Quilting Blog

Making a Cozy Rag Quilt: A Quick Step-by-Step Tutorial

Are you thinking about quilting something a little cozier than your typical quilt? You should think about making a rag quilt!

Colorful Rag Quilt

Photos via Angela Mitchell

What are rag quilts?

No, they aren’t truly made of rags. This quilt earns its name because rather than sandwiching the seams inside the quilt like usual, you’ll sew the seams in a way that exposes them on the outside of the quilt.

The exposed fabric seam allowances are snipped to promote fraying, and the finished result is a soft quilt with raggedy edges! Machine washing makes those edges softer.

Rag quilts also use a quilt-as-you-go technique: Each block consists of three layers (the top, batting and backing) that are sandwiched together and quilted. Once all of the blocks are quilted, they are sewn together to make the finished quilt.

Because of how rag quilts are constructed, they’re an easy sewing project for both beginners and experts. The project uses basic quiltmaking skills, like rotary cutting and machine piecing.

Another bonus? Since the edges are frayed, there’s no binding!

marti michell piecing

Quilt-As-You-Go Techniques

Make more quilts, faster by combining piecing and quilting! Beloved quilting expert Marti Michell shows you how.Watch in Bluprint
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Want to learn to make your own rag quilt? Follow this simple tutorial.

Step 1: Gather your supplies

Fabric and Batting, Rotary Cutter

Each block consists of two squares of fabric with the same dimensions (top and backing fabric) and a square of batting or flannel that’s about 2″ smaller than the other fabrics.

For this tutorial, we’re using a 6½” square of quilting cotton for the top, a 4½” square of batting, and a 6½” square of minky for the backing. You can use nearly any fabric from your stash — flannel, denim and fleece are also great options.

Step 2: Make the sandwich

Layering Fabric and Batting

Create a quilt sandwich out of those three pieces with the right sides facing out and the batting centered in the middle.

Step 3: Quilt the sandwich

Joining the Quilt Blocks

Use a longer straight machine stitch to quilt two straight lines, from corner to corner, creating an X. A walking foot is extremely helpful here!

Repeat these three steps until you have as many blocks as you need to make your quilt.

Step 4: Join the blocks together

To join blocks, layer two quilted blocks together with wrong sides (the minky fabric) facing each other. Sew along one edge with a ½” seam allowance. This leaves the seam allowances exposed on the right side of the fabric.

Continue joining blocks in rows. Once all the rows are completed, join the rows together in the same manner (wrong sides facing together with a ½” seam allowance). Nest seams together to make the rows easier to sew together.

Step 5: Finish the edges

To finish the edges of the quilt, simply stitch the entire way around the outside of the quilt with a straight or zigzag stitch.

Step 6: Snip the exposed seams

Grab your scissors! Carefully snip the fabric in the seam allowances, making cut marks approximately every ¼”. Be sure to snip through both layers of fabric, but be careful not to cut too close to the stitches! Snip all the seams the entire way around the quilt.

Once finished, toss the quilt into the washer and dryer to soften up the raggedy edges and remove those pesky threads.

marti michell piecing

Quilt-As-You-Go Techniques

Make more quilts, faster by combining piecing and quilting! Beloved quilting expert Marti Michell shows you how.Watch in Bluprint
FREE for 7 Days

Re-edited from a post that originally appeared in February 2014.

41 Comments

Ginny

Since you quilt as you go and see wrong sides together, does that mean you have to sew the front sides together and then sew the back sides together? If not, how are both sides sewn together for the finished quilt?

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TJ

I’m with Ginny. If you back your rag quilt with fleece (does not fray) do you sew the top pieces with the wrong sides together and then sew the back (fleece) pieces together with the right sides together??? I’m lost here!

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Catharina

its a sandwich, read it properly!

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Rhonda

The outside squares are 61/2″ and the batting or inner square is 41/2″ . The batting is not seen.

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Cheryl Dinnin

There is no right or wrong side to this kind of quilt. The top and bottom layers of each block are sewn together as one. Just be sure when sewing blocks to each other and rows to each other that all seam allowances are showing on the same side of the quilt. The other side will have no seam allowances.

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Cheryl Dinnin

I snip each seam as soon as sew it. That way my hand doesn’t ache as it did when I left all the snipping to the end on my first rag quilt. I also often bind the quilt with a single-fold flannel binding or a double-fold cotton binding on a flannel rag quilt. If I bind a rag quilt, I do not snip around the outside as I do if I’m not binding it.

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Carol

Is there a certain way to cut flannel material for a rag quilt? LOF?

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Debbie

I often use flannel for the backing and batting in my rag quilts. I wash my flannel first because it tends to shrink alot.

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Linda Smith

What loft of batting would you suggest. I am using flannel God my squares.

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Jess C

I’ve made these with two layers of flannel and didn’t put any batting inside. It turned out great and heavy enough.

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Dabby

I bought flannel to make this .. Glad to see your post

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L. Adams

I also use denim and flannel with no middle. Denim frays beautifully.

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Connie Montgomery

You don’t clarrify the number of squares per row. Also for beginners , you need to explain about right and wrong sides o the blocks. If I overlooked this I apologize for my comment.

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Debbie

How many squares per row? Depends how big your squares are and what size quilt you are making. For Example: If you were making a 40″ square baby quilt, with 10″ squares, you would need 4 rows across and 4 rows down. This is approximate since there are seam allowances. I have made rag quilts with 5″, 6″, 8 1/2″, 10″ and 12″ squares. The creativity is endless.

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Jennifer

I agree. Are both right and wrong sides fringed? I have no idea and I’m a beginner.

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Jackson M. Watkins

Hi Jennifer, yes both side of the quilt are fringed. After quilting each block (top fabric, batting, back fabric, with both fabrics facing outward), to add to squares together, you simply put the both together back side to back side and sew your seams allowance down one side where you are adding the two squares together to make a row.

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Mindy

Would you be able to place reference pictures from steps 4-6. For those who are new to sewing might find this difficult to follow witout a frame of reference. Thanks ☺

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Chrisi

Why no pictures for the remaining steps? That would be so very helpful.

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Katharin

I have been trying to figure out if the batting should be sewn into the edging or if you only want to sew together the front/back pieces when making the edge. In your example, you cut the batting two inches smaller than the front/back pieces, which suggests to me that apart from the “X,” there would be no additional sewing that includes the batting. If this is correct, could you also confirm that the batting won’t bunch up and cluster towards the center of each “X?”

Thank you in advance!! Been trying to figure this one out for a ridiculously long time with no luck online elsewhere.

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Chris

Goodness. Seems to me a lot of questions for some really clear instructions. Size- make it as big as you like. Batting is on the inside and held by the original X. On the “back” the seams are all flat, so here it will be the soft pink stuff. The “front” is the colourful blue cotton which will have all the open seams showing the front and back stuff, snipped to fray. The batting is not near the edge because it is a smaller square between the bigger front and back squares. Sorry seems obvious to me when you read all the instructions through. Never sewn one though so will be giving this a try.

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Rose

I don’t agree with you Chris, for a beginner it’s not clear enough . Those of us who have made quilts or clothing it would be enough. But as someone who has taught sewing and quilting to others, I feel there needs to be a bit more clarity on how the squares are joined and how the back will look as squares are sewn together.
Goodness, it seems to me this is not enough instruction for a beginner .

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Kathy

You are correct I’m a beginner thank u

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Dee Spencer

Why not just find another tutorial (there are 100’s) and compare?

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Ellen

Have made several and love this technique — be careful with washing the first few times. I jammed my washer with threads so now i wash for a few minutes then let settle (use a strainer to get out some of the threads from the wash water) then allow to wash again. The shedding will stop after the first few washes.

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SueR

Thank you for this tip about pausing to collect some of the threads from the wash water. Wish washing machines still had the filter basket like they used to years ago. Newer is not always better!

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Chetan

Instructions are clear to me. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post this FREE tutorial.

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Suzanne

How does the minky fabric hold up over time? I was told the minky on the “rag” edges would fall apart and become non-existent. Thanks

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Patricia Luchini

I found if you use old jeans I had to do two seams 1/2 inch in sewing the squares together. The first quilt didn’t hold in all places. I believe the jeans were to heavy.

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Kath

Thanks for this double seam tip if using denims/ old jeans. I’m using old jeans and never worn jeans I swore I’d lose those 5 pounds to fit into. Using quilt cottons on the back. Making it for a queen bed and it is heavy. I’m still at a stage where I can double seam the long rows. I am using top stitching thread in the needle and good quality polyester thread in the bobbin.
This is my first rag quilt and next I’m planning to do a flannel one with a cotton batting next.

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Marguerite Taitano

Seems like she got a bit defensive when asked to post more pictures, that’s hardly a good teacher. Yes there are other tutorials where you can get a better understanding of what to do.

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SueR

Homespuns fray very well too. I used them back and front, with scraps of regular Warm and Natural cotton batt in between. Instead of quilting an “x” on the squares, I machine embroidered a simple quilt design in each square.

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Dona Taylor

I use 3 layers of flannel and then cut them all at once. The rest of the construction is the same except omitting the batting which has to be cut a different size than the flannel layers. My method is faster and the “fringe” is much fuller. I also use minky as a backing with this method on occasion.

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Patsy Hornsby

Thank you Rose and Kathy, clarity is needed. After all this is the Craftsy website and we are learning.

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Cory

I am fairly new to quilting and am currently in the process of making a rag quilt, my only question is this…how do you determine your stitch length when stitching the X?
Thanks much.
P.S.
Someone had mentioned clogging up their washing machine when washing the quilt for the first time, in some of the tutorials I scoured before starting this project it was reccomended to wash the quilt at a laundromat for the first washing so you do not ruin your home machine .

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Carolyn Spottsville

You need to add a picture for step four! Not explained very well for some of us newbies. Also many of us are visual learners.

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Emily

For those wondering how to avoid clogging the washer, the easiest way to wash these the first couple of times is to put them in a washable mesh laundry bag or tie them inside a pillow case. That way, the threads are contained.

When you dry them, take them out of the bag and open the dryer several times during the cycle to empty the lint trap.

After the first couple of washes, the fraying will stop and you can wash normally.

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Catherine Wilborn

Hey, Youtube has wonderful videos that show how this is done, especially if you are a sight learner such as I am. Just put “rag quilt directions” into the search box, it will give you many options.

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