Friday, July 23, 2010

Rag Quilting, the FNQ way

Rag quilts are a great quilt-as-you-go project!  Rag quilts have 3 layers, just like a traditional quilt.  Most rag quilters like to use flannel, homespun or denim because they bloom very well & give a full raggy seam.  The quilt below is 3 layers of flannel.


Just like in any quilting method, there are lots of ways to approach this quilt.  I like to cut my blocks the same size for all layers.  I use cotton flannel for batting & usually backing then a pieced block in cotton, solid cotton or flannel for the top (raggy) layer.  Since all the layers are all cut the same size, you will have all 3 fabrics in the bloom of the quilt.

Since the batting layer will show, it’s a good way to introduce some extra color.  Note from the pic above that the front is the light blue trains & red in a checkerboard and that the back is yellow.  Now note below the dark blue in the raggy seam below.  That dark blue is my batting flannel layer.


If you want to use cotton batting in your rag quilt, you probably won’t want it to show in your seams.  You will need to cut your batting 1.5” smaller than your top & backing squares and your blocks will have to be quilted.

Once you have picked your fabrics, you can use our rag quilt calculator to help you determine the amount of fabric you will need and the number of squares to cut.

I grabbed some flannel scraps from the bin:

After all your squares for your top, batting & backing are cut, you will make the quilt sandwiches.  That is, layer your bottom fabric, right side down, then place the batting layer on top, then the quilt top fabric on top of the batting, right side up.  DSCN3690

You can either make these all at once, or quilt each sandwich as you make it.

Traditionally, rag quilt blocks are quilted with an X, sewing from corner to corner on each diagonal. 


This is the norm, so mix it up a little & be creative!  Do free motion quilting, use contrasting thread, this is where you can really take it up a notch.

That said, if you make your rag quilt by cutting all 3 layers of the block the same size, quilting the blocks is not structurally necessary.  The layers are going to be caught in the seams all the way around, so the batting has no way to slip (which is why we quilt layers together).  I didn’t quilt the other blocks of my demo for speed’s sake

So, now all your sandwiches are layered and quilted (or not).  It’s time to attach them into rows & then the rows into your quilt.

I use between a 1/2” & 3/4” seam allowance.  I use a line on my machine’s plate as a guide.


You can use more or less, but the seam allowance will have a direct effect on the bloomy seam.  Here’s the big difference in traditional & rag quilting:

In traditional quilting, you want your seams to be inside, next to the batting, out of sight.   For this reason, we put our right sides of fabric together when we make our seams.

In rag quilting, you want your seam on the OUTSIDE so it can fray.  So you need to put your wrong sides together, in our case, you will put the backing of the quilt blocks together and the quilt top will be facing to the outside.


When you make your seam, you can use a reinforcing stitch or double stitch if you desire.  I would recommend a backstitch on the beginning & end of each seam.  Attach your blocks into rows, just like strip piecing, until you have all the rows completed. 


Sew a seam on the outside edge of each row.  Since we won’t be binding the quilt, but fringing the outer edge too, we need a seam on all outside edges.  Seam the top & bottom edges of the quilt too (top of first row & bottom of last row).


It’s a personal choice how to lay the seams when you come to them.  You can see above that 5 times I have them open and once (bottom center) I folded the entire seam to one side.  Obviously, the machine will sew easier the less layers to sew through.

When attaching rows, I butt the seams against each other, folding one allowance to the left & one to the right.


Once your quilt is complete, you need to snip the seam allowance before you wash.  I snip at about 1/4” intervals & stay about 1/4” away from the seam.


I use these snips

craft snip

They are spring loaded and grip like garden pruners so the fatigue is a lot less than with regular scissors.

Then wash & dry!  Check your lint filters early & often!  The first wash is the lintiest.



quiltsbylee said...

Great tutorial. Much better than I could have explained it. I just do it out of habit after all these years.

CindyB said...

I like making rag quilts. I found the Heritage Rag Quilt scissors are the best of all the rag scissors. I have them all and only use the Heritage.