How to Make a Christmas Rag Quilt…in A Hurry!
A Perfect Christmas Rag Quilt
What makes a perfect Christmas Rag Quilt? My definition is that it must be a quick and easy finish. Time is limited around the holidays and we may not have the time for an intricate pattern requiring another fabric purchase. Here’s a solution I think you’ll appreciate!
How to make a Christmas Rag Quilt in a hurry? First use what you already have on hand. Pull out your holiday fabric stash and scraps to see what you have to work with. Then determine what size block will work best using my tips below.
Make sure you have some flannel! This will not only be your biggest time saver but will also produce a fabulous finish. You don’t need to spend a fortune. The flannel for this quilt was on sale for less than $2.50 a yard. It’s thin which makes it perfect for what we need. Since we’ll be using two flannel layers, a lighter weight flannel will work best.
Lastly, rethink how you will assemble your rag quilt blocks. Yes, a traditional grid goes together very quick and easy, but with a slight alteration you can also eliminate any matching seams.
Want to Learn More About Rag Quilts?
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Make an Easy Christmas Rag Quilt
What Size are Rag Quilt Blocks
My rag quilts have measured from 4” to 10” squares. The smaller squares I tend to use when I want to include lots of different fabrics. Whereas the larger squares showcase fun prints beautifully. Of course, the easiest rag quilt of all is a strip rag quilt which is perfect for full widths of fabric.
For this Christmas rag quilt, the blocks are cut at 9“ and finish at 8“ after using a ½” seam allowance to assemble. Each block is actually made from Christmas fabric scraps leftover from other projects. In fact, many blocks are assembled with small scraps pieced together to use up all those bits of fabric we just can’t throw away!
How many Squares are Needed for a Rag Quilt
This Christmas Rag Quilt is a 72“ x 72“ lap size. It easily drapes over a piece of furniture to add some festive color. Even better is how handy that makes it to grab and curl up in on a chilly night. This pattern may be modified to any size you want. Either enlarge the blocks or increase the number of blocks you use. Size adaptability is a huge advantage to rag quilts so be sure you make exactly what you want!
Calculating Fabric Needed for a Rag Quilt
How to Use Precuts and Scraps in A Rag Quilt
Rag quilt fabric requirements is all about the block size you use. If you’re using precuts or scraps, determine a block size that works well with the fabric sizes you have. Once you choose a block size, consider your finished quilt size. Make sure your blocks will evenly fit into your dimensions. For example, 6” blocks will finish at 5” after the ½” seam allowance. So, your finished quilt size needs to be in 5” increments such as 55” x 70”. Once you have determined the number of blocks needed, see how many blocks you already have in that size. Then you’ll know how many more you’ll need to piece together.
The 9” block size in this quilt was determined by the fabrics sizes I chose to use. Since much of my fabric was left over fat quarters, I was dealing with 18” widths. That can easily be cut into 9” blocks. Then I also had a lot of strips from a log cabin quilt. Once pieced together, I simply cut them to size. I even found the first HST star I made a gazillion years ago and had to include that just for the memory. It’s not well made by any means, but it’s fun to have some of those original ‘less than perfect’ blocks. Besides, it’ll always be a fun story about this quilt. My wonky star before ‘wonky’ was even a thing!
How to Determine Fabric Requirements When Using Yardage.
When you are using yardage, it’s easiest to use a block size that will best use your full fabric width to minimize waste. Most fabrics will consistently be at least 40” wide. The easiest size blocks would be 4”, 5”, 8” or 10”. Since there is a ½” seam allowance, each block will finish 1” smaller than it’s cut size. The smaller 4” block would be great for a small crib or even a doll quilt. But it would take forever if making a king size. A good rule to follow is the larger the size quilt, the larger rag quilt block size you’ll use.
This quilt used 5 yards of fabric for each layer. That means if you are using fat quarters, you’ll need 21 which will each yield four 9″ blocks. There will be about a 3″ strip of your fat quarter left over. They can certainly be pieced together to get more blocks out of less fabric. At least eight of my blocks were pieced for this quilt.
Easiest Way to Assemble Your Rag Quilt
Rag Quilting with or Without Batting
Honestly, my rag quilts are just that, quilts made with left-over fabrics. They are the perfect solution to use up scraps quickly. Rag quilts also provide a perfect opportunity to use up those bits of batting lying around. If you always use the same weight batting, you’re in great shape. Start cutting your blocks.
If you tend to vary the batting weights you use, be careful mixing it up in a single quilt. You’ll find that some blocks may become more noticeably thick than others. But if the batting is similar in loft and weight, you should be good.
Rag Quilting Without Batting
For a rag quilt, after all those blocks are pieced and cut to size, do I really want to cut up all those batting squares too? Generally, not so much. Once I discovered flannel as a middle layer I was sold. Then I took it a step further and used just two layers of flannel. One for the top and one for the bottom! What a breeze that is. It makes an in incredibly soft, lightweight quilt.
A double layer of flannel works great when using just flannel fabrics for your quilt top and back. But when your top layer is a non-flannel cotton, you’ll want to use all three layers, or it’ll be too lightweight and not very quilt-like. You decide if it’ll be a batting layer with a flannel backing, or two layers of flannel. The extra flannel layer makes a great frayed edge, and also results in a heavier, warmer quilt. So, weigh your options and choose what works best for you.
This quilt is made with cotton prints on top and two layers of flannel, so I have a total of three layers. You can choose to just buy a neutral color for the middle layer since it won’t be seen or get a bit more creative. Since I was using green and red flannel, I chose to mix the blocks on back. You’ll notice it’s a bit like a checkerboard with the red and ‘grinch-green’ blocks alternating.
To Line Blocks Up…or Not
Whenever I assemble quilt blocks, I’m a stickler for nesting those seams into submission. Nice sharp points along a seam make me very happy. Perfectly matched corners are a thing of beauty. But let’s remember that we are working on a rag quilt here. Not to disregard its simple perfection, but when was the last time you saw a rag quilt displayed at a juried quilt show? Probably never! So, let’s get on with it.
A recent discovery for me has been using offset rag quilt seams. While it does require a bit of extra thought when piecing your rows, the best part is how easy it is to sew. When four seams line up on a rag quilt, it can be difficult to sew though, not to mention the difficult clipping required. Offsetting your seams makes sewing and clipping your rag quilt so much easier. You’ll love it once you give it a try.
All you need to do is cut one block an inch wider for every other row. When it comes time to sew your rows together, this block is cut in half. Then it’s sewn at the beginning and end of alternating rows throughout your quilt. This has revolutionized my rag quilt assembly and even adds a bit more design interest to the quilt top. Another benefit is the alternating block design on the quilt back. It’s a fun pattern and keeps your quilt interesting.
How to Sew Your Rag Quilt Blocks Together
Sewing multiple layers of un-basted fabric is challenging. Many fabrics will slip or stretch making it difficult to get even seams. There are two important steps in sewing any quilt, but especially a rag quilt. First, always begin with a nice, new, sharp needle. Sewing multiple layers is so much easier with a good needle. Also make sure you use the correct size needle. Lighter cotton fabrics don’t require a heavyweight needle which will leave large holes that you don’t want. But when sewing through multiple thick layers, your needle will be working extremely hard. So, use at least a size 14 needle for flannel and a size 16 for denim. It is worth the time it takes to change out a needle.
Secondly, use the correct presser foot for what you are sewing. You will want to use your even-feed walking foot for rag quilts. Multiple layers don’t always want to stay put and can shift. You may sometimes wonder why your fabric doesn’t line up at the end of a seam. It’s because the bottom fabric is being pulled and the top fabric simply slides along for the ride. The walking foot adds extra tension on the top layer, so it feeds evenly. What a fabulous tool it is! I use mine all the time. They come in different styles to fit various sewing machines but are easy to find online.
How to Finish Your Rag Quilt
Let the Clipping Begin
Please check out my rag quit tips for some diagrams to help you clip your rag quilt seams. You’ll especially love the corner clipping methods that keep those frayed seams looking nice and even.
Of course, using the best tools is always beneficial. These spring-loaded scissors will keep your hands much more comfortable so you can get the job done quickly. The spring helps push the handle back up as you’re clipping so you aren’t applying as much pressure in both directions. It offers a good bit of relief over the time you spend clipping.
Time to Wash and Dry Your Rag Quilt
You’ll find so many different ideas on this subject. My method is simple. Add a bit of detergent to the washer and use a 2nd rinse cycle. Then toss in the dryer. If your quilt is small, add a towel or two to provide enough movement to release those little threads. I set my dryer to about 20 minutes and empty the lint trap. Then continue drying from there.
When nice and dry, take your fluffy rag quilt outside and give it a few good shakes. You now have a beautiful rag quilt for yourself or to gift to someone special.
It’s common for bits of little threads to cling to your flannel fabrics but they will eventually disappear. If there are lots and it bothers you, give it another run through the washer and dryer. If all else fails, using a lint roller (a Dollar Store Special) will remove quite a bit. In a pinch, wrap some masking tape around your hand and rub it across the quilt. You’ll be surprised how well that can work.
Ready to Add a Ruffled Rag Quilt Border
Ruffled borders are a perfect way to finish of your rag quilt with style. You can see the ruffled border on this quilt along the bottom edge of the image above. If you’re interested in learning more about ruffled borders, check out my Ruffled Rag Quilt Border Course tab at the top of the page.
How Easy was That
Rag Quilts are a fantastic choice when you just want to get a quilt finished now. Unless it’s really huge, most rag quilts can be completed in a weekend or even a day. If you haven’t made a rag quilt before, give one of these patterns a try. If you’re a rag quilt pro, try a new method to change things up. Exploring new quilting ideas will always lead to new and exciting quilts. Have fun making your rag quilt.