Monday, May 4, 2009

Easiest Quilt Ever! The Rag Quilt Tutorial

Make a cute baby quilt, a TV throw, or a warm camping blanket! These blankets are so easy to make and customize to your needs. The nice thing about these quilts is that unlike "real" quilts, they don't have to be perfect! Now that's my kind of quilt! :)

The quilt shown in this tutorial is a finished size of about 38 x 50 inches, using 8-inch cut squares. The pattern uses 48 finished squares, 6 squares x 8 squares. You can make the squares bigger or smaller, and add squares if you want the blanket to be bigger. This size is good for a baby, toddler, or small child.

For my quilts I use three coordinating flannels. I have heard that denim works too. You can use as many (or as little) different patterns of fabric as you want, but you will have to make sure that you have enough of each fabric for the number of squares used in your quilt (both sides).

Here's what you will need for a baby/toddler quilt:

2 and 2/3 yards of patterned flannel

1 and 1/3 yard of a coordinating solid flannel

1 and 1/3 yard of another coordinating flannel (try to find a stripe, plaid, or dot)

48 x 36 inch piece of Warm and Natural batting (or enough to make 48 6-inch squares)

thread (two or three colors)
rotary cutter

cutting mat
sewing machine

walking foot for your sewing machine (optional, but highly


1. Cut your fabric using a mat, ruler and rotary cutter. Cut the fabric into 8-inch strips, then cut each strip into 8-inch squares. I make 8-inch squares because it maximizes my fabric; I don't have big chunks left over after cutting each square.

*You should probably end up with a little bit of leftover fabric, including four 8-inch squares. I have made matching pillow covers with this leftover fabric in the past. I will post a tutorial for these pillow covers later on!

Note: Remember, if you have enough fabric, you can always cut your squares bigger. Just make sure that your squares are all the same size. You will also need more batting. No matter the size, you will lose 2-inches per square for seam allowance. So we are cutting 8-inch squares, but the finished product will have 6-inch squares and the excess will make up the fray in between the squares. That might be something to keep in mind. If you want your quilt to end up with 8-inch squares for instance, you will need to cut 10-inch squares.

2. Cut the Warm and Natural into squares that are 2 inches smaller than your flannel squares. In this case, cut 6-inch squares.
I find it is easier and faster to cut the Warm and Natural with scissors than with a rotary cutter. I double up the batting, draw a line using a ruler, and cut it with my scissors. Then I cut individual squares using my rotary cutter. You could also double the strips up and draw lines and cut with scissors as well.

Here is what you should have after cutting:
3. Arrange your squares in sandwiches: flannel on top and bottom (right sides out) with a square of batting centered in the middle.
If you have three fabrics, you should have double the amount of squares in one of the fabrics as the other two. That is because the patterned fabrics will be sandwiched together and the other two will be back and front to each other. So for this quilt, I will end up with all blue sandwiches, and sandwiches that are green on one side and orange on the other.
Remember if you are using stripes or plaid to arrange the pattern going the same way on all of the sandwiches. Decide if you want the stripes to be vertical or horizontal, and place them all that same way when forming sandwiches. For example, in this quilt, my truck fabric is placed horizontally.

4. Attach your walking foot to your machine. The walking foot keeps the fabric from bunching and puckering by helping it feed through the machine better. If you don't have one, sew slowly and you may need to help the fabric through by gently pulling on the back of the fabric as you sew. Walking feet can be purchased at sewing supply stores for around $20.

Thread your machine using contrasting thread. For example, I used orange to stitch onto the blue fabric, blue thread for the green fabric, and green thread for the orange fabric. Confused yet?

Thread your bobbin accordingly. For this square I am sewing, there is blue thread in the bobbin and green thread on top.
5. "Quilt" the squares together by sewing a line diagonally down each of your squares. Don't stop and cut the thread after each square; instead do a chain stitch by placing the corner of the next square and continuing to sew.
You will end up with a big long chain of squares. Cut the thread in between each square and do the same thing again, sewing a diagonal line in the opposite direction, making an X in each square.
You will now have 48 squares quilted together.
6. Arrange a row of 6 squares into a pattern making sure your horizontals and verticals are going the right way (back side too). I flip the orange/green squares every other time.
Then continue with the second row. See the pattern forming?
You might want to do this on the floor. You should end up with 8 rows.
Then you can bunch them together in order like this while you sew one row at a time. This is what I do, but whatever works for you is fine. Just make sure that they are in the right order.
7. Here's where it gets tricky. You are going to sew one row together at a time (six squares). Sew on a 1-inch seam allowance, with the seam allowance SHOWING. If it helps, you can lay your row out and pinch the fabric up where the seams would be to remember where to sew.

Here are the squares for my first row, with the first two squares sewn together. Notice the seam allowance is showing on the front side of the blanket.
Continue all the way down the row until it is finished. Make sure you sew the row so that all of the seam allowances are showing. Then finish all of the other rows one at a time.
Here is a picture of all of the rows sewn. The rows are not yet sewn together; I should have spaced them out so you could see that.
8. Now sew your rows together, still keeping the seam allowances showing on the same side. (One side of the quilt has the extra fabric for fraying and one side is flat.)
Make sure that you keep the pattern going the right way. One trick I use is to start with the bottom two rows and pinch where the seam allowance will be on top of the quilt. Then I go and sew those rows together. When I am done, I unfold it and place it back down where it goes. Then I pinch it together with the next row and so on.

One thing to keep in mind when you are sewing the rows together is to try and get the squares' seams to match up. It won't matter on the frayed side of the quilt, but you will see it on the back flat side. So if you care that they are perfect (or at least close) make sure they are matching up as you sew over them. You may need to pull the fabric one way or the other.

This is how I do it. I tuck the seam allowance on the bottom side up and let the seam allowance on the top go down. They kind of fit like a puzzle that way. I am no quilter; I don't know the correct way to do patchwork if there is one, but this seems to work for me. It won't matter which way your fabric goes, because those seam allowances are going to get cut up and frayed anyway.
The last sewing step is to sew around the entire quilt, again using a 1-inch seam allowance. You can sew completely from side to side, or start one inch inside and pivot your quilt with your needle inserted one inch from the end of that side so that it's one continuous line. You should end up with a quilt that looks something like this on the front:
...and this on the back:
9. You are almost done! Now grab a good pair of scissors and plop down in front of the TV. You are going to snip those seam allowances about every 1/4 inch. It won't matter if they are perfect. The intersections of the squares can be tricky, but it won't matter which way you cut them. I just cut along the rows, but whatever you do will be fine. Make sure you cut around the perimeter of the blanket as well.
10. And now for the easiest step of all! Wash the blanket in the washing machine. That's how you get this cute frayed up look. Make sure you clean out your lint filter before you dry it- you will have a lot of fuzz from this quilt.
And you're done! Here are some others I have made. Pillow cover tutorial to come!
More questions? Check out my Rag Quilt FAQ post here!


  1. Hi Connie, I just wanted to let you know that I completed my very first rag quilt thanks to you. I posted about it on my blog today and linked to your tutorial It was awesome and I could not have done it without your step by step guidance. Thanks!

  2. Connie, thank you so much for this tutorial! I was able to complete my first quilt (and 3rd sewing project ever) thanks to you!! Check it out on my blog, if you like: I linked back to your blog and tutorial as well. Thanks again!


  3. I'm going to make this one soon for my nephew's new baby girl. Thanks for sharing!!