How to Make an Easy Rag Quilt
This easy Double Four Patch rag quilt pattern is sewn with five fabrics of varying contrast. Plain squares alternate with four-patch blocks to create the Double Four Patch layout.
You needn't stress about sewing perfect seams when you make a rag quilt. Sew as accurately as possible, but small variations won't be noticed.
If this is your first rag quilt, this tutorial will help you understand the assembly process.
To make a rag quilt with triangles, try this Indian Hatchet rag quilt pattern.
Rag Quilt Batting Choices
Flannel is a favorite rag quilt batting because it's soft and it frays nicely when the ragged seams are exposed. Unlike typical quilt batting, flannel remains intact when washed, so there's no need to add quilting stitches unless you'd like to dress up the blocks a bit.
Use flannel for all three layers of a rag quilt for an even softer finished project, but keep in mind that extra flannel adds a bit of extra weight. This pattern makes a quilt that will finish with the dimensions of about 38-1/2" x 53-1/2."
Large squares: Floral print, 1-3/4 yards
Four-patch blocks: Four different prints, 3/4 yard each
Flannel: 2-3/4 yards
Rag Quilt Cutting Guide
Floral Squares: Cut (7) 8-1/2" x 44" strips, then cut (34) 8-1/2" squares from the strips**
Four-Patch Blocks: From each fabric, cut (4) 4-3/4" x 44" strips, then cut (36) 4-3/4" squares from each set**
Flannel: Cut (4) 8-1/2" x 44" strips, then cut (17) 8-1/2" squares and (8) 4-3/4" x 44" strips, then cut (72) 4-3/4" squares**
**Additional fabric is needed if the yardage isn't at least 43" wide after removing selvages. If you are new to calculating yardage, this tutorial will help.
Get Familiar With Rag Quilt Construction Methods
Rag quilts are easy to make once you learn to reverse the sewing method we normally use to make a quilt. All rag quilt patches are assembled into individual quilt sandwiches and sewn with the backing sides of fabric aligned together, a step that makes seam allowances visible on the front of the quilt, rather than on its the back.
A walking foot isn't required to make a rag quilt but does make the quilt easier to sew. The foot's built-in feed dogs help grip and advance the upper layer of fabric in unison with the sewing machine feed dogs underneath, keeping the layers from shifting apart as they move through the sewing machine.
Sew the pieces of this rag quilt together with a 1/2" seam allowance instead of the 1/4" inch seam we typically use for quilts.
- Locate the 1/2" mark on your sewing machine's throat plate. Mark it with a Post-It note or strip of masking tape to help you remember to sew a wider than usual seam.
Make the Quilt Sandwiches
- Place an 8-1/2" floral square right side down on your work table. Center a flannel square of the same size on top of the floral. Top off the pile with another floral, but position this square right side up.
- Repeat to make a total of 17 quilt sandwiches from the 8-1/2" squares.
- Use the same stacking method to make 18 quilt sandwiches from each print cut into 4-3/4" squares. Keep stacks of like fabrics together.
Don't worry if the fabrics in each stack aren't perfectly matched, just align the edges as closely as possible.
Should You Quilt the Rag Quilt?
There's no need to quilt the squares because flannel doesn't come apart with use. Some people sew an "X" or another simple pattern in the sandwiches before beginning, but that step is optional.
If you do add quilting stitches, keep them out of the 1/2" seam that surrounds each stack's perimeter.
Sew Four Patch Quilt Blocks
Follow these steps to make your four-patch blocks:
- Set your machine to sew a shorter than normal stitch length. Shorter stitches help keep seams intact when edges fray in the wash.
- Decide how you want to arrange the four small squares in four-patch blocks. Arrange the components of a block next to your sewing machine.
- Align the two sandwiches in the top row, placing backing sides of the stack together. Sew the sandwiches together along one edge with a 1/2" seam allowance. If your stacks have the same fabrics on each side it doesn't matter how they are positioned for sewing.
- Repeat to sew the bottom row.
- Join the rows, again placing backing sides together to sew. Push seam allowances in opposite directions and butt intersections together before you sew or push allowances open when matching blocks. Use long straight pins to secure fabrics if you wish.
- Use the first block for a visual reference as you assemble the remaining four patch blocks. That may sound silly—these are very simple quilt blocks—but it's easy to place a patch in the wrong position while becoming accustomed to this "backward" sewing method.
- To save time, chain piece all of the top row stacks, then do the same with the bottom row stacks. Remember to use a 1/2" seam allowance.
- Stack the top and bottom row pairs next to your sewing machine, arranging them to form the correct block layout.
- Chain piece the rows together along their middle seam. Finger press the blocks open.
Take a minute to look at the backs of your quilt blocks. They have the finished look that we normally see on the top side of a quilt, making the rag quilt reversible.
Sew the Rag Quilt
Use your fingers to press seam allowances open or in opposite directions as you match rows for sewing. Use straight pins through all layers to keep edges aligned. Remove pins as you sew.
Place the backing sides of sandwiches together when you assemble components and be sure to use a 1/2" seam allowance.
- Gather three four-patch blocks and two sandwiches made from plain squares.
- Sew the components together, beginning and ending with a four-patch block and separating the three four-patch blocks with a floral square. Refer to the top row in the Rag Quilt Layout drawing above.
- Repeat to make a total of 4 identical rows.
- Gather three floral square sandwiches and two four-patch blocks. Sew the components together as you did the previous rows, but begin and end each row with a floral square. Refer to the second row in the Rag Quilt Layout drawing.
- Sew the rows together as shown in the layout, beginning with a row that has four-patch blocks at its ends and alternating row types as you work. Be sure to align rows backing sides together and sew with a 1/2" seam allowance.
- Sew a seam 1/2" from all four edges of the quilt.
Finish the Rag Quilt
It's time to clip into the seam allowances of your quilt to encourage fraying when the quilt is washed.
Use any type of sharp scissors to make the clips. Spring-loaded scissors that open automatically after each cut help keep your hands from becoming tired. Most types have handles that your fingers wrap around rather than into, eliminating the holes that can make your fingers sore after many cuts.
Heritage snips are the scissors shown above. They're available from many sources, including Amazon.
Make clips straight into every seam allowance, spacing them 1/4" to 3/8" or so apart and stopping before you reach the seam. Be careful to clip in only one direction at seam intersections. Clipping in two directions in those areas removes chunks of fabric, resulting in gaps along frayed edges.
Make clips in the seams that surround the perimeter of the quilt, taking care to cut in only one direction at each corner.
Wash the Rag Quilt
Wash the rag quilt in a long wash cycle. You'll want to opt for a delicate cycle because rougher agitation doesn't seem to make the clips fray more. Put just a touch of soap in the wash because it helps the edges fray.
Inspect the quilt before placing it into the clothes dryer. If you forgot to clip the seams, you can do it now. Dry the quilt and clip loose threads if necessary.
Some washing machines have a lint filter that catches most of the frays. If yours does not, and you plan to make many rag quilts, remember that the rinse water does contain strings that could affect a septic system.
Many of the strings become 'stuck' to the quilt during its wash, and will be trapped by the dryer's lint filter.
Inspect the Quilt for Unclipped and Broken Seams
Check again for unclipped seams and clip as needed. Turn the quilt over and inspect the seams from the backside of the quilt to make sure no seams have unraveled from clips that traveled too near the seam allowances.
Repair broken seams. Begin sewing a bit before the broken seam and stop sewing a short distance past the damaged area, backstitching at the beginning and end of the new seam.
Wash the quilt as many times as you like to encourage additional fraying.
More Rag Quilt Patterns
If you enjoyed making this rag quilt, or want to explore a few more patterns before you decide which one to sew, check out the following alternatives: