Crafting a Rag Quilt

by Kendra McCracken

The warm days of summer have passed for another year and as we move into the fall months, I'm beginning to think about winter activities for my boys.

Crafting a Rag Quilt

Even though they are rough-and-tumble and will spend plenty of time outdoors, they certainly won't be outside all day as they are during the warmer months. There will be time spent on things like playing board games, baking cookies, reading, and watching movies.

My youngest son and I have an ongoing battle over a quilt my mother-in-law made for me years ago. It's a lap quilt so it's not cumbersome to transport back and forth from storage to the couch for movie time like a full size quilt would be. In hopes of regaining possession of my lap quilt, I made my son his own lap quilt. A quilt this size would also make a wonderful quilt for a crib.

I wanted this to be a fairly quick quilt to make so I chose to make a rag quilt. Not only is it a simple quilt to make, the fraying of the fabric and the puffiness of the squares makes it so cozy for a child to snuggle under! Because a rag quilt has the raw edges of the fabrics exposed to create the soft, fluffy fraying, the piecing of one isn't quite as meticulous as most other quilts. The pieces still need to be cut accurately so the corners of the patches align but if the seams that connect the pieces together in each row aren't perfectly straight, no one is likely to notice thanks to all that fraying.

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There are many tutorials on the internet for making rag quilts and the base for them all is a front and back for each square and a slightly smaller square of batting that you'll sandwich between them. The size and number of the squares you cut depends on the finished size you desire. This is easily adjusted according to your needs. I created my quilt using the book Made From Scratch Biscuit Quilts by Annis Clapp. I started with 63 front and 63 back squares in a variety of fabrics that I cut using the Fiskars 45mm Comfort Grip Rotary Cutter, the 6.5 inch by 34.5 inch Acrylic Ruler and the 18 inch by 24 inch Cutting Mat.

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Traditionally, after sandwiching batting between the squares, each block is quilted by sewing diagonally from corner to corner, creating a large X. The quilting on mine was a bit different. Using my Fiskars Desktop Rotary Trimmer I cut a square of chipboard and then cut the square diagonally from one upper corner to the opposite lower corner creating 2 triangles. These were used to trace onto my backing blocks for use as quilting lines.

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The batting squares were centered on each backing block and then machine quilted on the lines from the previous step.

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After layering the top square over the quilted square, I stitched around the perimeter and ended up with a large pile of these "biscuits."
Once completed, a tacking stitch was added to the center of each block to prevent the batting inside from shifting. The biscuits were then sewn together (back sides together) into rows.

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Using a walking foot for sewing the blocks together is invaluable. While the feed dogs are pulling the bottom fabric over the needle plate, the top layer of a thicker project like a quilt will typically be dragged through at a slower pace. The resistance is caused by the added thickness of the project. It doesn't take long for the layers to be misaligned and begin bunching up. Using a walking foot helps because it pulls the top layer of fabric along in conjunction with the feed dogs pulling the bottom layer.

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The rows then are sewn together and the seams pressed open as the connection of the rows is complete. Once the rows are sewn together, the binding is done. If you don't want to add a traditional binding made from strips of fabric joined together, you can do as I did and top stitch around the perimeter of the quilt.

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The final step is to snip the seam allowances to aid in the fraying. These Easy Action Rag Quilt Snips are a breeze to use and the razor sharp blades allow you to cut through multiple layers of fabric at once. Unlike regular scissors, these Easy Action Scissors have a spring action handle that pops the scissors back open for you after making a cut. When you're making hundreds of snips 1/4 inch a part, you can imagine how much this helps your hand and wrist!

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A glimpse at what the finished quilt looks like after all the snipping is done, including around the perimeter of the quilt.

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The final step is to throw the quilt in the washer and dryer where the excess thread are washed away and the fraying is softened and fluffed.