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Learn How to Make a Rag Quilt

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What Are Rag Quilts and How Are They Made?
Learn How to Make Rag Quilts

Lap Sized Rag Quilt

Janet Wickell

Rag quilts are quilts that have exposed seam allowances on their fronts and finished, traditional seams on their backs.

Rag quilts usually have three layers: a top, batting, and backing, but the quilts are assembled using a completely different method than we use to sew traditional quilts.

What are the Best Fabrics for Rag Quilts?

I use regular quilting cottons, flannels, homespuns and denims for rag quilts, and sometimes a combination of the four.

  • Flannel fabrics make soft, cuddly rag quilts.
  • Homespun fabrics fray wonderfully and their plaids and stripes provide a country look and feel.
  • Denim rag quilts are usually very heavy, while you're sewing them and when they're used as a cover. Reduce the load a bit by sewing with a lightweight denim, or by using denim for the front of the quilt and a lightweight flannel or regular quilting cotton on its back. You might even decide that two layers are plenty, and omit the batting.
  • Avoid polyester blend fabrics, because they don't fray as well as cottons.
  • No matter what I use for the quilt's front and back, I prefer flannel for its batting. Flannel fabric results in generous, soft frays on the front of the quilt. It isn't necessary to use expensive flannels for batting, but do consider how the color(s) you select will look when their threads become part of the quilt's frayed edges.

Although flannel is my personal favorite for batting, other materials can be used.

  • Quilting cottons can be used as batting, but the frays won't be as lush as frays produced by flannel.
  • Some quilters use low-loft cotton batting in rag quilts. It takes longer to use that method and quilting is necessary to keep the fibers intact. See page 4 to learn how to use cotton batting in a rag quilt.
  • No quilting is necessary if you use flannel or another fabric for batting, because both types of fabric remain stable in the finished quilt.

Flannel Batting Tip: I've found that it is sometimes easier to align batting with the top and backing pieces if flannel batting is cut just a tiny bit smaller than the other pieces of a rag quilt. For instance, if a pattern says to cut all three layers into 10" x 10" squares, I cut flannel batting squares 9-7/8" x 9-7/8". Your results may differ, but that method makes it easier for me to align front and back pieces and then sew the sandwiches together more accurately.

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