Rag Quilting Tips Series
#1 “Fabric Selection and How Much To Buy”
For many, many months now I have been selling my various Rag Quilt patterns online (Etsy), (Bonanzle), (e-Patternshoppes) and have many of the same questions asked over and over: Is this easy for a beginner? How much fabric do I need to buy? And what kind of fabrics work best? To help answer these questions and more I have decided to write about it in my blog in a series format, so there will be more tips to come…
How easy is Rag Quilting? Hey, if you can cut the fabric straight and sew straight, then it is easy. The tricky part is knowing what to do with the seams and corners. I tell ALL my customers that practice makes perfect. Trust me, I did not do a good job on my first rag purse!! It sat on the UFO shelf for a couple of months until I figured out how to re-do some things. (UFO stands for UnFinished Objects for those who did not know already.) I actually put the entire “top” together and layered the batting and backing like a traditional quilt to quilt it, before I discovered “sandwiching the blocks” first and then quilting as I sandwiched. I laugh at myself now…Wow! I actually think rag quilting is the easiest type of quilting there is. If you have not tried it because you feel intimidated-don’t be! You will be surprised! I do want to stress patience though and lots of practice. With those two things you will be really good at creating rag quilted items!
What are the best fabrics to use in Rag Quilting? I have a personal preference in fabrics and that is a type called homespun.
In my experience homespuns fray in the seams the best due to their looser woven fibers. A homespun is a fabric that is, most of the time, plaid and will have the design on both sides of the material. When the homespun is used in rag quilting the blooms created by the clipped seams become full and are more beautiful, I think. However, I realize not everyone likes homespuns or maybe they are looking for something in a different type of print:
In that case a 100% cotton fabric with whatever print you desire can be selected. Now, there is some debate about the quality of fabrics used: ALL Quilt Shop Quality fabrics that are 100% cotton and designed for quilting are great selections! With other shops you need to be careful in your selections. There are some “printed on” selections that will not produce a very good fray or bloom when clipped. So check the overall softness of the fabric. If it feels more coarse or hard then it probably won’t fray well. Look at the cut end and see if the threads fray well- if so that will be what you want.
Another tip in buying fabrics at a shop other than the QS’s is to hold the fabric up to the light. If you see daylight- the fiber count is too low and you should keep looking. Too light of a fiber count will produce a lower quality creation, and you really want to create something that will last for years. (Just some things to think about.)
Also if you prefer to buy pre-cut fabric squares make sure to see if the fabric is QSQ or not. Some sellers only carry QSQ while others do not.
Chenilles, Minky, and flannel fabrics are also great selections to use in your rag quilting items. I have used new and vintage Chenilles. The downfall with chenille is that it can be really messy to work with, but they look great in the finished project. Minky fabrics are so soft a beautiful, but the threads to do not fray in the blooms, so they will keep their shape or look a bit curly. And flannels used on the outside of rag quilts are nice -and snuggly too. I have a couple of tips for the flannel:
1. If you use dark colors PREWASH them ESPECIALLY SOLID RED as it will bleed onto other colors during the laundering.
2. Select flannels that are especially made for quilting. They are of a better quality and do not pil as much when laundered.
3. IF cheaper end flannels are used then use a sweater shaver on the rag quilted item after it is laundered to remove the little pils. Cheaper flannels will create those little pils which will make your NEW item look USED!! Get a sweater shaver-it will save your project!!
One last note on fabric selection is this: Vintage fabrics can be used for these rag quilted items. I acquired quite a stash from my grandmother that I use all the time. Just understand that some fabrics might not work as well as others…try to use 100% cottons. If you are not sure if it is 100% cotton or not wad it in you hand for a minute or so and if it keeps a wrinkle it IS 100% cotton. Blends and other fabric types will not hold a wrinkle like 100% cotton will.
Now lets talk about the batting selections: I use a white flannel fabric for batting in most of my rag quilted items. Flannel makes the completed quilt warm enough to use in the winter, and light enough to use in the warmer months. I buy the flannel in bolts as I use quite a bit of it. Watch for sales during specific times of the years to get the best deals when buying entire bolts too. I also like the flannel because of the way it looks in the seams as it frays well too.
My other favorite batting is Warm & White or Warm & Natural. I have tried using a poly-fiber that was more on the thicker side after laundering. It was ok, but gave the item a more pillowy look. I have used it on the sides and in the bottom of my purses to give them more stability to stand up on their own.
My suggestion is to try out different types to see what you like best. Make a small candle mat or a coaster first to test out what you like.
How much fabric should I buy for this project? Well, obviously, that depends on what you are making. Look the pattern over to see what it says if you are using a pattern. Or I have permission from a friend, Fabrics N Quilts to use her calculator tool that I can share with you here. Some patterns will tell you exactly how much yardage to buy and others tell you how many squares to buy. The calculator tool will help you decide how much fabric is needed in making very small to the largest of quilts.
When buying fabric to make purses you will have to count how many squares are on each side. You can use the calculator tool to figure the amount of fabric needed for those too.
Well I am at the end of my first submission here, so one last thing to mention is please keep in mind that these are tips that I have experienced along my way of Rag Quilting. They are to be used as a guide to help you in your own Rag Quilting Venture. You may come to learn a new way of doing something or have a difference of opinion. That is fine. I welcome all comments, suggestions, or even additional information from others who might have an additional tip to share. I am all about getting good information out to others for the benefit of making someone else’s life better. Thanks!!
My next submission will be on Rag Quilting equipment and tools.