Monday, September 30, 2013

How I make a Rag Quilt - Part III

    This is the final step in making a rag quilt and it takes the longest.

    When I first started making rag quilts I did this all wrong.  I snipped big chunky cuts out of the seams thinking that with enough washings the seams would fray nicely but I was mistaken.  It only took a couple years to realize that my first quilts were not fraying fast enough.  Then one day I asked my daughter, Katie, to help me cut a quilt.  She proceeded to cut the seams about 1/4 - 1/8th of an inch and I was so afraid she had ruined the quilt since I was cutting about 1/2".  When I washed the quilt the fluff was glorious!  Ever since then I believe the secret to making my rag quilts so fluffy is smaller snips. 

     Also my initial quilts were not cut right because I did not follow the way the seams laid.  I would cut haphazardly and end up with big lumpy spots where the seams met.  Now I know that you cut all the horizontal seams all the same way.  When you get to the point where the two seams are joined cut the "flaps" in the same direction. When you've cut all the long horizontal seams, then cut the vertical. I cut approx. 40 snips in one vertical  9" section.

horizontal and vertical seams

Horizontal seams being cut

You will probably be covered in bits of fluff when you are done cutting.  That's the badge of honor for rag quilters.

When your quilt is completely cut, it's time to wash it.  I usually wash a regular rag quilt on normal but you have to have a good machine because so much fluff can come off your quilt and damage your washer.  It might be a good idea to wash your quilt at a commercial laundry.  Likewise, when you dry it an enormous amount of fluff and lint will come off and block the lint filter.  I usually check the filter at least 3 times .

Fluff and lint from one quilt

When you take your quilt from the dryer you may have to do one more step and that is to use a lint roller to take off the stray fluffs.

The final result will look something like this

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How I make a Rag Quilt - Part II

The next step in making a rag quilt is sewing the squares together.  I will be sharing a baby rag quilt here which I usually make a 5 square by 5 square with fleece.

What you will be doing is sewing the traditional X through all three layers of your 9" squares.  I like to do this assembly line style.  I sew a seam diagonally from one corner of the square to the other and without lifting the foot I start another square.

You can either do this to all your squares at once or if you are an instant gratification type like me, you would only sew the X on your first row so you can then sew those squares together.

Make sure your pattern is intact because sometimes things get out of order when sewing and cutting threads.   (Refer to the picture you hopefully took when the quilt was laying on your floor. - see part I) So...

Step 1:  Sew an X in all your squares with a coordinating color thread  to secure all three layers.  (Sometimes I switch threads like in this quilt because I didn't like the black thread on the white square.)

Step 2:  Sew your five squares together to make the first row.  You do this by grabbing your first square and your second square and sew them WRONG sides together.  (If you are working with a patterned fabric, make sure the design is going the right way.)  I sew a 7/8" seam and back stitch at the beginning and end of the seam.  You can do a bigger or smaller seam but I wouldn't go bigger than 1" or smaller than 1/2". Continue sewing each next square to the previous square until you have your completed row.

Step 3:  Joining the rows.  If this is your first rag quilt I would suggest using lots of pins for this step.  You take your first two complete rows and pin WRONG sides together at the seams (and you can also pin at the middle of each square.)

"Kiss" the seams together and then

fold the top part of the seam up and the bottom down.  That way when you sew over this section you can hold down the top seam to guide it through and the bottom part will follow.

Sew all your rows together in this way.

Step 4:  The final step is to sew a seam around the perimeter of the quilt.  I simply start at one edge and sew to the next backstitching at the beginning and end.  To give my quilts a more finished look I do this twice.  The  quilt will look funky and crooked but don't worry that's what it's supposed to look like.

Next post will be Finishing your rag quilt .

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How I make a Rag Quilt - Part I

I have already posted a blog on how to make a Handkerchief Rag Quilt so when someone asked me tonight "Where can I get the instructions to make a rag quilt?" I started thinking, I should write my own tutorial.

 I have learned a lot since making my very first rag quilts back in 2003.  They were pretty thin and flimsy and the fluff was big and chunky.  The seams were messed up and they didn't lay right because I was sewing, then cutting them wrong.

Now I know what I'm doing.  Here's how I make a rag quilt:

Step 1:  Pick out your fabrics.  You can use 1 or more fabrics.  I like to lay them all together in the store to see how well they go together.  I have used flannel, cotton, fleece, minky, denim and corduroy and they all have worked very well.

Step 2:  Cut the fabric to 9 x 9" squares.  I like to do 9" because it will give you 16 squares from 1 yard.

Step 3:  Lay the squares out in a pattern you  like.  You can do diagonals like this:

 or a diamond pattern like this:

or a random pattern like this:

Or any pattern you like.

I like to lay my designs out on the floor or the bed and play with it till I get it just right and pleasing to the eye.  Then I take a picture of it just for insurance.  I can't tell you how many times I have been so grateful for that picture.

Once you have your top layer done you can add the middle and the bottom layers.  The easiest way to do this is to cut 2 slices of 9 x 9" flannel in a coordinating color for each top square.  (You can have all three layers together before you lay out your design as well).

Step 4:  I might be a little anal about this step but it sure helps me keep things organized.  I pick up the squares beginning with the 1st square on top and go down the line of the 1st row.  Then I go to the next row and pick up all the squares from left to right and stack that row on top of the first at a different angle something like collating papers.  Your finished stack should look like this:


Let me pause here and tell you something about the fabrics. 
  •  I have made quilts with  flannel in every layer.  A quilt made from all flannel is very easy to sew and cut.  
  • I have used fleece in the middle and backing.  I would never use more than one slice of fleece per square.  Cutting through a quilt with a fleece layer is more difficult.  I usually use fleece in baby quilts for the extra cushioning.  Also fleece does not fray but just gives an illusion of fraying when paired with other fabrics that do fray.
  • I have used cotton on the top and bottom layers of rag quilts.  It is very easy to cut through but the fluff of the seams is much thinner.
  • Using minky is tricky.  I have used it on the tops and bottoms of quilts but never in the middle.  I ALWAYS pin the squares with minky in them because the minky has a tendency to  stretch and I don't take the pins out until  the entire square has been sewn.  Cutting minky is never a precise job.  It can look a little "wonky" and it doesn't fray.  It does add a very soft, lush feel to the quilt.

Next blog post will talk about sewing the quilt.