Tuesday, June 10, 2014


edited February 12, 2014, edits in green
 I have written blogs about recycling fabric and clothes, rag quilting, and re-using things.  Currently I have started making a rag quilt for my New Grandson (I inherited 3 wonderful grand children and a DIL).  I realized I hadn't put any real instructions in the blogs about Rag quilting.  I hadn't because there are so many "How-to Rag quilt" sites. Everyone has their own touches they discovered on how to make these efficiently.  I have literally made hundreds of these quilts.  I have heard people complain about the clipping of them.  I am going to share my hints for a successful, relaxing, rag quilting adventure.  If you have little ones I think it is a marvelous trip.
Flannel side of closet

I call the making of a Shaggy, "mindless sewing".  BTW, I prefer the term shaggy to rag because; on my first encounter with one, I wrote my yahoo group and said, "My husband loves his Shaggy.".  The group went wild.  Several were from The United kingdom and the word has a different connotation there. Secondly, because I usually don't make my "Shaggies" with rags.  They are usually from wonderful new flannel.  The following site is about two shaggies I made from the rag pile. The first one was to see if I really wanted to make a shaggy.  (If you have a bunch of flannel clothing or sheet rejects it is a great way to try out making a Shaggy.)

I made a quilt top (not a shaggy), hated the method, and hated the blocks.  I hated I wasted time and fabric on it.  It never made it to a quilt,  the entire 36 blocks were donated to the garage sale at guild.  Everyone else must have thought them not great.  They only brought $3.00.  The yardage would have brought more than that!  If I am unsure if I will like a block. I always make a samples in scraps.  I was very hesitant to make the flannel quilt so I made it out of trash flannel to see if I would even like the technique.

I collected squares to make another rag shaggy.  The next one will be king size to use on  our bed.   Making them with old shirts/sheets and poly batting makes the softest coziest "blankie".  The perfect weight for summer too.  I have another flannel sheet which wasn't fit for the bed anymore. It developed fabric fatigue in the usual places.  I'll trim off the serviceable areas.

 My new grandson will be going to college.  I thought a Shaggy would be the perfect toss around blanket.  It is great for hauling to picnics, or to wrap around your knees when you are engrossed in reading stimulating calculus.  Or taking the chill off when you are watching mindless TV.

When I surveyed the closet for flannels, they were either too girlie or not enough fabric for a decent size quilt.  I came across some terrible feeling, starched flannel (I probably picked it up from a garage sale for costume making).  The pattern and colors were great.  It is a plaid of Navy/burgundy/black/and dark gray.  The perfect, no show any dirt, fabric.  I had enough for 81 (8" squares).  I was thinking about how can I make this fabric nice.  I used it for the shaggy side where it would be for decoration.  If it stays starchy it won't be on the comfy side of the quilt.  (If this doesn't work, I'll have another TV quilt for us or a quilt for the new dog.  If you would like to see our "doofus", you can check him out here:)

For the back of the quilt I found small amounts of blacks, navies, and grays.  They had a plus, they are what I call "double flocked".  Both sides of the fabric are soft and fuzzy.  When cutting squares I was a couple of blocks shy and no more fabric.  I took scraps and joined them and ironed the seams open (to make less bulk). Voila, an 8 inch square.  In the "trash to treasure" blog, those quilts have blocks where the squares were pieced because I ran out of fabric.  I didn't care if the fabric was the same fabric color or pattern.  I just cared I had a square of flannel.
DD's King sized Shaggy 2001

I am not particular about "stuffing".  I found in the raggy shaggies I've made, the content of the batting between the two layers of fabric made no difference.  There was  drawback to that theory when I made my DD's king size Shaggy.

I used quilt shop quality flannels.  The fabric was "Thimbleberries" by RJR.  Even though it was premium flannel, it had a hard finish,  the weave was very tight.  I used the recommended 8 1/2 inch blocks with 1 inch seams.

I was new to quilting and the quilt police touted using nothing but 100% cotton batting.  That is what I used! This was to be a special Shaggy.  I wanted everything perfect.  With the heavy flannel and the Cotton batting, the quilt was so heavy I could hardly lift it on my lap to clip the seams.  When it came time to wash it, I had to use the commercial machines.  It was too big and too heavy for my machine to handle.

Over time the quilt has softened, but it has not achieved the cuddle factor the Quilt made of rags has.   I can tell you, not only has it survived regular quilt use, but it has survived camping out, Tent making in the family room and lounge time with cats, puppies, and enormous dogs, on the floor.  I think maybe this quilt has spent more time on the floor than on the sofa. (Yes, it was a king size quilt for the bed, but she loved it and wanted it in the family room.)  It is the cover of choice when someone is down with the flu and hanging out in the family room.

I have made Shaggies with no batting.  When my granddaughter was born, I made one using 5 inch squares (before seams).  The flannels were both double flocked.  They live in Florida, batting is not needed, especially when using the double flocked.  Batting would make it heavy for a new baby, and  very cumbersome.  The blanket was seamed with 5/8 inch seams and when clipped at 1/8 cuts it looks like chenille after it was washed.  If you are making a baby Shaggy for a colder climate I recommend you use the poly batting or something similar weight.  You want to add warmth without adding weight.  When using smaller squares you will be clipping a lot!  If no one has mentioned in any of the sites.  Do not use flannel with nylon in it.  You will not have a lovely soft chenille you will have nylon strings on your edges.  Make sure your fabric content is 100% cotton.

King quilt, Cheap plaid flannel, medium grade flannel Scotties

The quilt on the left was made with cotton batting because I had the strips left over from the sides from a quilt, quilted on a quilt machine.  The plaid flannel is a very cheap loose woven flannel with almost no nap.  I bought a bolt of it. It was only 25 cents a yard.  I figured I would make doggie blankets with it. The back is totally the plaid flannel.  Needless to say it ended in a doggie blanket.  The doggies were on the flannel, lol.  It has been a very serviceable  quilt.  I did prewash the cheap flannel before using it.  When it is backed with the batting It doesn't seem either cheap of flimsy.  It is not as soft feeling as the doggie flannel, but it still makes a great quilt for cold winter nights (we keep the room at 60 in the winter.)  I suggest you make a small 6 squared shaggy sample before you make the big one.  Complete it, washing it too.  It helps you see how your flannels do.  You will have a great doll cover when done.

When looking for flannels; the flannels which are the softest, which are not tightly woven (Not loosely woven either) make the nicest shaggies.  Hard flannels do not fuzz as much in the seams and the feel of the quilt is stiffer.  Already washed flannel, fuzzes as much as non washed flannels.  The only difference I've found is,  the edges do not fray as much on the squares when you are cutting and working with them.  I do recommend if you are piecing traditional quilt patterns with flannel, prewash to tighten and preshrink the goods. 

Not prewashing shaggy flannel is a "GREEN" thing to do.  When you are finished with clipping, you are going to wash the quilt several times and if it hasn't been prewashed it will be more wrinkly, albeit a little smaller, lol.  The after-wash  wrinkles can be an advantage.  I will address that later.

Don't forget Flannel is great for things, other than shaggies and jammies.  Use it for costumes.  This is the head of a "swamp monster"  costume I made for Halloween with camouflage flannel. (A nice weight Flannel I found at a close out sale for 50 cents a yard. I bought the bolt.  I also used it to make a shaggy for a grandson.)

Both of the costumes in the following blog are made with Flannel:

If you're unsure your if your flannel will hold up to handling with out shredding to pieces, wash it.

If you are worried it won't fuzz after washing before, don't be.  I have made those rag shaggies and they had no trouble fuzzing up.  The fabric in them had been washed a zillion times.  If I buy
flannel which is cheap and on the thin side I always prewash it to tighten up the weave. 

I noticed someone was wanting to know if the fuzzing lint ever stops.  My answer is I don't think so...but I always wash my shaggies with my bath towels.  The lint could be coming from them. I don't get the big lint and pieces anymore...in fact after 10 washes it seems they have less lint than the bath towels.

I did promise to tell you how I have a relaxing mindless time making these quilts.  This weekend I made and finished the shaggy for my grandson.  It is being washed a second time as I type.  I will guide you through the construction.  (I am having more stress preparing this blog than I did making the quilt.)

Helpful Tools
An even-feed foot is nice but not necessary.  I considers a mat, rotary cutter and ruler; a necessity for cutting the flannel squares.  Fisker's gray handled 6 inch squeeze scissors (for me very necessary). The Fisker's scissors sharpener for them.  Filled bobbins and of course a sewing machine. Don't forget a fresh needle in the machine.  A # 16 will help your day go better.

sandwich,                          first diagonal,                           second diagonal
Preparing your squares:
The general method is to take two squares of fabric and one square of batting and layer them.  Right sides out on the fabric.

To figure your batting square size, it is minus the sum of the width of two seams.  I.E. my fabric squares  in the demo are 5 1/2 inches.  My batting   squares are 4 inches.  1 1/2 inch difference in size.  I use 5/8 inch seams (sometimes they verge on 3/4.)  There is a little wiggle room for my seams.  You don't have to be exact on a shaggy. 

BTW  You can use denim in a shaggy (don't put batting in a denim Shaggy, too heavy).  When using denim only use it for the top squares.   That way you have the soft flannel next to your skin.  When the denim is on the side which will shag it is great for throwing on the ground for a picnic blanket.  Soft old jeans are perfect.  Denim shaggies are great for keeping in the trunk for emergencies.

To make piecing a Shaggy less tedious, have someone sandwich your blocks for you.  Specify the importance of centering the batting in the center of the fabric square. Or you can sandwich them while sitting on the porch and enjoying the relaxing day while talking with a friend.  The sandwiching of the blocks is the most time consuming part of the process.  Get it done and have your stacks of blocks in a safe place.  (If they get knocked over you'll have to re-sandwich, ugh!)

When Stitching your X's on the blocks, use a larger stitch, almost the basting size on the machine.  It saves on thread.  But when you are joining the blocks into rows you want to use the medium stitch. The shaggy's weight  pulls on the seams.  You need strength in the seams. 

BTW when you are stitching the diagonals, don't obsess,  just eyeball from corner to corner.

When joining the blocks in rows you don't need to back stitch at each edge.

When you are stitching on flannel, especially if you don't use an even feed foot, you will get wrinkles.  Notice the pleat in the block above.  The wrinkle will usually happen when you make the second bias seam.  Lightly pull as you stitch, it helps.  If you get a pleat don't worry about it.  When you wash the flannel it will wrinkle up and hide the imperfection.  Notice where they join it's not level.  It happens when the feed dogs pull the lower fabric up before the rest of the blocks.  Remember you are working with 4 layers of fabric not your usual 2 layers when you are piecing a traditional top.  Without the even feed foot you will also get wrinkles in the top fabric when you stitch the seams.  You can intermittently raise the presser foot to relive the pressure.  I never worry about the little pleats.  They disappear in the clipping and washing.  I did not install my even feed foot for making this quilt.

Clipped down the center of the two rows.
Other instructions tell you to stitch the blocks in both directions.  You are supposed to stitch all the blocks at once. For me that is boring.  I  count out the blocks I  need for two rows stitch them and join them into 2 rows.  Then join the rows. THIS IS WHERE I GET TOTALLY OFF THE BEATEN TRACK.  I clip down the center of the two rows and half way on each side seam.. The picture doesn't show it but the ends of the center clipped row are not clipped with in  3 inches of the edge (just like you see on the above sample, do not clip the last of the seam or on the edges of the two rows.)

4 rows joined, center unclipped
I do two more rows exactly like the above picture.  Then I take the two and join them achieving the picture on the left. 

If you notice the center of the 4 rows is not clipped (neither are the 4 outside edges.)  I now clip the center as I did when I had two rows. 

This quilt is 8 rows wide.  Each row has ten blocks in it. 

I find when I am making a shaggy, if I construct partial parts as I go, I don't get bored with construction, and my hands don't hurt with the clipping.  HINT:  Those Fisker's gray, squeeze handled, 6 inch scissors have an orange closer tab.  I find the tab keeps slipping and getting in the way.  I pried it out of the scissors.  Yes, it makes them so they never close again.  I found a small box they fit in when they aren't in use.  This pair is for Shaggies only.  You can use regular scissors to cut the seams but it is more difficult in my opinion.  The Fisker's are reasonably priced at WalMart.  You can use a 50% off internet coupon at JoAnn's for them.  I am sure there are other places which handle them but these are the only two places I have purchased them.  (I have a pair for the garden, they're great for snipping herbs.)
4 rows joined and clipped.  Notice all outside edges remain unclipped.
When joining blocks don't forget to decide which side will be your front of the quilt.  I will be using the cows/plaids for my front of quilt in the examples.  Join the blocks in one long row (I do pairs at a time and then join the pairs in a row.)  Remember which side is to be the front of the quilt.  You want the "fronts" of your blocks on the outside when you pair them.  When you make your seam and open it out, your raw seam with be on the surface of the quilt, ready for you to clip.

This pair of blocks are opened out after they were seamed.  The seam is finger pressed open.  As you join your blocks and your pairs to make your rows, you will finger press open all seams.

For easier clipping and a nicer finish at the joins of seams, pressing them open works better.  Pressing, seams to the side, nesting seems is easier in the stitching but is a pain to clip. (Make a 4 block sample with the seams open and  make one with them nested, clip them and you will understand)

When you are joining two rows line your seams up.  Yes, it will be thicker.  That is why you want a fresh  #16 needle when you begin the shaggy.

When you come to each seam, as you are joining the two rows, I recommend you back stitch across the seam twice.  When the quilt is washed, when it is pulled up under someone's chin, or any other situations where there would be stress on the quilt; it's weakest place are the centers of each block joining.

The above sample is to show what the joining of two rows together looks like.  The side showing was the side next to the feed dogs.  I did not realize the corner had folded over.  If this happens to you, do not dismay.  When you clip it, it will be okay.

As you can see, all I did was clip parallel to the seam and unfold the fabric.  There is a point which sticks up but when it is washed it will disappear.  Don't trim it or worry about it. 

You will notice I clipped the left side of the seam too, parallel to the seam .   The "center joints", I clipped the stitches holding them together.  Because you will be clipping these threads is a major reason to back stitch over each set of stacked seams.  You don't want to start the total unstitching of your seams.

The top folded over nubbin was not clipped parallel to the long seam it was clipped parallel to the stitches in the seam you just unstitched.  The example on the left shows the clipping of the seam.  You want to clip into the seam. Do not clip your stitches in the seam connecting the rows. 

Make sure you do not nip the seam  threads with the point of your scissors.  Some instructions say stay at least an 1/4 inch away (My seams are not the recommended 1 inch wide I only use 5/8 seams).  I suppose I am daring fate.  I clip as close as I can, note I also clip only an 1/8 inch or less apart.  When you clip 1/4 inch apart it gives a more primitive "rag" look.  When clipped close and with the seams are narrower it gives a chenille look.

You have opened out your two rows.  The picture on the left shows the junction of the side seams with the major seam you just stitched. 

You will notice you have to clip each side seam where it joins the major seam.  You need to free it up so you can clip it.  When I clip, I clip through all four layers instead of going down each side of the seam. 

When you have all your rows clipped and joined you will have the outside edges of the quilt unclipped.  This is very important.  You need to make a seam completely around the quilt.  I even recommend sewing around it twice.   (If you don't sew around it twice you must back stitch at every seam.)  When you come to the corners do not pivot around them.  Sew off the end and make sure you back stitch a couple of times the depth of the seam.  The picture shows the corner hems  (I showed the back so you could see it better.)  You will want to clip the little square out of the corner.  After you have finished Hemming and before you clip your hems.

Section of Washed quilt
You need to clip around the outside edge and finish clipping the last of the seams.  Then you will be ready to wash your quilt.  The quilt doesn't show her charms till she has been washed and dried.

The picture on the left is a quilt which has been washed twice and dried using fabric softener sheets.

The plaid flannel had white weft threads that is what you are seeing.  When you use a different color for backing it shows on  the front.  the seams on the front of this quilt are variegated because I used gray, black, and Navy blocks for backing.  I didn't realize there was a white thread running through the paid flannel.  This is showing up majorly in the clipping.  It gives a heather look to the quilt.

Above, Fully clipped sample before washing
Below, Sample washed one time
If your washer has a lint trap be sure to clean it before and after washing shaggies. 

A top loader does a nicer job than a front loader knocking the fibers out of the seams. 

Take your shaggy outside when the wash is finished and shake it hard, before you put it in the drier.  Check and clean your dryer filter every ten minutes while drying the Shaggy.

When I wash shaggies.  The first wash is without soap.  The second wash contains half the soap I would normally use. The shaggy is dried after each wash. (I have had shaggies which take 3 cycles through the wash to get them where they won't be shedding copiously on the recipient.)

When you gift a shaggy, slip a note in that says, It should be washed with like colored clothes (flannels seem to bleed longer). Wash with warm water, with things like towels.  Fabric softener is beneficial to a Shaggy.  Let them know it will probably lint for at least 4 more washes.  (It wont be heavy lint but there will be lint)

Please write me if I have been unclear on any part,
Or if you need help. 
I hadn't realized the following blog I wrote with instructions in it. I was so enamored 4 years ago .   There are a couple of hints in the blog which are not in this one. 
Other blog sites by me:
Chronicling our adventures with a dumped Pit Bull Pup who has become a hidden treasure.

Where I have stories of my cats and other pets
a blog about my courtship with my husband,
and a blog about my most embarrassing moment.
A "Soap box" blog where I do air my opinions.

blogs about the wildflowers on our farm
Organic methods we use, some cooking and some poetry,
blogs about Seed sprouting, insects, and garden pictures
Blog about an endangered beneficial beetle

All recipes, pictures, and writings are my own.
I give credit for items which belong to other people in my blogs .
Please do not copy without permission


eva said...

great tutorial.
i used to think rag quilts were rather ugly.... but they've really come a long way - with great fabrics, and colours.
n-o-w i'm in the process of making one myself, and the reason is, a friend gave me a garbage bag FULL of plaid flannel scraps (she make pj pants and boxer shorts for all her grand kids). she called it a "bag of garbage" .... oh...perfect, thanks... i get to virtually play for free.

i never thought about it, until i saw it about a half hour ago.... you clip the raw edges as you go, you don't wait until the quilt it done....right?? i wasn't looking forward to a QUILT to clip edges. doing it piece by piece, or even row by rows, makes it far less daunting!!!

Sheepish said...

Eva, You can clip as you go as long as you don't clip any of the outside edges. I.E. connect 2 rows and only clip the seam down the middle. (those 6 inch Fiskers squeeze scissors is a plus in working with shaggies. They are available at Walmart for under $10. Have fun creating the softest quilt you'll ever make...This is a place that I say poly batting makes them even softer. Did you read the other rag quilt blogs I have? There is a label on the right side of the blog "sewing: rag quilting". When you click on it 5 entries can be viewed.