How To Make a Rag Quilt

A rag quilt is a great way to recycle old clothing into something useful. A rag quilt is soft and comfortable, with exposed seam allowances on the front and finished seams on the back side. They are made with three layers, a top, a backing, and the batting inside the quilt. Here’s how to make a rag quilt:


Old clothing or cotton fabric (quilting cotton, flannel, homepun, or denim)
2-3 yards of cotton fabric for backing (exact measurements depend on size of quilt)
Polyester quilt batting
Needle or sewing machine
Sharp scissors

  1. Choose the top fabric. Your quilt can be made of old clothing, or you can buy cotton cloth specifically for making a quilt. Lay out the fabrics to decide how many squares of each you want to use.
  2. Cut the fabric into squares. Cut the chosen fabric into 7-inch squares. Remember to position the square on the fabric so that the pattern is acceptable; this is particularly important if the chosen fabric has a very large pattern, or has buttons or other embellishments that may get in the way of the squares. Cut the backing squares the same size. Then cut the batting into slightly smaller squares, around 5 1/2”.
  3. Stitch the squares together. Layer the two pieces of fabric, both right-side-out, with batting sandwiched between them. Machine-quilt the blocks, so that the three layers will be stitched together. Make sure that the batting does not shift to within 1/2” of the edge of the quilt blocks, or it will show in the finished quilt. Do not place any quilting in the 1/2” seam allowance.
  4. Sew the blocks to each other. Now, attach two blocks to each other by placing the backing sides together. Stitch them together with a 1/2” seam allowance. Keep stitching blocks together until you have a strip the length of the quilt.
  5. Sew the strips together. Sew the strips to each other, by placing them together with the top sides facing each other, again leaving a 1/2” seam allowance.
  6. Clip the seams. At approximately 1-inch intervals along the seam allowance, snip into the excess fabric, taking care not to cut the stitching. This will encourage the seam allowance to fray, giving the rag quilt its distinctive appearance.

Once you have the basic instructions down, you can experiment by using larger or smaller squares or seam allowances. Because of the wide range of fabrics that can be used, each rag quilt you make will have its own special style. When washing the rag quilt for the first time, you may want to place it in a pillowcase to gather any loose threads. Washing it once can help the seam allowances fray.


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