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Saturday, September 24, 2011

DIY - Rag Quilt

I've wanted to learn to quilt for a while, so when I found rag quilts I knew this was something I could teach myself.  Rag quilts are so soft and cuddly, especially when they are made from flannel.  The beauty of rag quilts is that the seam allowances are on the outside and you don't have to worry so much about the squares matching up perfectly.  The quilting part is easy too.
First, pick out your fabrics.  I'm going to give instructions based on flannel.  Flannel is not fleece.  Snuggle flannels are thin, fleece is that thick blanket stuff.  On traditional quilts, you usually have multi-design fabrics on one side and a single design/single fabric used on the other side.  You can do the single fabric design on one site, but on a rag quilt each square is quilted through as opposed to making a “quilt top” of multiple fabrics pieced together and quilting it to a single piece of fabric on the back.  In addition to your flannel fabrics, you need batting for the middle.  This is easy for a flannel rag quilt too, as you can use a thin muslin (or even another piece of flannel) instead of that white fluffy stuff.
I've seen debates online about whether to wash the flannel before you quilt.  I was taught to always wash fabrics before sewing and I have noticed that some flannels come with lots of sizing (think starch).  I wash mine first, but I'm sure it's not fatal whether you wash or not.

Cut your fabrics into squares.  I cut mine approximately 5” square.  That allows for 1” seam allowances on each side.  You can cut your muslin batting about 4" square, especially if you don't want the muslin fabric to show in your "rags".  Create a "sandwich" with three fabrics - the back, the batting and the top.

I think it's easier if you just assemble all of the "sandwiches" for your quilt all at once.  Now you're ready to quilt.  You are going to sew an X across each sandwich.  I recently saw a quilt where the quilter used one of the decorative stitches on her sewing machine.  She used the "leaf" stitch which is probably on even the most basic sewing machine.  Make sure you are using a heavier needle for this project, because as you start sewing the squares together, it can be tough on your machine if you aren't using a heavy needle by then.

Here's a great trick I picked up online.  As you are sewing one side of the X, take the opportunity to sew more than one square.  As you sew from corner to corner, have the next sandwich ready to pick up a corner as you finish the diagonal on the other.  This will make a "flag" or "banner" effect where your squares are linked together.  That way, you don't have to stop and cut the thread every time you sew a single square.

If you're using this "flag" technique to sew, you will do one half of the X on all the squares.  Cut the threads between the squares and repeat the process to stitch the other diagonal making the X.

Once all of your squares with Xs are made, you are ready to sew them together.  This is the fun part.  In rag quilting, the seam allowance is toward the "right" side of the fabric.  If you are using a single design of fabric on one side of your quilt, the seam allowance would go to the side with the multiple fabric designs.  Use a 5/8" or 1" seam allowance between the squares (the deeper the seam, the more "ragging" effect you will have).

See now why you need a heavy needle sewing these together?  You are sewing through six layers of flannel.  Watch for lint buildup in your sewing machine, as flannel does shed lots of lint.  Once you sew the squares together, sew a 1" seam all the way around the quilt.  Now it's time to "rag".  This is where I highly recommend you invest in a snipper.  It's not like scissors because it is spring loaded and very sharp on the point and blade.  You will thank me because ragging goes a lot quicker and your hands won't permanently cramp (although they will hurt).

Ragging is the kind of thing you want to do on the couch in front of the TV.  You just cut little slits into the seam allowance, being careful not to cut the seam itself.  The thinner you cut, the fuzzier it will be after washing.  Make sure to rag around the outside edges of the quilt too.  To get the rag effect, wash and wash.  The more it gets washed, the softer and fluffier it gets.  (Watch out for that lint in your washing machine).

There you have it!  You can make these quilts in "lovey" size, baby or even full size quilts.  They are easy and fun too!  I made a bunch for Christmas presents last year, so now's a great time to get started.  You can also join Craftsy in a project to collect 1000 blankets and hats for winter by making a few quilts for them.  Have a great time!