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Making a rag quilt

 

It’s the final day of the FIVE bobbin sewing challenge with the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q. I’ve managed to get through a lot of the projects that were selected at the beginning of the week. The Opal 690Q has come through the challenge with flying colors and I’m very happy.

 

Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q
Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q

 

As I was winding down the string pieced project from yesterday, I still had some bobbin thread to use up. Nothing on the stack of projects was going to use that up in a hurry so I looked around the studio and found another project that had been sitting for a long time and grabbed that.

I had a friend, actually two friends, who had started a rag quilt. They decided they didn’t want to finish them and gave the pieces to me. I’m one to never say no to a freebie so I accepted both.

This would be the perfect thing to finish off the bobbins.

Sewing a rag quilt

If you’ve never sewn a rag quilt before, you start by cutting out a bunch of squares of flannel, smaller squares of batting and create a bunch of small quilts. They’re usually quilted with an X through the center. Then those little squares get sewn together with the seams exposed on the front of the quilt. The edges get clipped, the quilt gets washed and the exposed seams get raggy.

The quilts that I was given were made from rectangles which meant a lot more seams had to be clipped and I suspect that’s why I was given the projects! Besides both quilts were huge!

Upon looking at the projects, which came in a huge garbage bag, the little quilt sandwiches had already been made. The rectangles just (don’t you love that word) needed to be sewn together.

 

Flannel sections of a rag quilt ready to sew together
Flannel sections of a rag quilt ready to sew together

 

This is what the flannel sections looked like. The squares or rectangles can be any size you want. I’m not sure what size these rectangles are as I didn’t measure them. It was the first rag quilt I’d ever seen that was made with rectangles. Normally, rag quilts are made with squares.

The batting pieces are cut anywhere from 1″ to 2″ smaller than the rectangles/squares of flannel. One piece of batting is sandwiched between two flannel squares and an X is quilted through the center.

 

One section of the flannel raggy quilt that has already been quilted
One section of the flannel raggy quilt that has already been quilted

 

There was such a variety of colors and patterns on the flannel that I didn’t bother to lay them out. The pattern was also included in the bag but I must admit that I’m not good with patterns. I should have looked at the pattern a bit more carefully. There were two sizes in the pattern. I wasn’t sure which one the ladies were making and I assumed they were making the smaller version despite the fact that there were pencil marks beside the larger size. I think there’s a saying about assuming things, but I won’t go there.

There isn’t really a right or a wrong side to the rectangles. I grabbed two rectangles and sewed them together with a 1″ seam. It was easy to maintain the 1″ seam by using the guides on the stitch plate on the Opal 690Q.

 

Using the guide lines on the stitch plate to get a 1" seam allowance
Using the guide lines on the stitch plate to get a 1″ seam allowance

 

In no time at all, I was through another bobbin. I inserted the LAST of the bobbins. Remember that I had added a 6th partially wound bobbin into the mix.

 

Time to change the bobbin
Time to change the bobbin

 

Once all the rows were sewn together and yes, I discovered that in fact, the ladies were making the large version of the quilt. So I added the necessary pieces to make the rows longer. In fact, when I got all the rows laid out, I was wishing I had combined the rectangles from the two bags to make three smaller quilts, not two large ones. But I wasn’t going back to rip out those rows. We’re going to end up with two large and heavy rag quilts.

I do like my quilts to be heavy so I figure someone else out there likes heavy quilts as well. Let’s just keep sewing.

Next up was to sew the rows together. I used the Sewing Advisor of the Opal 690Q to set the sewing machine to woven Heavy. I was now going through a lot of layers of flannel and from time to time, I was going through the batting depending on how it was positioned within the quilt sandwich.

You can see from the photo below, that when I went over those seam allowances that there was a LOT of bulk. The Opal 690Q performed flawlessly as I went through all those layers.

 

Many thicknesses to sew over at the seam intersections
Many thicknesses to sew over at the seam intersections

 

It didn’t take long to get through the last bobbin. The FIVE bobbin sewing challenge is over!

However, my project was half sewn together and I was on fire. I was so close, well not really, but I really wanted to get this quilt together and not have another UFO so I decided to keep going.

 

The last bobbin is empty
The last bobbin is empty

 

Not only had I emptied five bobbins and a partial bobbin, but I had used some non-gray bobbins as well. It was time to clean out the bobbin case, change the needle and wind the next set of bobbins.

 

Lots of lint in the bobbin case
Lots of lint in the bobbin case

 

There wasn’t as much lint as I would have imagined given the fact that the last project I was working on was a flannel one. Still, all that lint can affect the tension on the sewing machine and so cleaning on a regular basis is critical to the operation of the sewing machine.

Cleaned out all the lint, replaced the needle. Remember, approximately 8 hours of sewing and that needle needs to be changed. A dull needle can damage your fabric so you must change it on a regular basis. It’s surprising how many people don’t know that. Since it’s hard to gauge 8 hours of sewing, my rule of thumb is four or five bobbins. Once the bobbins are used up, it’s time to change the needle.

 

Five bobbins are wound, the needle has been changed
Five bobbins are wound, the needle has been changed

 

One thing that really surprises me. Well, it doesn’t surprise me, but it’s a shame that people don’t pay more attention to it. That’s the tension on their sewing machine.

I came across one rectangle that had only one line of quilting through it. I stitched the second line. In the photo below, the difference between the stitching done on the Opal 690Q and whatever machine was used by the other person is pretty obvious.

In the line of stitching that runs from bottom left to top right, the stitches are well formed, neither the top or bottom thread is sitting on the fabric, the threads are knotted in the seam. Sometimes, it’s hard to see that, but it pretty obvious in this example. If the tension isn’t right, the seams will have a tendency over time to pull out. I wasn’t going to rip out those seams where the tension was wonky.

With the Opal 690Q, even those bulky seams at the intersections were very well formed. Best part, I didn’t have to adjust the tension. No, I just started to sew. And I maintain the sewing machine, by keeping the bobbin case clear of lint and change the needle on a regular basis.

 

Tension on the bottom left to top right seam is well formed, the other is not.
Tension on the bottom left to top right seam is well formed, the other is not.

 

A couple of days ago, I was sewing some small quilt tops together. Remember how I sewed the rows in pairs and then sewed those rows in pairs and so on? Because of the bulk, it was critical that I sew this quilt together the same way. In the photo below, I’m sewing the two quilt halves together. It was the only time I had to deal with all that bulk.

 

A very large bulky quilt easily handled by the Opal 690Q
A very large bulky quilt easily handled by the Opal 690Q

 

At last, the quilt is finished. Now comes the hard part or at least the time-consuming part. All those exposed seam allowances have to be ragged.

Now if only there was a function on the sewing machine that would do that! I do have a special pair of scissors with spring action handles that makes the task easier, but it still takes a lot of time.

 

Quilt top with exposed seams that are ready to be cut with the special rag scissors
Quilt top with exposed seams that are ready to be cut with the special rag scissors

 

Before I start to clip those seam allowances, I took a picture. It’s hard to gauge the size by the photo. Let’s just say that it’s big!

 

Rag quilt sewn together, it's ready to be clipped.
Rag quilt sewn together, it’s ready to be clipped.

 

I didn’t have time to finish clipping the seam allowances and get it washed. My plan is to get that done and when I’m back in a couple of weeks, I’ll have the completely finished quilt top to show you.

I had loads of fun this week as I worked my way through some of my projects. The FIVE bobbin sewing challenge helped me to focus on getting things done. I’m not even sure that I can remember everything. The first day, I prepared five bindings, then I prepped a hanging sleeve and got that sewn to the quilt. A couple of bindings got stitched to the quilt. Two small quilts got sewn from start to finish, joined some batting, finished a couple of gift bags, sewn on a button, string piecing and lastly the rag quilt.

That’s loads! But what’s more important is that each of those items got finished easily, quickly and with no frustration over how my sewing machine performed. It didn’t matter what kind of project I was doing, what kind of thread, or the technique. The Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q performed extremely well.

This is a starter machine in the computerized sewing machine line, but its performance makes it a winner. It’s the kind of machine that you could take to class or retreat or even as your main sewing machine. There wasn’t one time where I said, oh I wish I were using a more feature laden sewing machine. I love the Opal 690Q. It’s my new best friend.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the adventure this week. It’s been loads of fun and I’m so excited, that I wound another FIVE bobbins and I’m seeing how far I can go with them.

Have a great day!

Ciao!

 

This is part 5 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 4:  Techniques for buttons, batting and string piecing

Elaine Theriault is a teacher, writer and pattern designer who is completely obsessed with quilting. Elaine’s Tech Tips column (originally published in A Needle Pulling Thread magazine) is now available online in e-book format at QUILTsocial.com. When not quilting, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Lexi and Murphy, or can be found cycling across the country. Her blog is crazyquilteronabike.blogspot.com.

5 Comments

  1. Lori Morton

    Love Love Loooove your Rag Quilt!!! Love the Rectangles!! I have made one (so far)…but were Squares. Thank you for the tension Info too! 🙂 My Husband just bought me a pair of the same scissors/snips you used! Haven’t tried them yet..used regular scissors on my quilt..whewie!! lol

  2. Janet

    I have bought all the fabric to start a rag quilt, but haven’t made it as yet. Might start tomorrow, as I finished a UFO today!

  3. VickiT

    Elaine ~ That rag quilt looks awesome! I’ve never been a huge fan of rag quilts, but after seeing this one using rectangles, rather than squares I’m a fan now. I really like it made using a rectangle much more than a square, although I really can’t figure out why. It appears in the picture that you have staggered the rows somehow; is that correct? I think that may be the difference. How did you do the staggering, or am I nuts and seeing things?

    • Vicki – no you are not seeing things! In fact, those rectangles are offset. There is a short (half a rectangle) at the beginning and end of every other row. That causes it to be offset. Just remember – it’s a lot of clipping!!!! If you make one, don’t forget to share it with us! Elaine

      • VickiT

        Great! Thank you Elaine. At least I still have my eyesight. LOL My hands, however are another thing and most of the reason I haven’t attempted a rag quilt. But, as I mentioned too, I’ve never been super fond of this style quilt and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. After seeing yours, possibly it was the square shape of all those I’ve seen before and the fact they all looked the same? I really love the way you’ve done yours with a different shape, as well as the offset. It looks awesome. I do have the Fiskars scissors to clip rag quilts which have the cut assist, for lack of a better term so that will help all the clipping I’m sure.

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