Rag Quilts vs. Traditional Quilts: What are the Differences?

Rag quilts have several unique features that set them apart from traditional quilts:

  • Rag quilt blocks are layered with batting and backing and quilted one at a time, before you sew all the blocks together. This quilt-as-you-go method is a lot easier than forcing a bulky quilt through the throat of your sewing machine.
  • You stitch rag quilt blocks together with the seam allowances showing on top of the quilt, instead of hidden inside the layers. The seams are clipped to create a raggedy “sashed” look between the blocks. This method hides any little flaws in your cutting, quilting, or seams.
  • Rag quilts don’t need a quilt binding. The quilt’s outer edges are also clipped, then the quilt is washed to fray all the clipped edges and create a fringe around the quilt.

    Rag quilt with simple fringed edge

Scrappy rag quilt with knotted outer border

All these things add up to a quilt that’s colorful and very, very easy — much easier for a new quilter than making a traditional quilt.

Another factor that makes rag quilts easy is that you don’t have to have three layers, like you do in a traditional quilt. I prefer to make my rag quilts with a single layer of polar fleece fabric backing instead of using the traditional two layers of flannel backing. I live in a cool climate, and polyester fleece makes a warmer quilt than flannel. Using fleece also saves a step because you can omit the middle fabric layer. Fleece gives a rag quilt a pleasantly puffy look.

If you live in a hot climate, though, or want a thinner quilt, you can make your rag quilt with the traditional three layers of thinner fabrics. I have even used an old flannel sheet from the thrift store for the middle layer, because most of that layer is hidden inside the blocks; only the frayed edges show. I have also used bamboo quilt batting for the middle layer. The finished quilt looked good, but I felt a bit worried about how well the exposed batting would stand up to repeated washing, so I haven’t tried that again.

  • November 10, 2012
Rag Quilting for Beginners by Felicity Walker

Learn to Rag Quilt with Our Best-Selling Guide

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Felicity Walker
 

Felicity Walker is the author of the best-selling Quilting for Beginners book series and other books for quilters. She has been quilting for nearly twenty years and loves finding easier, faster, and more fun ways to make quilts.

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