Sew a Rag Quilt : A super easy way to make quilts from old clothes/fabric pieces lying around

sew - rag quilt

If you like a country cottage style home decor for your home, a rag quilt is just right for you- it gives out a full-on country vibe. A rag quilt is as textured and cozy as the image of a country cottage. A ‘rag’ is a fabric piece torn from a big piece of fabric with the edges unfinished. In a Rag quilt the edges are left unfinished just like those of the rags –  hence the name, I guess.

It is a very easy-to-make quilt – No need to make elaborate, symmetrical and matching quilt blocks to make complicated quilts. Here, you simply sew a few fabric pieces together and come up with a very fluffy textured quilt.

Rag quilts have exposed seam allowances that give them the fluffiness and that ragged look. Each block is quilted separately, and then sewn together. No need to struggle to quilt stitch the large quilt that you have made.

How to make a Rag Quilt

The process of making a rag quilt can be summed up this way – Individual fabric pieces are cut for the three layers of the quilt – the top layer, batting (middle layer), and backing layer. They are kept together and quilted separately for each block. You do this for all blocks. These blocks are then sewn together with the seam allowance pointing to the top of the quilt. The exposed seams are snipped to make them fray and the quilt is then washed to speed up the process.

Here are the steps involved in sewing the rag quilt.

Step 1 Choose your fabric

Rag quilt need not necessarily be made from rags, but if it is, it is the ultimate way to use up all those old clothes and fabrics (rags) you have been hoarding for that day you will make something with them. In making a rag quilt you can take those small rag pieces and give them a new life. 

I made my rag quilt from old kitchen curtain fabric at my mother-in-law’s house and an old fleece blanket that I had stored in the back of the cupboard because of its hideous print. Now it is my favourite picnic quilt. 

Popular choices of fabric for rag quilt are Cotton, Flannel, Linen, Minky, denim. You can use nice cotton from old bedsheets pillowcases or kids’ dresses, flannel, denim fabric from old jeans. I am using cotton fabric for the top layer and fleece for the back layer. No middle layer for me as I do not want a too thick quilt. 

Synthetic fabrics do not fray – nor the way that woven fabrics do. You can use them for one layer but at least one layer should be that of a fabric which will fray. Natural fabric frays very nicely. For a single layer make it all of one type of fabric ie do not mix synthetic and natural fabrics. 

I would suggest that you wash and press the fabric you are using – but if it is from old clothing that is already clean, skip this; just press out all the shrinkage.

Step 2 Determine the size of the quilt you want

Squares or strips are the usual shapes that the fabric pieces are cut for a rag quilt. You can cut quilt blocks in any size you want but cut them in all of the same sizes. If you are deciding on a 6-inch square block, cut the top, middle layer, and the backing layer in this size. If the middle layer is batting cut it in a smaller size avoiding the sewing allowance.

An 8-inch square piece is the most convenient unit you can cut. If you cannot get 8 inches from your fabrics reduce it to the size you want. Whatever rags you have you can use it up.

rag quilt sewing

An 8-inch square means, finally it will be a 7-inch square when you account for the 1/2 inch seam allowance you are leaving on all sides.

So 7 numbers of 7 inch finished squares (8-inch squares actually) across will give you a 49-inch wide quilt. 10 numbers of  7 inch finished squares (8-inch squares actually) down will give you a 70-inch long quilt. You can check out this post on the popular quilt sizes and decide on the quilt size you want. Plan accordingly and decide how many blocks you need to cut from the fabric you have.

1 meter of cloth is 49 inches in length. If it is 36 inches in width you can get 24 squares of 8-inch dimension from this cloth.

You can cut 36 numbers of 8” squares from  2 meters of fabric (36” by  78 ” piece of fabric).

Cut out your fabric pieces into squares

You can keep the fabric stacked together, mark the unit, and then cut these stacks together with a rotary cutter. For this, you need the rotary cutter and mat to cut it on. If you do not have to mark the squares and cut with sharp scissors.

Cutting is the most time-consuming process and the most tiring one in this. If you have a rotary cutter and patience you can cut several squares at once.

Cut the fabric for the top and the back. If you want a very warm quilt you can use a batting or other material (fleece, flannel, or other fabric) in the middle, and you have to cut that too. You may want to cut the batting a little smaller – it does not look good peeking out. If you are using fabric in the middle, cut it the same size as the top and back pieces.

Step 3 Stack them up in sequence.

sew rag quilt

Keep the top, middle layer, and the backing block on top of the other in sequence, ie top fabric as the top layer, middle sandwiched between the top and backing. Stack all of your pieces in this way. It is now ready to be sewn. You can pin them together so that they would not shift as you sew.

Step 4 Quilt

You can quilt stitch now or after sewing the blocks into a row.

Mark the quilting lines and quilt the two/three layers together – you can use any of the quilting stitches. Check out this post on the different types of quilting stitches.

The easiest quilting stitch is an x shaped stitch. Just sew from one corner to the other. ie sew a straight line diagonally from one corner to the other.

Step 5 Join the blocks

You can start to sew the squares together into the quilt.

make rag quilt

Mark the sewing line on the top fabric. I am using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Do not forget to backstitch at the start and at the ending. For me, the chequered fabric made this easier – the stitching lines are already there on the fabric.

Keep 2 of the blocks rightsides to the outside (ie right sides of the two pieces would be facing out) and wrong sides to the inside, stacked together.

Sew them together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. You have two pieces joined together with the seam allowance projecting out towards you. This is how it should be.

Ensure that you are maintaining the seam allowances exactly as you sew. This is necessary to match the seams when you are sewing the rows together.

Join other blocks to these two blocks you have joined to make the first row. Sew all the rows you have planned like this.

Step 6 Snip the seams

After you have finished sewing the rows, you have to snip at the seam allowance using very sharp scissors. Snip every 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch apart.

diy rag quilt

You can then fluff the cut seam allowance with your fingernails or using a comb or brush – this will fluff the cut edges.

Step 7 Sew the rows to the final Rag quilt

Now bring the rows close to each other to sew them together joining the whole quilt.

Step 8 Sew along the outside edge and snip

Now make a stitch along the whole outside edge of the quilt – 1/2 inch to the inside. And Snip the whole edge. Do not snip inside the stitching line.

Step 9 Wash the quilt

This step is the final one and is very much needed to get the quilt edges fully fluffy. Lint is inevitable when you wash – but I never thought this much. I had a bathroom floor full of lint. And when I opened the lint collecting box, there was more lint.

Related posts : Popular quilt sizes ; How to sew a bedsheet; How to sew a quilted blanket ; Quilt types.

1 thought on “Sew a Rag Quilt : A super easy way to make quilts from old clothes/fabric pieces lying around”

  1. It was so easy to understand how to make this simple quilt.
    Thank you for showing how to sew it together. I am just learning so I am so excited to start one.

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