I often try to challenge myself trying new things and this time happened to me to try a rag apron.
Me and a few other Independent designers and friends decided to team up and swap one of our patterns for the Designer Pattern Swap (don’t forget to check the sales, today’s other designers and enter the giveaway!)
I was already dreaming of a cool frilly dress for my girl but then I offered myself to be matched with the only quilt designer in the group: Bobbie from A Vision To Remember.
She has an Etsy shop for everything quilted: custom rag quilt, ruffled curtain, toddler bedding, car seat cover, rag quilt pattern, flannel, cotton fabric, baby blanket, valance, diaper bag… and she sells her own patterns too.
Being me a newbie on rag quilting, I wasn’t quite sure about tackling a long-ish project, so I chose her Rag Apron pattern* to start with.
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When I got the pattern in my hands I was staring at it like “Uh… and now? Where do I start?” I felt like a total dummy!
But… I am a FIGHTER! I couldn’t be defeated by an apron… I mean AN APRON!
So I started reading everything I could find around the web, to learn how to appropriately approach a rag quilted apron the right way.
Rag quilt tips collection for beginners
So, if you are thinking to try a rag quilt, I hope you will appreciate my efforts in collecting below everything I learned along this journey in sewing a rag apron: what I would have known before I started to sew this.
For all the rag quilters out there: some of the tips are probably plain obvious for you. They weren’t for me.
I scratched the top of my head for a huge amount of time (and deepened my relationship with my new BFF, Mr. Seam Ripper) before I really got them. I’m sure (or I hope!) I am not the only one… please don’t judge my ignorance in this field 😀
- Choose your fabric wisely: anything cotton will work (because polyester doesn’t fray easily, they say). If you like a nice popping color accent on the front, use a bright backing!
- If you have a list of pieces to cut (instead of pattern pieces, like I’m much more used to), name each one with a code (letter or number – this pattern had letters so I went with them), then print a layout and note down which pieces goes where (so you can design your personal rag quilt / rag apron); cut each pile of pieces and label them by writing on a piece of paper your code + number of pieces to cut (remember you will have a main and a backing fabric, while for heavier aprons/quilts you may have one or more batting layers too in between). This should help you stay out from the madhouse!
- Another step I had to do was translating inches to cm… And this is the site I use when I create my own patterns (which comes with both Imperials and metric measurements): so handy, with that little helpful ruler on top!
- Although it’s not mandatory, cut your pattern pieces using a rotary cutter *and a quilting cutting mat*, even better if you use a quilting ruler*!
- Nap direction/print direction: mark arrows with chalk on pieces to be sure they’re all going the right direction on both sides: front to back and pieces sewn side-by-side (done, ripped, fixed) —> Tip: choose a non-directional print (and no nap) for your first one (do what I say, not what I do!)
Preparing to sew
- When you’re done cutting, you need to match main/backing pieces WRONG SIDES TOGETHER (just the opposite you would naturally do!)
- To start sewing each bread-only-sandwich to the next one, remember you will be doing it RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER (headache coming soon… thanks Mr. Seam Ripper for your help!)
- Choose thread color wisely: if it is perfectly matching both sides of your quilt on the edges, it will be almost impossible to clip seam allowances to (but not through) the seam, and you will be going back and forth your sewing machine to partially re-sew your edge seam!
Look at the scallop edge: I wouldn’t have been able to clip seam allowances if both sides were looking like the denim one!
- Treating multiple layers of fabric like if they were one, means that stuff rapidly becomes stiff (especially if choosing denim). Using a thimble* to pin and a walking foot* to sew will help you a lot!
- Choose the right type and size of needles too: mine was a Schmetz for denim n° 100/16*
Let’s sew our rag quilt!
- Stitch length: being that stiff, better increase it to a 3-4.
- Absolutely Always Backstitch, on each end of each seam!!!
- Chain stitching is a real time-saver: as I usually do, instead of following the pattern directions, I pin everything I can, without crossing seams, then I go to the sewing machine and sew everything together, rinse and repeat!
- Keep your vacuum cleaner next to you: lint alert!
- Before you sew across another seam, open it by finger-pressing it open and pin it on both sides of the seam allowances: this will help you sewing it without bumps & lumps!
About seam allowances
- When you’re ready to clip seam allowances, sit on your couch, put a bed sheet on your knees, under the quilt to-be-ragged, a truck load of patience, your favorite TV series (I’m watching the HBO Leftovers right now) and start clipping. When you’re done, slam your creation somewhere outside your house “a few times” to make most clip threads fall down.
- Clip seam allowances separately: unless you already own a really good pair of scissors (see next point), you’d better start clipping seam allowances one side at a time. This will save a lot of pain to your hands.
- To clip seam allowances, you NEED a good pair of sharp scissors. There are a few really cool on the market (like these spring loaded 8.5″ * and these 6″*, which are 44% off, at the moment or these 6 1/2″ spring loaded Heritage Pro ones*, if you are serious in rag quilting) and I will definitely get one pair as soon as I will decide to tackle another rag quilt: my right hand is hurting!
Using your regular beloved sewing scissors for this task won’t work on the long run: sewing scissors are usually long and heavy and here you’re using only the tips of them (making sure you clip fabric right to but not through the seam, or your lovely rag quilt will come undone in the washing machine!)
- Speaking of washing machines: don’t use your best one!
I have two washing machines, one for hubby’s working clothes and the other (coolest and newest, that uses warm water from the solar panels) for all the rest.
Without even thinking about it, I went with the good one… that ended full of fabric lint, stopping every couple of minutes because the lint filter was clogged and I almost flooded my home.
Don’t repeat my awful experience!
Clothes were full of lint for a few days after that, I washed the washing machine with specialty products but they kept coming out from nowhere!
Next time I will a) use the other washing machine and b) put my rag quilt into a pillow cover and see if it works better… or (better) go to the Laundromat and clog their filters LOL
A few (minor) details I changed on the pattern
I am very happy with my new apron. The pattern was perfect as it was but I changed a few minor details to better accommodate my tastes.
The ruffle: it was busy enough for my tastes, so I left it out.
The straps: I changed with cotton fabric braids on both the neck strap and the waist straps… I love them!
Pockets: I started thinking I would add pockets (Bobbie has a nice tutorial for that), but then I preferred to follow instruction for a simpler version, to be sure to be able to complete it. If you’re going to sew it, I’d suggest you to add them: an apron, with pockets, it’s better IMHO!
Are you ready to start sewing your very first rag apron? Get your copy of the Rag Apron Pattern by A Vision to Remember* and start sewing! I did it, and it was FUN!
Don’t forget to check the sales, today’s other designers and enter the giveaway!