Saturday, October 15, 2011

100 Sandwiches Rag Quilt

If you haven't already, please check out my previous post about painting my daughter's bedroom.  

As if my 5 year old daughter really needed one more pink thing in her room!  

I've been on "quilt mode" for the last month or so.  This is mostly due to my dear blogging friend and Retro Pillow Challenge cohort, Keren from sew la vie!  She has been quilting up a storm lately and I've been inspired to try my hand at it as well.  My only hesitations were that I only had smaller pieces of fabric and batting and very limited space needed to create a decent sized quilt.  A rag quilt seemed like the perfect fit for my needs. 

Now there are many rag quilt tutorials out there so I decided not the take the time and effort to give you the step-by-step, but I will give you a few links to try out if you're interested in the process:


The basic idea behind any type of quilting is creating a "quilting sandwich".  The bread of your sandwich is the front and back of your quilt while the meat is the batting.  The quilting part comes in when you stitch through all the layers of the sandwich so the layers lay flat and don't shift and bunch.

The beauty of rag quilts is that you don't need to quilt together large pieces of sandwich.  It takes a lot of space, preparation, and technique to maneuver a large quilt through a sewing machine without the layers shifting or wrinkling.  In a rag quilt, you make lots of tiny sandwiches and then sew those together to create your quilt.  

My rag quilt was made of 100 little sandwiches sewn together in a 10X10 grid.  That means I had to cut out 100 6" squares for the front, 100 6" squares for the back, and 100 5" squares for the batting.  That was a lot of cutting.  For a "regular" patchwork quilt, I would only need to cut 100 squares for the patchwork front, and the batting and back would remain solid (or nearly solid) pieces.  So you can see there are some drawbacks to rag quilt construction as well.

Obviously, I didn't follow a pattern as to how my blocks were arranged.  That was a little hard for me because I have a natural love of symmetry and geometric patterns in general.  The only reason why I chose the random pattern was because I know how I am.  I know I would have spent waaaaaay too much time arranging and rearranging 200 squares on my floor.  I would have agonized over it.  I would have taken pictures of various arrangements with my phone and sent them to my various crafty friends and asked their opinion on each one.  I would gotten out my graph paper and assigned each fabric print it's own symbol and drawn it out as well.  I know me.  If I would have allowed myself, I would STILL have 200 squares of fabric lying on my family room floor!  So that is why I chose the random pattern of blocks.  However, even though the pattern looks relatively random, I allowed myself a bit of control by giving myself these simple rules to follow:
  1. The bread of each sandwich will not be the same fabric.
  2. The front of the quilt will not have blocks of the same fabric side-by-side.
  3. The same quilted design will not be side-by-side.
  4. The back of the quilt will be totally left to chance.

After all the fabric and batting was cut, I needed to quilt together my little sandwiches.  Instead of using a straight stitch and quilting an "x" in every block, I chose to try out my recently acquired free-motion quilting foot.  It's also known as a darning foot.  You can see from the picture above that I had fun making all sorts of simple designs using that foot.  I'm still not extremely skilled at using it, but 100 sandwiches later, I feel much more confident with the free-motion quilting technique.  I found that I got better results with the tighter designs like the apples and spirals.  A seemingly simple shape, the circle, gave me the most grief.

So if cutting out 200 squares of fabric and 100 squares of batting didn't drive me batty, snipping all the raw edges sure did!  My hand is still aching!  I'm absolutely investing in some spring action scissors for my next rag quilt.  Yes, there will be another rag quilt.  I have two kids, after all!

The point of the snipping, if you haven't already guessed, is to cause fraying.  Each time the quilt is washed, you'll see the evidence in your drier's lint trap and feel the results as each seam becomes fuzzier, softer, and more like chenille.  I should also mention that rather than adding a binding around the perimeter of this quilt, I chose to allow the edges to fray as well.  This required yet more snipping, but by the time I arrived at this step in the rag-quilt-making-process, I wasn't in the mood to fuss with making and sewing on a binding.  I simply did a double row of stitching all around the perimeter and snipped away.     

Did I fall in love with quilting?  Not so much.  All the repetition became tedious for me.  I know why I love sewing bags so much.  When I sew a handbag, I never have to repeat the same step 100 times!  Plus, I can sew a purse in an afternoon.  This quilt took me the better part of 3 days.  But, I'll make another for my 7 year old son.  His room will be painted a bright blue, orange, and yellow so stay tuned for more painting and quilting posts.  
***UPDATE!*** My son's quilt is done!  You can see it here.

While you're here at Ricochet and Away!, please check out our newest sewing challenge:

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,
P.S.  Thanks to CraftGossip for featuring this post!  You guys rock!

As seen on


  1. Looks fantastic and definitely fits in with the pink bedroom. I like the individual quilting designs inside each square. I haven't attempted a quilt yet and I'm thinking this may be a good way to begin.

  2. What a sweet quilt! I just finished my first quilt last night and I'm in the same boat with's tedious and repetitive. I'm all about the quick projects. Your daughter's bedroom wall is gorgeous! Can you paint that on my wall? ;)

  3. I think your quilt came out beautiful. It came out very nicely random. The colors you chose go together very well. And there's no such thing as too much pink!!! :-)

    It's hard to make a quilt with a zillion tiny squares! Maybe there's a speedy method for squares, like this one:

    You've given me the urge to try making a rag quilt. I loved the sample/tutorial links, especially the ones where the "rag lines" are along long strips:

    Looks like fun! And especially cozy made of flannel/fleece. I bet you can also try a design where the frayed "rag" edge is both on the front and the back, by alternating between stripes.

    Very very cool. Inspiring and successful project!

  4. I love it. It looks awesome, and I really like the way you finished (or didn't) the edges. Great job on your daughters room, I love the branches and birds.

  5. This is lovely. There is a distinct charm to a rag quilt. I just had one made for our bed at home and I love it. Congrats to you for tackling such a big job!

  6. Oh that is such a lovely quilt! I have wanted to make something pretty for awhile but like you don't have the space to make a big one. I will have to give this a try!! What size did you cut each fabric square?

  7. Hi Stephanie!
    The fabric squares were 6" and the batting was 5", but you can make them any size you want. This quilt ended up being a 50" square--a good size for a 5 y.o. girl to snuggle in!
    Rikka J.

  8. It is really a lovely quilt!. Your daughter must be very happy!.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Mª José (majogonga)

  9. What a great idea to make different designs on each square. I love how it turned out! I'm going to have to try that next time I make one.

    I also LOVE the girl's room in the first pic. Love the colors and the wall decal. Awesome, awesome, awesome!

    Jennifer from The Craft Patch

  10. Hi, after reading your entry I checked out your other links to rag quilts and still have a question...

    Is the "ragged seam look" only on one side?
    I don't see photos anywhere of the opposite side of the quilt so I'm still unsure.

    Thanks for posting!


  11. Oh, now this is cool!! I have had a rag quilt on my list of "want to do" for the longest time... but hadn't thought of free motion quilting something different on each of the squares. Awesome idea! I'm having fun looking around at your projects!

  12. Hi Rikka, I've featured your rag quilt today...

  13. It's beautiful. I love how you've quilted each square rather than do a cross. I've just finished my first rag lap quilt and am hooked.


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