Help me with my rag quilt please :)

Phoenix, AZ

Bought some cotton to try making a rag quilt. Haven't deciding on the batting? Thinking maybe just a flannel so it won't be stiff? Would I wash the flannel 1st, or just sew it? I was also thinking of Fleece for the backing (it's 50% off at Joann's) But then I read the flannel won't won't unravel. Any tips or idea's are appreciated.

Here are the colors....

Thumbnail by Fish_knees
Whitsett, NC(Zone 8a)

Barb - I have used the Warm & White batting on a quilt . . . it is about the thickness of flannel, and it holds to the cotton material very well. That you can get at Joann's too, for pretty reasonable - especially if you have a coupon or if it's on sale.

Those are fantastic colors!


Phoenix, AZ

Thanks Nichole!
Do you think I should go with cotton for the back too? I just love the feel of the fleece, but if it won't "rag" like the cotton it probably won't look right.

Whitsett, NC(Zone 8a)

I will let someone more experienced in quilting answer the fleece part . . . I'd think that having the thicker material as a backing would be a bit much . . . unless you use the fleece as the backing/batting - instead of using a separate backing and batting, just quilt your top directly onto the fleece? Just a thought . . .

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi! I'm sure there are plenty of answers out here, but I'll jump in with my two cents... Some of the better cotton fabrics may not 'fringe' as much as a flannel, I've been told that 'homespun' fabrics, which are a looser weave, seem to rag nicely, but have not tried it yet. I was saving that for appliqueing Overall Bill patterns for a youngster's quilt. If you use all cotton, try making a 2 or 3 layer 'sandwich' out of a square, then washing and drying it to see how the seams look..

I have only made 2 rag quilts, and a 3rd in progress. The first one I used flannel for all 3 layers: top, back and batting. Thick, fluffy and plenty of weight! The second one I just used 2 layers for front and back, much easier to sew, and lighter in weight. Depending on your seasonal temps, 3 layers (even with a normal quilt batting) may be too warm. And it also depends on the thickness of your flannel before you start putting it together.
The first one I made was a baby size, flannel was from Joann's, a nice weight, not the cheaper lightweights. After I got it all together, I measured it before washing... after washing and drying in 3 cycles, it had shrunk 3" in one direction, and 2" in the other. (I had added one extra row, to allow for shrinkage, as the instructions had mentioned that flannel would shrink ALOT more than cottons). But the seams 'ragged' beautifully, and it makes a nice padded quilt for baby to play on the floor.
The second one was slightly bigger than a lap robe, and I only used 2 layers. It felt a little light and 'cheap' while sewing, but after washing and drying, it was just the right weight for watching TV under!
The 3rd one is for my step-daughter's car. She's a Nascar fan, and she can keep it in the car for when she goes to the races. Sort of like a blanket that you would use for football games or such.

If you prewash the flannel, you may not get as much 'ragging' as you would like in the seams. When the fabric fringes in the wash, and shrinks in the hot dryer, the seams get all puckery and wavy to create the cool looking seam. Prewashing/drying would already shrink the flannel to some extent, but you'd still get some of the effect, IMO.

I've not really sewn much with fleece, but my son bought a bolt of it and wants me to use it for the backing on a quilt top, instead of batting and quilting it. Guess that means I'll be tying the quilt together instead, as I would think the fleece would move around alot with free motion. You could try a small size, like for a pet or similar to see how it reacts in your machine. Fleece backing and a flannel top, stitched with an X thru the squares, may just hold it enough to get the look you want... would be interesting to see what you come up with!

If you haven't already, there are lots of articles on the web for rag quilts. This is the one I referred to (and I've attached the pic of my first rag):

I'm sure you'll get plenty of replies on rag quilts from others here, but the above links will give you lots of tips!

This message was edited May 23, 2011 12:08 AM

Thumbnail by Kizmo
Cocoa Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

My 2 cents worth. Whatever method you use or fabric, be sure to get the spring loaded scissors for fringing and don't try to fringe the whole quilt in one sitting.
Kizmo, that is one beautiful rag quilt.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

Thanks Mittsy! I copied one from the web that was solid pink and pink gingham, but just added more colors. It did turn out really cute! And I defiinitely agree - those spring scissors are a godsend!! Snipping all those seams with regular scissors sure played havoc on these old hands!

Lowell, IN(Zone 5b)

Thanks for recommending not to wash the flannel first. Going to make a rag with flannel and denim squares. The denim is prewashed (bought it off Ebay) from old jeans, etc. Have some denim from old shirts, etc. of my own, but this group was in all different solid colors, as are the flannels that I am going to use.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

I've not tried one with denim yet, although I keep reading articles on them... One mentioned that stitching the big X thru the center of the squares would keep the flannel from pulling the denim out of shape, but I would think it would still look too poofy. Now if you had flannel scraps, from say, old flannel shirts from Goodwill or whatever, and used those, eventually the seams would rag after some washings and it wouldn't shrink like a new fabric would... depends on what look you're going for, I suppose.
Were you alternating denim and flannel squares on both sides or just using the denim on one side and flannel on the other? Prewashed flannel and those old denims alternating in rows would look rather cool, I think! I would cut a 4" square of flannel, handwash it in hot water, then throw it in the dryer in one of those mesh bags, then measure for the amount of shrinkage. I've been told that flannels shrink at different rates.... when I bought mine, the flannel I got from Joann's shrank (shrunk) more than the flannel remnants I got from WM....

Lowell, IN(Zone 5b)

Kizmo.... probably will use denims alternating in the front only. May wash the flannel first in cold and hang- dry so that I get some shrinkage, but not fully pre-shrunk. Will let you know how it comes out.

(Karen) Traverse Cit, MI(Zone 5a)

I haven't made one of these yet, but I'm sure gonna save all these good ideas.

(thunder)Wildwood, FL(Zone 9a)

I have made a few rag was with denim and flannel, alternating / random squares on both sides....did not pre wash either of them. did sew the x across the squares, and a seam all around the square inside of the clipping line..... I made it so I could clip 1/2 inch..... it was some very spiffy denim, it looked "denim" on one on the other side !! alternated with the colors on that too.......Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of it :(

made one with all flannels too.....did pre wash, and dry in the dryer before using in the quilt...still "ragged" just fine

spring scissors are an ABSOLUTE MUST !!!!

both made for recipients in I only used two layers.

fleece does not un ravel but it does make some nifty fringe..... I have made many lap quilts with both sides made of just a large piece of fleece....with all the sides cut at 1/2 inch intervals (fringe), about 6'' deep.... put the two pieces on top of one another....tie one fringe of each fabric into a knot.....makes a great and very quick lap quilt.... when you use two very different fabrics, as you tie the knots, fabric "moves" so that colors switch sides....( if you did black one side a stripe the other side, after you tie...stripe fringe will be on the black side)
have seem the same idea done with large blocks... same idea a rag quilt.....looks pretty cool, but never felt like cutting that much fringe, or tying THAT many knots !!!

(Karen) Traverse Cit, MI(Zone 5a)

One caveat about tied quilts. This was probably a freak accident but.... The ties can stretch out and can cause entanglement. They are strong and won't break. I would NEVER use a tied quilt for a baby or young child.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

Thunder, on the first denim/flannel... when you washed it, how much did the flannel 'pull' the denim? (since flannel shrinks and denim doesn't, or was it new denim?). I was looking at a rag pattern that uses denim for the background, then a flannel circle or square on point stitched on top in the center, leaving the flannel seams raw so they rag. Looked pretty cool, but I'm thinking the flannel would have to be preshrunk slightly or the denim would pull out of shape?

Like I said, I've not made many of these, but they are so easy to do! Seems like they had been really popular way before I discovered them.

I have some really big pieces of fleece that I was wanting to piece together.. should I use a zigzag stitch instead of straight stitch?

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

I bookmarked a site awhile back that when tying with yarn or ribbons, to cut a piece long enough to tie a knot with, then place it on the quilt and use your machine to take a couple of backstitches in the center of the yarn or whatever to secure it to the quilt top. Also found a video on YouTube that shows a tying technique that uses a couple of V shaped stitches through the quilt, then the thread is passed thru the inside with the batting to where the next stitch goes. She was using a quilting thread for that, and it made for an interesting stitch on the outside.
Mom and Gma always used scrap yarns and crochet cottons to tie with on the utility quilts. A few baby quilts were tied with yarn, but if the yarn came out, it wasn't more than a few inches long at best.
I agree with Karen though... there are so many ways to do this, and a simple idea can cause big problems if not thought through. I've seen child quilts tied with ribbons and those would be longer lengths, but they would almost have to be stitched permanently thru the bow or they would come loose easily. Not sure what kind of knot Gma used, but Mom still has one of her old wool quilts that the ties are still in place and she used yarn...... must have been one heck of a stong knot!

Phoenix, AZ

Thanks for all the great info!
Looks like fleece is out. I want it really raggy, lol

(Karen) Traverse Cit, MI(Zone 5a)

Kathy, I was talking about the quilts that are made with 2 layers of fleece that are tied together around the edges. Also called a no-sew quilt. While I'm on a rant, the baby fabric that is pre quilted with nylon thread or in fact the quilts themselves that can be bought ready made, are very dangerous. The nylon thread seems to loosen or break. My grandson when just a few months old was sleeping under one. His fingers became entangled in the thread, it was wound so tightly, that his fingers were blue when luckily I went to check on him. I had to cut threads to get him loose. Needless to say that blanket was discarded immediately.

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

Oh, sorry, I misunderstood which you were talking about..I've not made any of those no-sew quilts, but have looked at them in Joann's when they're on sale. They look like a good project for older kids.
I remember you telling the story of the nylon thread, that would be scary! Good thing you caught it before it damaged the circulation in the fingers.
When the pre-quilted fabric came out eons ago, Mom bought a yard to put binding on for a quick blanket for my niece. The stitching was that invisible thread monofilament stuff, and after one washing, it came right out! Tangled up around the other clothes in the washer.... She took it to her Ladies Aid meeting and showed the other farm wives what happened, as they were going to have a craft demonstration on baby gifts. Not wanting to waste the money she had in it, she ended up stitching it to a muslin backing, crosshatched in on her treadle machine and put it in the toy box - minus all that invisible thread. Lots of it are sold, I guess she just got a bad piece.
I've heard that the store quilts come apart if they are dried in a hot dryer, since the monofilament is nylon or whatever. That would be a waste, as I've seen some of them at Crackerbarrel and in catalogs that are made from pretty fabric patterns.

(Karen) Traverse Cit, MI(Zone 5a)

I'm thinking that commercial stitching comes out pretty easily. I wanted a certain fabric not too long ago and the only bit of it I could find was pre-quilted. so I bought it and took it apart. It was quite easy. After washing, all the stitching lines were gone.

(thunder)Wildwood, FL(Zone 9a)

Kiz, they were both new fabrics, and surprisingly the flannel did not pull on the denim at all...maybe because of the x and the square stitched in each block??? Usually I would pre wash any flannel, as it does generally shrink quite a bit....butttttt when I did this quilt I was following directions from a blog, and it stated "no need to pre-wash" seeing as it was the first rag quilt I made...I followed the came out quite well...made it about 10 years ago, and it is still going strong....

if you are talking about the type of quilt I am thinking of with flannel squares put on top of denim circles....I would definitely pre-shrink the flannel !!! got a bunch of circles sitting on a shelf for one of those quilts......and some flannel squares on another shelf, and a big box of old jeans, and old shirts, waiting to be cut up....

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

I know the those prequilted fabrics have larger stitches, no wonder they come out so easily, wonder what type of stitch is used on those industrial machines... never thought about taking one of those apart to use the fabric, good idea Karen!

wow, Thunder, we think alike on some things, don't we???? I have some flannel shirts that are too small for hubby and old jeans that I wanted to try this out on, cut out squares, stitch on without worrying about turning under or matching seams.. what's not to like?!?!?!?!?

OK, I'm off here for now, spent too much time on here already, the clock says it's almost tomorrow! LOL

Fleming Island, FL(Zone 9a)

I'd avoid putting fleece on the back of a cotton fabric quilt, especially if you plan to wash it. The 2 types of fabric will not wear the same.

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

2 or 3 layers the center layer is smaller the the front & back no fleece it won't fray and thats the whole idea.
here in Texas I do a lot of 2 layer rag quilts either both flannel or flannel & denim . don't prewash again you want it to fray & shrink up. they are fun, fast & easy to make . very forgiving . I teach this as a first time quilt.

Thumbnail by denimangle
Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

cool idea! Love the star!

Phoenix, AZ

Thanks everyone! I'm so tickled I thought to ask before just jumping in and scewing it up ! I'm in Phoenix... HOT! So I think I'll try just the 2 layers. Flannel on the back :)

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

kizmo ..its the Texas State Flag..
Fish_knees . 2 layers will be good .
are you doing a pattern or just random sqs?

Thumbnail by denimangle
Phoenix, AZ

Just alternating the 3 colors, don't want to get too crazy on the 1st one :)

(Linda Kay) Del Rio, TX(Zone 9a)

One more thing about making the rag quilts. When you wash and dry them, make sure you clean your filters frequently, as you will get a lot of threads from them.

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

you are so right Linda .. I like to shake them out after the washer helps a little

Lowell, IN(Zone 5b)

By 'filters', are you talking about the lint screen?

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)


(Pat) Kennewick, WA(Zone 5b)

If fact I KILLED my son's washing machine washing a rag quilt for the first time. IF you are on a septic tank rather than sewer you might want to consider a trip to the laundry mat. All that said, I LOVE the way the rag quilt turned out. I used denim and flannel and it was almost twin size.

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

Fish_knees hows that quilt coming along any pictures yet?

Phoenix, AZ

Sigh..............I got all the top squares cut out and went to Joanne's to get the flannel for the back. I REALLY wanted purple and they were out, so I bought the green. Then life/family got in the way :( I went to Joanne's yesterday and they had the purple! So it will have the green in the middle and purple for the back. Now I just have to cut out a ton of squares. My expensive spring action titanium scissors that I splurged on a while ago seemed to have grown legs and walked one will admit to it. And I'm too cheap right now to buy more. So it will take a while to cut all those squares.

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

Fish.... don't you have a rotary cutter they are so fast for cutting strips & sqs

Phoenix, AZ

yes, but my mat is so small. I did drag out my 6ft table to work on. Maybe I'll try the rotary again. Just afraid I'll run off track and waste fabric :(

Marietta, OH(Zone 6a)

One thing about rag quilts..... even if you cut the squares slightly off track, by the time the quilt shrinks and wrinkles, you probably wouldn't notice it. I cut my first baby rag out with rotary, and used my dress shears to 'rag' it, as I didn't have the spring shears then. I have found my scissors in a stack of fabric at times, it may just be hiding.... LOL

Oakwood (Butler,TX), TX(Zone 8b)

Kizmo is right on .. the quilt is very forgiving ..even if the seams are off when its all said and done no one knows ..

Phoenix, AZ

Good to know! I have a tendancy to be OCD :(

Oracle , AZ(Zone 8b)

Fishy, I have made 5 rag quilts. A couple had a 'batting' between the top and back and a couple had just the top and back. The first had flannel and plaid 'homespun', the rest were all flannel. I always wash everything unless it is a kit. They all turned out great. The last one has a lot of Laurel Burch fabrics and other brights and I made it bigger than the usual lap or crib size. If you use flannel as the batting and make it the same size as the front and back, when you wash it you have more fringe. Anyway, they are fun. It takes about as long to cut the fringe as it does for the entire quilt so far! On the Laurel Burch quilt I made the back the same as the front, except for the fringe of course. I just love it! And so do the cats. After I washed it I put in in the dryer for 10 minutes and cleaned the filter. I cleaned the filter every 10 minutes until it was nearly dry then draped it over the clothes line until dry. Then I ran it thru the dryer on just air until there was hardly any lint threads or until I got tired....

Thumbnail by morknotmindy

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images