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.
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.