilt is thick and warm, but not too heavy. It’s perfect for snuggling on the couch or tossing on a bed.


beautiful rag quilt

The one question I keep getting about this tutorial is “why don’t you quilt your blocks together with an ‘x’ before sewing them – like the other tutorials do?”

My answer is simple – because I like the clean look shown in the picture above. It’s beautiful to me. Since I’m not using batting (which requires quilting at specified distances) and since my finished squares are only 7″, quilting is not necessary. And it takes lots of time. Time that I’d rather spend on my next quilt…

Rag Quilt Tutorial

These instructions are kind of a ‘cliff notes’ version. Read my post ‘How to Make a Rag Quilt‘ for more detailed instructions for making a rag quilt with any fabric.

This finished quilt is a 57” x 64” throw quilt. Feel free to resize as you wish.

You will need:

  • 4 yards of cotton fabrics (enough to cut 72 8” squares)

  • 2 1/2 yards of 58-60” wide fleece (mine is all the same color)

  • 4 yards of 40” wide flannel

Keep in mind that the flannel and fleece will show on the front of the quilt. The seam allowances make a nice fluffy border around each block – so make sure the colors coordinate. My fleece and flannel are all ivory color.

You will need a nice sharp pair of scissors for ‘ragging’ the seam allowances. I love these spring-loaded rag quilt snips that pop back open every time. In fact, I wouldn’t even attempt a rag quilt without them. I like my hands.

I also recommend using a walking foot (otherwise known as an even feed foot) for your sewing machine. It helps tremendously when sewing thick layers of fabric.


Cutting and Stacking

Using your rotary cutter and ruler (or regular scissors), cut 72 squares 8” x 8” from each type of fabric: cotton, flannel, and fleece.

Each quilt ‘block’ will have cotton on the front, flannel in the middle, and fleece on the back. If this is your first rag quilt (or your first quilt!) you may wish to stack and pin together the three squares for each block. I didn’t because I needed a ‘speed method.’ Just sayin’.


When you sew the blocks together, take two 3-layer-stacks (print, flannel, fleece) and place them  with the two layers of fleece right sides together. The flannel will be on either side of the fleece, and the cotton print fabrics on either side of the flannel, facing out.


Not for the newbie: Here is my ‘speed method’… I made a huge stack of fleece and flannel blocks that went: 1 flannel block, 2 fleece blocks, 2 flannel blocks, 2 fleece blocks, 2 flannel blocks, 2 fleece blocks… 1 flannel block.


This was so I could arrange my cotton print blocks on my design wall, and then take them down as I sewed the quilt rows together.

Arrange your cotton squares into 9 rows of 8.

At my sewing machine, I grabbed a stack of 4 blocks from the white pile (1 flannel block, 2 fleece blocks, 1 flannel block) and placed two cotton prints on either side of the stack, facing out.


Sewing

Switch to your sewing machine’s walking foot and sew the stacks together with a 1/2” seam allowance.

Sewing 6 layers together, especially layers with different types of fabric is not a precise business. Follow the cub scout motto ‘do your best’ and don’t worry about the rest. It will look great.


Finger-press each seam open. Here you see the fleece layers in the middle.


If you are using a design wall, you may be able to stick the fleece backed squares to it without pins, like I did.

Sew 8 blocks (or stacks of fabric) together to make each row, and continue until you have 9 rows.


Sew the rows together with the fleece right sides together and the cotton prints facing out, as before. Make sure that the seam allowances are all open. 

Use pins at the seams to help match them up accurately (but again, it’s hard to make them perfect).


Continue until all 9 rows are sewn together.


Also sew around the outside of the quilt, 1/2” from the edge.


Now comes the snipping! This part takes the longest, at least for me. I cut my squares on one day and sewed them all up the next day. Then it took me several days and nights of snipping. I carried this quilt to the pool and snipped during 2 hours of my kids’ swim practice and also during about 6 episodes of Murdoch Mysteries. Whew! I tried to make snips 1/4” apart pretty consistently. You may place yours further apart, but keep in mind that the fleece is not going to fray so nice little ‘fringes’ look better than large ones. The cotton and flannel fabrics are going to fray beautifully.

Make sure you snip all the seam allowances (including the corners) and around the outside of the quilt. If you accidentally snip into your seamline, take the quilt back to your sewing machine and sew the seam closed (see below).


Last of all, throw the quilt into the washing machine and let the magic happen. This combination of fabrics makes a really thick, fluffy seam allowance. It’s so yummy!


_DSC0522.jpg

Gasp! What’s this? I snipped into my seam without noticing it. Actually I’m very surprised that there was only one such hole in my quilt after washing.

No worries! If this happens to you, just re-fold the quilt back along the seam line and stitch up the hole (backstitching at the start and end). The fluffy part will hide everything.


_DSC0538.jpg

Have fun! And make sure you show me your rag quilt on a Show Off Saturday or in our SewCanShe Sewcialites facebook group. 🙂

xo,


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39 Comments

  1. I love your ragtime quilt. Great idea of using the fleece on the back. I like to snip each row as I make the quilt. Snip the verticle seams, make the 2nd row , sew it to the 1st row, clip the verticle 2nd row and then the horizontal row. Continue with the remaining rows and finally – stitch around the edges and clip and you are done!

  2. OK..new to sewing never mind quilting, but I think I’m going to try this. It sounds forgiving. Is it good for a beginner? Also, I think I got most of this but could you please expand on "chain stitching"? Thanks! This is beautiful!

    1. No problem… chain piecing is when you sew many blocks together in a row. The thread makes a chain because you normally don’t cut the blocks apart until later. This free Craftsy course does a great job of showing it: https://bit.ly/1KeF3sH

      Have fun!

      Caroline

      1. Wendymphx says:

        And yes, this is a wonderful beginner project!

  3. Valerie Duff says:

    I’m wondering whether it would work to cut the cotton and flannel squares on the bias. I’ve made several chenilled baby quilts with flannel, using this technique…https://www.sisterswhat.com/2013/03/faux-chenille-baby-blanket.html. All that clipping would not be necessary, but the bias squares may be too much of a pain… (Since the fleece won’t fray, you may want to use another layer of flannel instead. For us in South Georgia weather, extra warmth is not often needed!) Will let you know if I give it a try.

    1. I was wondering this as well, I’ve made a faux chenille quilt and was wondering if this would work with just cotton and one or two layers of fleece cut on the bias sans snipping. (Also Texas weather! Hah)

  4. Lori Michel says:

    Great rag quilt and sounds like you will be making a couple more for everyone to have…Love those snips also…great little invention for us to use…..

  5. What a great idea to use fleece on the back! I have always done it with flannel but the fleece is so much softer!

  6. Allison CB says:

    Cute tutorial!!! Thanks!

  7. Rani Self says:

    I love this! I’m going to have to make one (or a bunch before Christmas!)

  8. Thank you so much for this. My girls can not wait to start.

  9. Judy Goldthorp says:

    I am wondering if anyone has any feedback about using rag quilt technique for a baby quilt. I am concerned about stray threads that baby might put in his / her mouth?

    1. Wendymphx says:

      Judy, I don’t leave loose threads. In fact, for a baby quilt I lock both ends of my stitches on each block/row. Once the quilt has been washed a few times the loose threads are pretty much done, so I wash a few times prior to giving the quilt.
      My two granddaughters (ages2 & 4) and I just finished a quilt for their new baby sister due the end of this month, this is a perfect project for their ages!

    2. I have made several and for baby quilts I make sure I wash a couple of times and trim any loose thread tails that might be

  10. Love this quilt and it is one my short list! I do have one question, I don’t usually work with flannel and I think it shrinks a lot. Did you pre-wash it? I don’t usually pre-wash unless I think there is going to be a problems.
    Thanks!

  11. Do u need to use quilting cottons or are any of the cottons in the fabric store ok??

  12. I hate that the walking foot for my Bernina cost way up and over $100. Maybe one day.

    1. I know your pain! Don’t fall for the knock-off fake Bernina walking feet made in China. I did and wasted $50 – it didn’t work. But if you want to give it a try it might work on your machine. I don’t mind sending it to you. Send me an email and tell me if yours takes the ‘new style’ or ‘old style’ feet: [email protected].

  13. We’re planning to make queen size quilt but with 10 1/2" squares (end up as 8 1/2" each), should we still sew the X in the middle of each if we use Flannel in the middle? What fabric combos would be best? Cotton-flannel-cotton, cotton-flannel-flannel, flannel-flannel, or maybe cotton-flannel-fleece? Also, Murdoch would be a great thing to watch while clipping. We are hooked and have marathons often. But here in Louisville (pronounced lu-uh-vul) Ky, we have to wait for new episodes until some nice person loads it on You Tube. Thanks for any tips. This will be our first quilt. We’ll do some small practice pieces first. Thanks! Lisa

  14. I’m having problem cutting the fleece without it stretching and having the measurements be off. Any suggestions? I already have the cotton and the flannel cut into squares. And I only have 9 days to get this done!!!!! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Pam,
      When cutting stretchy fabric, make sure that the whole piece is sitting on your table, not hanging down to stretch out.

      That said, I wouldn’t worry too much about having the pieces be exactly the right size and shape. After all the sewing is done when you are clipping the fringe part, any differences in seam allowances is less noticable. Especially after you wash it! At that time, you can trim away anything that looks funny too.

      This is not a real nit-picky project. Have fun with it!

      Caroline

  15. Brenda Cameron says:

    I ordinarily make rag quilts with flannel, but I accidentally ordered all fleece! I will buy some flannel for this quilt, but I am wondering if you can explain the stacking of the blocks again? I didn’t quite follow the pattern. All blocks have a flannel insert (inside)? and you used ivory ( which I loved…it looks great). And then you used combinations of fleece, flannel, and cotton to make the front and back? So each block is 3 layers, and each layer is consistently with the ivory flannel in the middle, and combinations of the flannel, cotton, and fleece on the front and back blocks? Am I understanding this correctly? Thanks, Brenda

    1. Hi Brenda! The top of each ‘block’ is quilting cotton, with flannel in the middle and a piece of fleece on the bottom. I didn’t baste these stacks of three together and maybe that’s where the tutorial got confusing. when you start putting two stacks of three together – you get a big pile of fabric! Have fun – it makes a beautiful quilt.

      xoxo,

      Caroline

  16. I am new to quilting. Do you really need 2 pieces of flannel in the squares?? I would think one piece would be sufficient. Or is that to help with the fraying?? Seems to me that this quilt would be heavy.

    1. There is no hard and fast rule, so use the number of layers you feel is right for you. The more flannel that you use, however, the more fraying you will get. 🙂

  17. I LOVE the clean look of your rag quilts. Do you just use the non pill polar fleece that people make tied blankets out of or is it a different product?

  18. Mariette Forget says:

    Hi and thanks a million for this great tutorial! The quilt is lovely! 😎🌸 I want to make one . Have a great day!

  19. Mariette Forget says:

    Hi! I usually prewash my flannel twice because it shrinks a lot. I know we will want it to fray in a rag quilt but shouldn’t we still prewash it because it shrinks? If we don’t, will the flannel shrink and make the rag quilt look weird? Thanks and have a great day!

    1. I pre-wash flannel if I am going to use it on a traditionally pieced quilt. But I have not pre-washed the flannel on any of my rag quilts and they all look great – even after many washings. I would say pre-washing is optional for rag quilts.

      Good luck!

  20. I was also wondering about pre-washing the flannel, so thanks for your comments. I’m going to try this the next time I make a rag quilt. It will save oh-so-much time not having to sew through the squares before sewing them together. I have 2 big chunks of fleece I’ve been looking at in my stash and I think this has solved that problem! Thanks.

  21. Oh there is a rag quilt in my future….I have a stack of quilt blocks that I put together for a mystery project and just did not like the colors and they have just been waiting for this!! They will be be my front, intersperced with solid squares to break up the pattern!! Should look pretty awesome when I get done!!

    Thanks I always thought of rag quilts for babies only!!

  22. Jean Kraber says:

    I love making rag quilts (so forgiving!) and your shortcuts are amazing. I have a question about the cotton and the fleece. I’ve used cotton with flannel and the cotton doesn’t necessarily fluff (curl up) like the flannel does. Does fleece fluff? If it doesn’t then the flannel center is the only one that will fluff? Right? Your blanket looks perfect though.

    1. Fleece does not fluff up any more than it already is. Please see the link at the top of the post for lots more info.

  23. WonkyGirl says:

    Such a great fall project ! I recently found a Halloween layer cake in my stash. It will be perfect for this project. I was thinking a bit of quilt basting spray could be used to hold fabric layers together. I’m going with ivory for fleece like you did. 🙂

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