Rag Quilt: A Step by Step Tutorial

I’ve been asked quite a few times about how to rag quilt, so I thought I’d take a few pictures of this project and write a blog post. I hope someone out there finds it useful – I know I would have the first few times I muddled through them without any directions.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

I’ve always wanted to make a quilt, but know myself well enough not to even attempt it. Regular quilts require a level of attention that I just don’t think I have, not to mention sewing skill that’s far out of my league. Instead, my go to baby shower gift for the past few years has been flannel and denim rag quilts. They’re easy and everyone loves them so it’s a win/win situation.

When I say that anyone can make one of these quilts, I am not exaggerating. It’s just a matter of cutting some squares, sewing some lines, and clipping some edges. The hardest part is piecing it together, but over the years I’ve figured out a method that keeps my corrections to a minimum. This is the perfect project to start sewing with because it’s so basic – seriously, so easy.

Ready to make a rag quilt of your very own?

What You Need:

  • Sewing machine
  • Rotary cutter, guide & mat {this isn’t required, but it will make your life easier}
  • 1 yard each of 3 kinds of flannel {a print and two solids are what I used here}
  • 1 yard of denim or 3-4 pairs of old jeans {they don’t have to match}
  • A spool of thread to match {sometimes I pick coordinating thread, other times contrasting}

What You Do:
1. Cut your fabric into 7″ squares using your rotary cutter, guide and mat. I didn’t have those fancy tools the first few times I made these quilts so I used a paper template and scissors. You’ll need 25 denim squares (A) and one flannel (C), 24 of your main flannel print (B) and the remaining flannel (D).

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

2. Pair and stack your squares with wrong sides facing together. You should end up with 25 A/C pairs in one stack and 24 B/D pairs in the other stack. This part might seem like busy work, but it could end up saving you tons of time.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

3. Take one pair from each pile, line up the edges and sew along one edge using a 1/2″ inch seam allowance. Be sure to back stitch a bit at the beginning and end of each seam so it’s nice and sturdy. You could pin it first, but I don’t. Both flannel and denim tend to stretch a bit so you may end up with an uneven edge. It’s not a big deal, but trim it if you want.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

4. Unfold the pieces and line up the next A/C pair with the previous B/D pair. Sew together along the short edge. Continue alternating A/C and B/D pairs until you have a row of 7 squares.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

5. Clip the raw seams about 1/4″ in at about 3/8″ intervals. Keep in mind that those are VERY approximate measurements. The important thing is to avoid clipping across your seam – doing so will create holes in your finished blanket {you know, not that I’ve ever done that or anything}. Try to make the cuts pretty even, though.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

6. Sew your next row starting with a B/D pair. You will end up with 4 rows that begin and end with denim and 3 that begin and end with flannel. This isn’t mandatory, but I like the way it looks.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

7. Once all your rows are sewn and clipped, you’re ready to start sewing them together. Begin by taking one denim-edged row and one flannel-edged row. Line them up on one short end. Use pins to hold them together, paying special attention to where your seams meet. I generally place one or two pins around each seam meeting place to help keep them aligned when sewing.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

8. Sew together along the long edge. I usually lay the open seams flat on both sides, but you could also just let them fold in one direction or the other. You may need to fold some pieces of fabric under the raw edges as you go to make sure that the seams meet up right. Neither of these things will be obvious in your final product so try not to stress over them. Clip raw edges after each seam. I usually don’t bother clipping the super thick part where the seams meet.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

9. Continue sewing/clipping {alternating rows} until all 7 rows are complete.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

10. Using a zig zag or some other decorative stitch, sew all the way around the blanket so that it’s completely enclosed on all sides {using a pretty or contrasting thread if desired}. I use a 5/8″ seam allowance for this part since the outer edge of the zig zag is on the shallow side. Clip all four edges.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

11. Wash the blanket once or twice. I always throw it in with other clothes or some dryer balls because I want to get as much fray out of the raw edges as possible. Same with the dryer – I might even do a couple of cycles. This will create a ton of shreds and lint so beware if your washer/dryer are temperamental at all.

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

12. Clip stray threads and you’re done! See? Easy, right?

{How to} Rag Quilt | Chaos & Love

A few notes –

  • There are a ton of variations for arranging your fabric squares. I have even used the denim to form letters once or twice. I’ve also switched it up and used rectangles. Just make sure you sketch out your design in advance so you have something to reference while sewing.
  • This blanket will be approximately 42×42. You can increase or decrease the size of the blanket in a couple of ways. You could do more/less squares per row/column or make the squares larger/smaller. I’ve done it both ways. Just decide how big you want the blanket and do the math from there.
  • If you run into problems with your sewing machine part way through the blanket, check the bobbin housing. It may need to be cleaned out a bit because the flannel creates a lot of lint which makes the sewing machine very mad.
  • DO NOT STRESS ABOUT STRAIGHT LINES. If you get caught up making the lines perfectly straight, you will make yourself crazy. Kinda straight is good enough in this case.

Most importantly, have fun with it! I’d love to see blankets you make using this rag quilt how to. If you have any questions, feel free to or leave them in the comments.

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    • Jessica says

      Terri and I are planning a craft day AWBC fundraiser. You’ll have to save your pennies so you can come.

  1. says

    Thanks for the comment! My daughter will love it! 😉 I love this rag quilt, by the way! I wish I had more patience to quilt anything!

  2. says

    OMG. WHERE HAS THIS BEEN? I decided to get all crafty (and nutso) when I was pregnant and to make my son a quilt. Needless to say I have every freaking square sewn together, but I never actually attached them all to each other. Sigh. This would have been so much easier. I LOVE the way it looks!
    Ashley @ It’s Fitting recently posted…For My Kids… Love is Love #loveisloveMy Profile

  3. says

    If I use flannel for the batting do I make it the same size as the quilt block. Also, Did you just sew 1″around the square. I do not want to put an X in if I don’t have to . I am going to embrodier a design in some of the squares. thanks sharon

  4. says

    I love denim rag quilts! They are such a great way to repurpose old jeans. I keep one in the trunk of my car.



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