Rag Quilt

For these pictures, I tried to be inspired by Rochelle – What would I actually be doing with this quilt, and how would it fit into my life? I found it hard not to overexpose my pictures, so next time I’ll use more manual settings – or maybe if I shot them RAW, it would have fixed things! 

PicMonkey Collage 1

I mentioned in my post about moving that I’d finally cut up some old dresses and treasured fabric to make a lap quilt – here it is!

I’m in love. It’s one of those visceral pieces that rings me joy – I’m so happy that I get to see fabrics I love every day! But let me backtrack a bit…

When I first started sewing clothes in 2012, I was really into sewing Colette dresses in quilting cotton. I loved the prints, and it was my first foray into figuring out my personal style. A few years on though, I’ve gained some weight and my style has changed, and those dresses had hung in my sewing room closet for years. I made myself donate some, but I kept all my favourites! Now that we are moving, it seemed silly to pack up my dresses… so after a whirlwind hour on Pinterest looking for simple quilt ideas, I decided to give a rag quilt a go!

PicMonkey Collage 4

Rag quilts are made with exposed seams, which fray in the wash and create soft texture. What appealed to me is that each square is quilted before everything is pieced together, so there’s no horrible basting a huge quilt sandwich or wrestling to get it through the machine. There’s also no binding and no precise cutting, and I was able to use up my odd shape ends of batting from other projects. In the end, I made this whole quilt in an afternoon and evening, entirely from the stash!

As you can see in the picture above, the two layers of cotton have a slightly smaller square of batting layered in between, then the square is quilted with an “X”. I used a walking foot and it all went really easily. I chose nice big 15″ fabric squares, to try to maximise the fabric I could cut from each dress. A few of the squares have centre back seams or even darts in them, but I don’t think anyone would ever notice! My batting squares were cut about 13.5″, and I sewed with generous 5/8″ seams. My quilt is 20 squares, which makes a nice size for curling up on the couch.

PicMonkey Collage 2

Once it’s all pieced together, you sew around the outside edge, and the snip into the raw seam allowance to encourage it to fray in the wash. Some tutorials suggest snipping every 1/4″, but who has time for that? I snipped about every 1.5″, hoping it would fray gradually over several washes. In the picture above you can see the frayed seams on the left, and the flip side of the quilt on the right. I like both sides!

Here are a few of my favourite fabric in the quilt – either from dresses or yardage, but all fabrics I’ve had for years!

Forgive me a trip down memory lane… click the links if you want to remember how much my style has changed!

PicMonkey Collage 5

Left to right: Rainbow gradient watercolour fabric from Tomato in Tokyo – I remember gasping when I saw it!  Pink Madras from my local Yuzawaya in Japan; Liberty leftover from my Carolyn pyjamas; a 1/2m cut from my favourite indie fabric store in Japan; yet more Japanese cotton that became one of my favourite Peony dresses!

PicMonkey Collage 6

Left to right: Spool fabric my Mom brought me back from a trip; feather print that was a self-drafted skirt; the most buttery fine Japanese lawn, that became a Pendrell blouse – luckily you can see the princess seams running through the square! Fabric that was a Macaron dress; electric pastel Japanese floral that I made into a dress using my self-drafted sloper


I doubt anyone buy me would notice it, but I grouped the squares with warmed colours on one edge, and cooler colours on the other… and light at one corner, with dark diagonally opposite, not unlike this knit blanket my sister made me:

Stained glass afghan - seaming complete

Turns out I like bit of order in my colourful world! I find the juxtaposition of similar colours much more appealing than random craziness. 

Here’s what I love about this quilt: I made it, and now I get to use it. I think we’ve all done that thing where we think too long about a project and never actually make it – well, after years of planning to quilt these fabrics, I’m just really glad I finally did it! I could have made something fancier, and it might have been even better… but would it ever have been done? Here’s to using and enjoying our favourite fabrics! 



32 thoughts on “Rag Quilt

  1. Such fabulous colours in your photos, particularly the last one of you reading. Making a quilt’s a great way to remember your early makes. It can be so hard to let go of early makes, even when they no longer suit or fit.


    1. Thats it exactly! There is so much sentiment in early makes – all those memories how how excited I was to be able to sew actual clothes!


  2. Beautiful quilt and photos! I have a ton of odds and ends of much-loved fabric that are waiting to become a quilt – I really must just get on with it, like you say – it’s not doing anyone any good sitting in my cupboard!


    1. If you just want to GET IT DONE, without a long project dragging out, I really would recommend rag quilting. It was so fast!!


  3. What an excellent idea, Gillian! I love all of the colors and designs and now it’s something that you can enjoy often. That quilt your sister made is also awesome!


  4. That’s lovely! I really like the idea of a quilt-as-you-go quilt, and such a great way to remember and hold onto old projects.


    1. Quilt as you go was SO FAST! I really enjoyed it. I think the ragged edges might not be to everyone’s taste, but I can convince myself that it was cosy texture! 😉


  5. Beautiful photos and such beautiful quilt. You were right not to donate all those gorgeous fabrics. They are stunning together. I can’t believe it took such a short amount of time. I am struggling with having time to cut out and sew/iron all my current quilt bits so this is a very appealing idea. That throw your sister knitted is really gorgeous. You both have such a flair with colour. Xx


    1. You should give quilt and you go a try! It was way faster than I expected – and so nice to finally have the project done!


  6. What a great way to save those fabrics that you loved! I have a an RTW shirt in a beautiful print and I am always on the lookout for fabric that is similar so I can retire it!


  7. That last photo is so gorgeous! And I love how you’ve managed to makes something new from something old (that you love, continue the past, make something practical and how you’ve done it all in a reasonable time frame!


    1. It was really satisfying to toss each dress in the garbage with a big square cut out of it – I couldn’t bear to donate the dresses, but happy to have them out of my life as long as I have something to remember them by! 😉


    1. Interesting to see how consistent I am, isn’t it? Especially since I bought a lot of the fabrics over 5 years ago…


  8. I love this!! I want to do this with my scraps. I’ve been saving scraps for a long time to make a color wheel quilt but I think I know that will never happen…


    1. A colour wheel quilt sounds fabulous… but with a toddler, maybe best to but the fabrics to use in a simpler project! Rag quilting really came together so fast!


    1. Thank you! It felt a bit crazy to slice up my dresses with so little actual planning (like how big the quilt would be!) but I’m really happy with how it all turned out!


  9. fabulous colours. I spent most of today with a group of women sewing up rag quilts for a women’s shelter. It was the first time I’d done this style, so quick!


  10. Isn’t it crazy to see the change only 4 years can bring?! I recognize some of those pretty fabrics from when I first started reading your blog. It seems like you’ve learned a lot about your style and what you like to wear since then – how fun to transform your old styles into something for your new home.


  11. I’ve been hoarding many, many smallish pieces of fabric, but knew I’d never have the gumption to quilt. But this I could handle. Thanks for the inspiration!


  12. This is fabulous! I’ve been wanting to make a quilt forever but the whole quilting, massive amounts of fabric and binding things have always put me off! This strategy seems much more doable! Xx


  13. This is so great Gillian!! What a great project full of favourite fabrics and memories. I love it! I also enjoyed the stroll down memory lane and seeing your woven dresses. 😉


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