Since the 1700s, quilters have been turning old clothes and leftover fabric scraps into quilts — rag quilts, more specifically.
Rag quilts differ from traditional pieced quilts in a number of ways:
- They highlight the raw edges of the fabric.
- They're typically composed of simple squares instead of triangles and more intricate designs.
- And they often use non-traditional fabrics such as denim or flannel. Rag quilts come together quickly as well.
The best part about rag quilts? With some determination, you can complete a rag quilt over the course of just one weekend.
Quilted piece by piece
Unlike most traditional quilts, the rag quilt is constructed of small squares that have each been quilted. Most squares are made up of three separate pieces — the backing, the batting and the top. Individual pieces are pinned together, and then quilted either by machine or by hand. Only afterward are they stitched together to form the quilt top.
Raw edges to the front
And while no quilter anywhere would normally turn his or her raw edges to the front, the rag quilter does exactly that. If you're new to the art of quilt-making, there's a great tutorial on simple machine quilting found on Generations Quilt Patterns. It will help get you started with solid information on the different parts of your machine, as well as the basic technique. Because you're quilting small, individual squares, one at a time, quilting a rag quilt is fast and easy.
Low-loft batting or bust
Your rag quilt needs a low-loft batting. That is, if you choose to use batting at all—some quilters forego the batting in a rag quilt and use heavier fabrics instead.
You could cut up all your family's outgrown denim jeans, for instance, and back them with flannel. This type of rag quilt is heavy enough on its own that it doesn't necessarily need to use a batting.
If you do decide to fill your quilt, however, use a quilt batting that's low-loft, and cut it at least 1 1/2 inches / 4cm smaller than your quilt blocks. You'll have a lot of thicknesses to sew through as you stitch your blocks together. And unless you're a professional with tons of experience, a high-loft batting in this project is only going to make your life miserable.
Find out more about the types of quilt batting available on our post here.
Assembled with love
When it's time to pull your rag quilt together, you’ll experience the satisfaction that comes from making your first, super-easy quilt or coverlet.
Simply assemble all your pre-quilted squares, pin them together two at a time with the raw edges together, and stitch. Your finished seams will face the back; raw seams will face the front.
Wash your creation afterward to start the fraying process. (Frayed rag quilts are happy rag quilts.)
For more detailed instructions on how to assemble and stitch a rag quilt (using fleece in this case), visit FleeceFun.com.
Get started making your own rag quilts
There's hardly an easier quilt out there for beginning quilters to try than the rag quilt. And the more you launder and love this creation, the better it looks. As the edges fray, they create fun and fuzzy borders around each square. There are no fussy points to match up, no intricate sashing to sew. Simply assemble your squares and go. You're going to love the look and feel of your new rag quilt, and so is the loved one who's lucky enough to receive it.
For more on rag quilts, there's a perfect introduction to rag quilting on The Educational Value of Quilting website.
Once you’ve learned about this non-traditional method of quilt-making, though, make sure to come back to Runaway Quilting for all your supplies.
Ready to get started? Runaway Quilting has everything you need
Need quilting supplies or notions to make your rag quilt? You’re in the right place.