Wondering What Kind of Fabric To Use for a Rag Quilt?

Since writing an earlier post / tutorial on How to Make a Rag Quilt I’ve seen a lot of keyword searches looking for the answer to what kind of fabric is used in a rag quilt. So I thought I would address the question here.

Rag quilts get their name from the raggy look that they get from the frayed & exposed seams on the front of each quilt. With each washing they take on a well loved warm quilted look.

 

A rag quilt consists of 3 layers – your face fabric, the middle, and your backing.

Want to make a rag quilt? This post talks about what fabrics you can use for making a rag quilt. @TheDesignest

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I could receive compensation when you purchase.)

Top of Your Rag Quilt

For your face fabric, the kind of fabric you want to use is one that will fray – flannel fabrics work really well, as do regular cotton fabrics.  How many different fabrics you use and the way in which you arrange them are completely up to you. You can go scrappy and use 20 different fabrics from your stash or use just one or two fabrics.

Even though a fleece fabric doesn’t fray, it can be used in a rag quilt. It will have a different look than a traditional rag quilt in that it will look a little bit like ruffles when you cut the seams into ribbons. The same goes for using t-shirts.

Middle of Your Rag Quilt

There are a couple options for the middle of your quilt sandwich. I like to use 100% cotton needled batting, but a lot of people prefer to use a piece of flannel in the middle. If you do use flannel in the middle, you can use a contrasting color that gives the quilt a different look. I prefer the cotton batting because I like the weight of the quilt that results from using it over flannel.

Quick & easy sewing project - Rag Quilt | Tutorial @thedesignest

Back of Your Rag Quilt

Traditionally the backs of quilts are very plain. This is because a lot of times it isn’t seen and so there isn’t as much time and expense wasted on the back of a quilt. These days modern quilters are using the backs of a quilt as a second opportunity for creative expression so more thought and effort is being made.

You have a few options for fabrics on the back of a rag quilt. I tend to use muslin. I have a lot of it on hand and it goes well with everything. However, I have used flannel before and that turns out lovely and soft. You can also use a Minky fabric, which is a super soft fabric. It is used a lot in baby blankets. If you have not used a minky fabric before, I recommend trying it out with a smaller project as it does come with some challenges. Of course Fleece fabric can also be used on the back of a rag quilt.

If you need rag quilt instructions, take a look at my post here. Or, if you want to see some of the rag quilts I’ve made take a look here.

I also have some flannel charm packs in my Etsy shop that are already washed, dried, cut & ready to sew.

 

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Robin

Robin

Hi, I'm Robin, founder of The Designest, the place for tutorials, printables, and ideas to inspire you to create. A wife, mother, entrepreneur, and a true maker at heart. Most days you will find me in my studio listening to Spotify & making products for The Designest Shop.
Robin

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53 Replies to “Wondering What Kind of Fabric To Use for a Rag Quilt?”

  1. Hi
    I was going to try to use part of the satin from my daughters wedding dress with a minky and flannel print for a rag quilt.
    I also picked a minky for the backing. Do you think the satin will fray too much??
    Thanks
    Allyn

    1. Allyn – Love the idea of using the satin from her wedding gown, but hmmmm not sure about satin fraying. I know it will fray, but not sure if it would fray so much as to completely come apart? Possibly if you use a stabilizer under it? I have never used it in a rag quilt. The prospect of using both satin and minky would have me cursing and throwing things before I even got started! 😉 One is super slippery and the other is super stretchy. Both are so darn hard to sew! Good luck with your project & let me know how it goes if you decided to try it.

    1. I’ve seen people use minky before so I know it can be done. It is probably one of the most challenging kinds of fabrics to sew so if you haven’t used it before, I would try a smaller project first.

  2. What about using a high thread count sheet as a backing? My sisters have old quilts from when they were little that used them as backing, however they weren’t rag quilts. I liked the way they felt and was hoping to do something similar for my daughter, but I’m unsure as to how well it will work. What are your thoughts?

  3. How do you think cotton prints for the top and flannel for the bottom would look ? I’m just wondering if they Frey differently ?

  4. I was wondering< I have 2 or 3 different types of batting- cotton, cotton blend and polyester. I would like to use them up- can I combine them in a rag quilt?

    1. As long as you have enough of one type to use in the whole quilt, it will be fine, but I wouldn’t mix the kinds of batting up within the quilt because you will get a different look from each one.

  5. Oh, no! I wanted to make my first rag quilt and I have already washed and dried my flannel. Can I still use the fabric and will it turn out ok?

  6. i am going to try and make my first rag quilt, i am doing just a lap type one, would it be ok to use fleece for the batting? i know it won’t fray but just wondering how it would work.
    thanks

    1. Yes, it should be fine! I use batting almost all of the time and it doesn’t fray either. Your seams just won’t be as fluffily. Good luck!!

      1. I’m wondering if you are using cotton for front and back what kind of fabric would you use in the middle? Cotton or flannel?

        1. I like to use a cotton batting in the middle for a heavier weight, but I know some people prefer the flannel for extra ‘fluff’ in the seams. It’s really just your preference. I’d try a couple of squares and see what you like best!

  7. I have made a few rag quilts and love them. But mine don’t have the white fluffy ragging I see on some of the quilts. I have been cutting my fillers an inch smaller than the square. Should I be using the same size filler as the squares? Also, does using fleese make a prettier rag than flannel ? Thank you for your info.

    1. I make mine with the batting smaller, just to the seam lines, and they work fine. Since I have a dog who loves to chew apart anything with fiberfill and similar materials, I am very sensitive to leaving the stuffing materials totally encased. Had to replace too many pillows while he was a pup, and would hate to labor on a quilt project only to find that the recipient had a pup with similar inclinations!

  8. I made a rag quilt a few years ago using home spun fabrics with osnaburg as batting. It turned out great. I am making another one. Last time I cut the osnaburg on the bias which was kind of hard to Do and sort of wasteful it seemed. Do you think it would matter if I didn’t cut it on the bias this time?

  9. I have made probably close to 100 rag quilts. I almost always use 3 layers of flannel. I don’t like how bulky and heavy it gets when I use a batting.
    I have never used fleece with my flannel because they don’t curl and fray the same.
    If you are wanting the white ragging look when you use a batting, it should be cut the same size as your flannel.
    Hope that helps.

  10. Wondering your thoughts on using wool fabric in a rag quilt? We are making one with southwestern theme and have some perfect colored fabric that is wool.

    1. I don’t think that the wool will fray the way that flannel & cotton fabrics do. You can test this out by trying to fray a cut edge of your fabric. Also, if you do go ahead with it, make sure that you pre-wash all of the fabrics so that they are pre-shrunk. Good luck!

  11. I am planning on making 10 blankets from clothing for memory blankets for my family and children from my son’s clothes. He has a lot of jeans, which I figure will work well, but he has a lot of dress shirts and dressy tee shirts, as well as some dress pants. will these materials work ok. I have spent a lot of time researching blankets and quilts and really love the look of your rag blankets. I am some what familiar with sewing, but this will be my first time making any type of quilting blanket. I am nervous, but excited too. I want to pick the best type of blanket for this project.

    1. Hi Brenda – What a wonderful idea. You might consider using the denim material for the back piece of each square & the other fabrics for the top pieces.

  12. Hi i was wondering if i can use a mixture of cotton and flannel on the back…so pattern on front will be the same on back?

  13. Hello!!
    I was wondering if “rosette plush” fleece would work out on a rag quilt. It’s so soft and I love the material but just wasn’t sure if it will work out.

    1. You could try it, but my instinct says it may be very difficult to work with. If you do decide to give it a try, let us know how it works out!

  14. If I use cotton on top can I use percale cotton? IF I use flannel for top, middle and bottom do I cut all3 pieces same size? I have never used flannel for the middle.

    1. Hi Melavee! Yes, percale cotton will work. It is a personal preference to cut the middle layer the same size or smaller. Some don’t want the middle layer showing, but I like things to be easy & so I prefer to cut all 3 layers the same size.

  15. Hi Robin, hope you can help. Sounds like it from what I’ve read. I’m making my bff’s a rag quilt for college. Had it all planned, top was 3 dif blanket and white patterns ( 100% cotton fabric quarters) then was going to thro in 2 dif pink prints here and there, same fabric quarters. The middle was gonna be a darker solid pink flannel and the back I hadn’t picked anything yet but was gonna incorporate a few photos you print off the ink jet printer (I have a thru with pics on it and it washes well) then the upper 2 corners her mom wanted me to add 2 squares from her baby blanket. So I all excited to pick out fabric and was talking to and employee who has now informed me it won’t work. If I the cotton I think I have to use homespun. I asked her about quilting fabric and was told it would all fray and come apart, I need to use flannel. Plz help so lost and confused now, don’t really feel like making it. Sry so long. Thank you for your time. Kimberlee

    1. Hi Kimberlee!

      I hate that you’ve lost your excitement to make this project for your BFF! It’s definitely doable!! You do not have to use homespun cotton. It sounds like the fabric that you have will work. I used 100% cotton and/or flannel in all of my rag quilts. In fact, I’ve never used a homespun fabric. The point of a rag quilt is to get the exposed edges to fray, so that is definitely what will happen. That is what gives it the ‘rag’ look.
      From what you’ve described, I think it will be a great project. There is just one thing that you will need to be aware of. If your middle part is going to be pink flannel, then you will definitely want to prewash this fabric and use a Shout Color Catcher to catch any fabric dye that might bleed out of it. Maybe more than once. Prewash it before cutting anything. That way when the quilt is complete, it won’t bleed pink all over your black & white fabrics on the top.
      I hope you decide to go on with this project!

  16. Hello,
    New at sewing but wanting to make a rag quilt. Everywhere I go some say just flannel and homespun not regular cotton. Then I see you say it is ok. So, is there a certain type of cotton that works best? The flannel is not what I want nor the homespun. Thanks

  17. Hi there,
    Thanks for your information.. it is all encouraging for a new sewer like myself! I am wondering if I can use a cotton jersey material for a rag quilt, both top and bottom? Will this be too stretchy and will it fray the right way? Would it help to put a flannel layer inbetween to stableize the stretch? Also, something I am not sure about, when you put a middle layer into the squares, many make it smaller than the outer squares, when doing it this way do you sew on that inner layer or not catch it as you do your seams? Thanks again for all your support! Kay

  18. My dear friend from high school passed away in January, I meet with her adult chrilren today and talked about making them quilts from her clothes. I was thinking a rag quilt might be the easiest. She wore a lot of hoodies and they each want a square from her favorite sweatshirts. Do you think those would worK, if I used some kind of stabilizer to keep it from stretching too much? They want to be able to look at the quilts and see the fabrics from their mom’s favorites.

  19. Could I use home decor weight fabric for a rag quilt? I ordered a box of scraps thinking they where quilting fabric and it was actually home decor fabric. Thanks!

  20. I used regular cotton that I got at Walmart. When I washed and dried it, it washed out all of the thread going in one direction (warp or weft??) and basically instead of ragging, it looks like fringe now. What did I do wrong?

  21. I have 6 pkgs of Kansas Trouble pre cuts 5″ squares . Would this work for a rag quilt? How big is my seem line? I have hand sewn many quilts but never attempted a rag quilt.

  22. Hi

    I have a fat quarters pack cotton which I was going to use. Could I use brushed cotton bedding for the flannel element either for both the middle and the back or just the back with fleece in the middle or is brushed cotton not the same

    Thanks

  23. I’m a beginner both at sewing and quilting. My first project was a rag quilt stocking for my daughter, that turned out great! Now i would like to make her a quilt. For the top squares can i mix a 100% cotton print with, say, a flannel print? I picked a 100% cotton print that i fell in love with to make the theme of the blanket but i was wondering how it would do if the next fabric i liked happened to be flannel. Also how do i make the blanket warm yet not too heavy? My daughter is a toddler and i don’t want it to be too heavy on her. I am hoping that it will be something she can use until she is at least a teenager.

  24. Hi Robin, Can you tell me if the flannel needs to be printed on both sides of the fabric to make a rag quilt. Thanks so much 🙂

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