How-to: Rag quilting – Choosing fabric and getting started

Even though most of this information is already available on the web, there are a few things that I have learned by trial and error that make the rag quilting process easier.  If you can cut a straight line and sew a straight seam, you can make a rag quilt. 

Three Moda charm packs

STEP 1.  Choose your fabric. 

If you don’t feel confident in your color selection, or simply prefer a wide variety of colors and patterns, charm packs are the way to go.  You know the colors will all go together, you can choose from a lot of color families, and they are precut.  I ordered these Moda charm packs from Charmpacks on Etsy at  You can also shop her web site at  I had ordered Me and My Sister Favorites and Pure to make baby lovies, and Kansas Trouble Favorites to make a table runner. 

STEP 2.  Choose an arrangement for your runner.

It was easy to arrange this charm pack collection.  They were stacked from darkest to lightest.  I arranged them by starting with the darkest color in the bottom left corner, and laid the squares out diagonally until I got to the lightest color.  There were 42  5 inch squares in this collection, and I used 36 in this runner. 

Arrangement of Moda fabric squares

You can see how the colors are arranged in diagonal rows according to color.  Now is a good time to take a picture of your arrangement so you can do it again if it gets messed up.  Now is also a time that I often leave the room for an hour or so, then come back to see if I still like the arrangement. 

STEP 3.  Stack up rows.




Stacks of Moda fabric squares


Starting with the bottom row, put all of the squares in each row into a stack.  The square on the bottom left will be the first square on the bottom of the stack, with each square going to the right being added in turn.  When finished, the last square in the row will be on the top.  Since there are four rows in this runner, there are four stacks of squares. 

STEP 4.  Cutting the backing squares. 

Cutting muslin backing squares

The first step in cutting the backing squares is to choose the fabric.  For this runner, I’m using off-white muslin.  I washed and pressed it, then laid it out on the cutting board. 
Using a clear ruler and a rotary cutter, cut the backing fabric into 5 inch strips. 

Cutting backing squares

Then, lay the strips out and cut them into 5 inch squares.    Cut the same number of backing squares as the number of Moda squares. 
Stack all the the backing squares together.
STEP 5.  Cutting the batting squares

Cutting batting strips

Cut the batting the same way as the backing, except cut them one inch smaller.  Since the Moda and backing squares are 5 inches square, the batting will be 4 inches square.  I use Warm and Natural from  Check them out at  I like it because it is 100% cotton and it doesn’t shed. 
Cut four inch strips, then 4 inch squares and stack them.
STEP 6.  Get organized for stitching.
Now you are ready to begin stitching.  You have your stack of batting at the back left, your stack of backing at back right, and one (the first) set of Moda squares. 

Come back next time to learn how to create your finished squares.

Stacks of fabric ready for stitching


About countrybydesign

blogging, photography, cooking, baking, quilting, genealogy
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2 Responses to How-to: Rag quilting – Choosing fabric and getting started

  1. ladywise says:

    Wow, you put a lot of time in to that post CbD. That’s awesome. My grandmother used to make quilts and so many other things. I always thought that I would take up sewing in my “older” days but haven’t done it yet. I guess the computer took the space and time that the sewing machine would have taken.

    • You’ve still got time! I didn’t start until all of my kids had left home. I was too busy working and going to their school events until then. Rag quilting is a really easy way to start. Perhaps it is something you could teach the girls. I like mine to be perfect, but they are still nice with a few mistakes.

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