How to make a rag quilt

How did you make out with your free motion quilting practice? Did you at least practice one square?

Today, I’m going to use the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q to assemble the rag quilt. I love these rag quilts as they don’t require a lot of precision so if you’re a beginner, they’re very forgiving.

Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q

Lay out the blocks

Take your stack of blocks and lay them out in a pattern that’s pleasing to you. I had used scraps for my blocks so I had no idea how they would go together. I could have randomly laid them out, but this diagonal stripe pattern seemed to work just fine.

Stack of quilted blocks for the rag quilt

Blocks laid out in 7 x 9 configuration with diagonal stripe

Set up the sewing machine

Setting up the Sapphire 960Q was an easy job. I put the Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot on the machine and left the stitch length at 2.5. I’m stitching through a lot of fabric so a small stitch length isn’t necessary.

I’m using the guidelines on the stitch plate as my seam guide. My seam allowance was approximately ½”. Remember – this is a rag quilt, we don’t need super precision as no one will be able to see those intersections when we’re done!

Joining the blocks

Take your first two blocks and place them with the BACKING together. Then stitch the seam. I didn’t bother to anchor the stitches at the beginning and end of the seam lines, they’ll be anchored when the rows are sewn together.

This next step is a bit tricky when you first start as we’re so used to stitching with the RIGHT sides together.

Use the guidelines on the stitch plate to get a consistent seam allowance

The right side of one row with exposed seam allowances

The wrong side of one row with NO seam allowances showing

When joining one row to another, I kept my seam allowances going in opposite directions. Even though we won’t be able to actually see these intersections on the front, lining them up helps to keep the rows lined up. Keep those seam allowances going in opposing directions throughout the quilt.

That’s a lot of thickness to sew through, but using the Exclusive Sewing Advisor which I set to Woven Heavy and the Exclusive Sensor System which senses the thickness of fabric when stitching and sews over it smoothly and evenly with perfect fabric feeding, I had no issues whatsoever to sew this quilt together.

Sewing over multiple thicknesses

At last in this photo, you can see my squarish/roundish spiral. None of them are the same.

Seam allowances going in opposite direction

Whenever I sew a quilt top together, I start by sewing each row together and then I sew the rows together in pairs. Next, those pairs of rows get sewn together and lastly, I sew the two halves of the quilt together.

This is a good practice for several reasons. The first reason is that until the last seam, you don’t have a very bulky quilt to work with and secondly, there’s less wear and tear on the rows and less chance of stretching if all rows are handled equally. If you start with row one and then add row two and then row three, that means that row one gets handled every time, while the last row only gets handled once. On a regular cotton quilt, that can add the potential for stretching to that first row. Sewing in pairs makes a lot of sense!

Rows are now sewn in pairs

Pairs of rows are now sewn into two quilt halves

Quilt top is now sewn together

Yeah – I was so proud of my quilt. I was happy with the free motion quilting, the top went together just fine, but when I flipped it over to get a picture of the back, I almost died laughing!

Have a look at the next picture. Do you see what I see?

Where did that odd color come from?

When I was quilting the blocks, I had my fabrics in two stacks – the same fabric for all the backs, different fabrics for the front. When I got to the last square, only two squares of backing were left. This project was cut many years ago and I figured I must have run out of fabric for the top and just substituted the missing top fabric with backing. Who would have thought I made a mistake and used the top fabric on the top and bottom of one block!

Well, when I turned the quilt over and saw my missing fabric, I was laughing so hard I thought I would fall off my stool. It was pretty funny.

The thought of fixing the error ran VERY briefly through my head. Then common sense kicked in. This is a rag quilt – it’s not an heirloom and besides – the quilt has way more of a story this way than if everything was perfect!

I did run one seam line around the entire perimeter of the quilt to secure all the ends of the seam allowances.

Running a line of stitching around the edge of the quilt

Stitching around the perimeter of the quilt

Clipping the rag quilt

We’re almost done the rag quilt. It gets its name from the seam allowances that are encouraged to fray. In order to encourage them to fray, all the seam allowances have to be clipped.

Now here’s a very valuable lesson – actually two lessons.

The first one is to always put your tools back in the proper location. As I mentioned, this quilt had been cut many years ago and look what I found in the project box.

AHA – so that’s where those scissors have been hiding

Getting ready to clip the rag quilt

I like a nice fuzzy edge to my rag quilts so I clip often.

Seam allowance is clipped

The second lesson is to always use the proper tool. I know these are NOT the proper rag quilt scissors. I started to clip the quilt and remembered from another rag quilt project that the points are way too sharp and keep catching on the fabric. It’s hard to clip with these scissors, although the spring action in the handle is awesome. Who knows why I left them in the project box.

Where could my rag quilt scissors be? Do I even have a pair? I may have borrowed a pair of proper rag quilt scissors last time I made a rag quilt or they could be stuck in another project box somewhere.

In the essence of time and my sanity, I purchased a pair of rag quilt scissors. Using the right tool made clipping those seam allowances a snap. I watched a movie with my husband while I was clipping and several times, he asked me if I was watching and I was able to give him accurate information about the movie every time! Phew! Goes to show that quilters can focus on two things at the same time!

The PROPER scissors for clipping a rag quilt

The last step was to throw the quilt in the washer. No time to get to the laundromat so I washed it at home. The quilt is not that big and there really wasn’t a lot of fluff in the washer or the dryer. And now I have a gorgeous fluffy rag quilt to enjoy!

Completed rag quilt

With frayed exterior seam allowances

Wasn’t that a fun project! I have loads more flannel and stacks of narrow batting strips, I should get myself busy and prep another rag quilt. If you make a rag quilt, send us some pictures so we can see!

I hope you enjoyed this week of fun with the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q. It’s been a great week and I even got to finish a project or two which is always exciting.

The Sapphire 960Q is a fabulous sewing machine that tackles any job with great ease. It’s going to be tough to give it back. If you’re looking for a general purpose sewing machine, I’d give this one some very serious consideration. Loads of great accessories, ability to handle everything I threw at it. Yes – if I needed a new sewing machine – I’d buy it! Have a great day! Ciao!

This is part 5 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 4:  Tips for using the free motion foot

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Cathie Scanlon April 7, 2016 - 3:38 pm
I love it. I've been wanting to try one and his makes it look so easy!
Rhonda April 7, 2016 - 11:31 am
Fabulous photos with clear directions... AND your colours are so yummy! Rag quilts are my favourite "quickie quilts"! Feeling inspired to try your quilting... more exciting than my usual "X"!
Nancy April 6, 2016 - 1:58 pm
Not sure yet about rag quilts. I like your directions - well done.
Carla A. Canonico April 6, 2016 - 2:10 pm
The important part is that whenever you feel you want to make a rag quilt you know where to find the instructions!
Arden Allen April 6, 2016 - 8:28 am
I will try making one of these, looks easy enough thanks
Linda in TX April 6, 2016 - 8:17 am
My Daughter, who has waited all these years, to finally start sewing, has dived into this rag quilt thing. She's done some very cool quilts. I've done a bag and a baby blanket, so far. So easy, yet so cool! Thanks for showing us your version and the tips.
Carla A. Canonico April 6, 2016 - 10:06 am
Thank you for sharing this.
Rebecca K April 5, 2016 - 9:18 pm
I love this rag quilt with all the free motion in the squares! I've only done it years ago plain or with an "X". Thanks for the inspiration.
Carla A. Canonico April 6, 2016 - 10:08 am
Oh yes! Give it a try, thanks for sharing.
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