If you are a beginner quilter looking for near-immediate gratification or an old pro who wants to create a different look, why not try making a rag quilt?

Frayed seams are a characteristic of rag quilts. Fraying the edges give a rag quilt a soft, vintage look simply by clipping the seams and washing and drying the quilt. Rag quilt patterns can be adaptations of traditional quilt patterns or, totally new designs that will be accented by the frayed edges.

Rag quilt patterns do not need to be expensive. As a matter of fact, many rag quilt patterns are available for free on the Internet. Use your favorite search engine to find "rag quilt patterns."

If you've already been exploring the Internet, chances are your favorite quilt sites also have rag quilt patterns available, or links to some. The best "how-to-quilt" websites offer rag quilt information as well as patterns.

Quilts and quilt designs are created by combining blocks. By changing the shapes of the pieces within a block (i.e., substituting triangles for squares) and/or changing the placement of the colors of the pieces (i.e., switching light fabric for dark fabric), you can create a whole new quilt design while keeping construction of your quilt the same.

Simple is the name of the game for many quilters. Using one or two shapes for all of the pieces in your quilt makes it easy to sew; and squares and triangles offer many advantages in terms of simplicity. As a beginning quilter, making the sewing simple gives you the opportunity to focus on learning and practicing basic quilt making techniques that you will use as you develop your craft.

Interesting variations in quilt blocks are achieved through placement of the fabrics in addition to how each patch is divided. A simple nine patch quilt block can be used as an example of how different a block can look just by changing the placement of colors within the nine patches of one block.

Using only two colors of fabric in alternating squares creates a design like a checkerboard. With the same nine patch of two colors of fabric, using only square patches in each block, you can create a pattern that looks like a big X in your quilt. Thus, the Irish Chain, and variations of it.

Buying quilting fabric seems like it should be pretty simple. And, frankly, when I began quilting, it was simple. At least I made it that way. I wandered through the fabric store and found fabric I liked – the pattern, the color, the design. But generally, I bought fabric just because I liked it.

As a result, my quilting fabric stash included all types of fabrics – polyesters, cotton/polyesters, rayons, and some wools. After a few quilting experiences (some of which were pretty bad), I learned the advantages of different fabrics. Now I look at a few different things when I consider fabrics to buy.

Generally I prefer natural fibers. It’s probably a sense of connecting to quilters of yesteryear. Or it may be that a comment made to me years ago about “wrapping a baby in plastic (polyester)” just stuck with me – in a negative sense.

While I prefer natural fibers, I have made some fun quilts that include lame, and an occasional polyester or poly/cotton blend, because it offered some design benefit that I couldn’t find in cotton – like a sports logo.

It is relatively common to use wool in quilts. These quilts are outstanding for cold weather.

Wool retains heat extremely well. Wool probably retains heat better than cotton, and has the same wicking properties (they draw moisture away from your body and allows it to evaporate.) Wool quilts were very common during the Civil War, and were credited with saving many lives during the harsh winters.

Wool is a little more difficult to work with than cotton. 
Because it is generally thicker (each thread of wool is thicker than each thread of cotton), the seam allowances don’t finger press well, and will require pins to keep them in place.

Because of the thickness, the quilt will be bulkier, and it may require a stronger sewing machine needle to sew through all of the layers.

Silk quilts are relatively unusual although not totally unheard of. Silk tie quilts have been popular for many years, and silk quilts made from kimonos are also relatively popular.

Working with silk sounds very elegant – the fabric drapes really well, and it feels wonderful – yet it presents its challenges.

Silk fibers are very strong. There are some real benefits to its strength – the quilts are durable and the threads will not break easily.

Because of the strength of the fibers, silk fabric does not finger press well. To ensure flat seams, you need to press frequently while you are piecing, or pin the seam allowances in place prior to sewing.

Most quilters use 100% cotton fabric for their patchwork quilts. While part of the reason has to do with tradition, another part is due to what is practical.

Cottons tend to shrink at the same rate as each other. Most natural fabrics will shrink at least a little bit, even though the manufacturer has pre-shrunk the material. Blends will shrink at different rates than natural fibers, and 100% synthetics will shrink very little or not at all.

By mixing cotton fabric with cotton-polyester blends and synthetics, when you wash your finished quilt, you may end up with some very strange puckering. Some patches may be all puckered up, while others are perfectly flat.

Cottons are easy to sew. Many quilters finger press their patches and blocks as they quilt, and only iron (or press) their quilt when they have large sections complete. Along with way as they are sewing, they will “finger press” their work.

The first time I heard the term “Rag Quilting,” I though it had something to do with using big, long rags of fabric and somehow weaving them together to make a quilt.

Boy, was I wrong!

It turns out that rag quilting got its name from the ragged edges on the quilt. No doubt in my mind that this quilt design was created by a quilter as a variation of a Quilt as You Go kind of pattern – whether it was intentional or accidental is something only that quilter knows.

Wide seam allowances are common for rag quilting – usually at least 1.” So, if you would like each block to be an 8” square when finished, you should cut 10” squares of fabric and 7¾” batting or flannel.

Making a quilt should be a fun and relaxing experience, so you should choose fabrics that you enjoy working with.

Keeping that in mind, there are a few tips that can make your quilt interesting and dynamic to look at.

1) Two color quilts have a unique appeal. To be most effective, pick colors that contrast – white with blue, red or green work well. White with pink yellow, or lavender are nice, but don’t offer as much of a contrast.

2) One way to evaluate colors is to create categories of “light,” “medium,” and “dark.” Be aware that these are relative categories. A fabric that may be considered “light” compared to others in the fabric store, may be a “medium” in your quilt. Using a combination of light, medium and dark fabrics in your quilt adds variety and interest. If all of the fabrics have the same value, they will blend together, making your design less distinguishable.

Thread count is the number of threads per square inch in the fabric. It determines the quality and weight of the fabric.

Threads are counted for both the length and width of the fabric. If there are the same number of threads in both directions, the fabric is an “even weave.” Fabrics with an even weave are easier to work with as you make a quilt, since the fabric will have the same amount of “give in both directions.

Quilting cotton is generally 68 x 68 threads per square inch, higher than average fabrics. Fabrics with lower thread counts, those around 60 x 60 per square inch are too lightweight for quilts. They tend to ravel excessively, they will shrink more, they will be less durable, and batting will come through the weave in your finished quilt.

High thread counts and extremely tight weaves can be difficult to work with, especially if you are hand quilting. Although it is tempting to use a sheet for the backing of a quilt, the finish and thread count may make it very difficult to work with.

Did you know that more than 6 million beginner quilters decided to learn how to quilt during the last 3 years? 

That brings the total number of quilters to about 27 million – that's just in the United States. And most of those quilters, just like me, are presented with limited drawing and painting abilities. 

Quilting is a fantastic way to create a work of art with fabric. It is well understood that the “painting” will not be perfect, and that colors and patterns are limited to what's available in a quilt shop or hand dyed fabric.

Here Are My Top Tips to Help You Get Started in Making Quilts for You, Your Children & Grandchildren:

Combine blocks of fabric to create your quilts. By changing the shapes of the pieces within a block such as substituting triangles for squares and switching light fabric for dark fabric you can create a whole new quilt design. And, you will still keep the construction of your quilt the same.

Simple is the name of the game for many quilters. As a beginning quilter, focus on learning and practicing basic quilt making techniques that you will need to develop your craft.

Use one or two shapes for all of the quilt patches. This makes it easy to sew a quilt together. Squares and triangles offer many advantages in terms of simplicity.