Layer Cake Rag Quilt

by Heather Spence

Okay, I understand that the title may not be entirely inspiring.  At least you'll know exactly what you're making!!  :D

A couple of thoughts about rag quilts:

  • They are very low on the perfection scale.  Because all the seams are on the outside of the quilt you don't really need to worry about whether or not seams are matching or even if the stitching is perfect.
  • In my opinion, the most time consuming part of making rag quilts is the cutting.
  • Rag quilts are super easy and great for beginners.
  • Great for scrap fabric and batting (can we please get an amen to that??)
  • The 1/2" seam allowance is super important.

With that out of the way let's get started!  (oh ... you can also skip straight to the bottom of the post for the PDF version of the pattern.)

Quilt Size:  48" x 56"

Great size for snuggling under on the couch.  A little big for a lap quilt.


I used Little Ruby Flannels by Bonnie & Camille for Moda.

You'll need:

  • 1 Layer Cake or (42) 10" x 10" squares
  • 3 yards backing of 44/45" fabric or 2 yards of Minkee (which is, generally 60" wide)
  • 1 1/2 yards 90" wide batting from a roll or twin size package ... or leftovers!  I used scrap batting for my quilt.

Before cutting:

  • Separate the Layer Cake into two piles of 21 fabrics each.  One pile will be predominately one color (i chose red), which will be the large squares, and the other pile will be a mixture of all the other colors, which will be for the small squares.

Cutting Instructions:

Trim the squares that will stay large to 9" by taking 1" off of two sides that run perpendicular to each other.  Set them aside.  (you can discard the extras or make something out of them ... totally up to you.)  As a side note:  Do not try and cut the entire pile of 10" squares at the same time. I stacked 3 on top of each other and, as this is low perfection, didn't worry too much if they didn't line up perfectly.

  • Cut the other 21 squares in half vertically and horizontally to make eighty four 5" squares.

From your backing fabric:

  • Cut WOF (width of fabric) six 9" strips.
  • Sub-cut into twenty-one 9" squares.


  • Cut WOF eleven 5" strips of fabric
  • Sub-cut into eighty-four 5" squares

Then from batting:

  • Cut five 8" strips
  • Sub-cut into twenty-one 8" squares
  • Cut eleven 4" strips
  • Sub-cut eighty-four 4" squares

Done??  Excellent!  Let's get on to some sewing.

1)  Lay one backing square with right (printed) side down.

2)  Next center one square of batting on top of the backing square.

3)  Lay one Layer Cake square on top of the batting, lining up the corners and edges with the backing square.  It's totally fine if it's too big or doesn't match up perfectly.  Just do the best you can.  Remember:  Low Perfection Quilt!

4)  Sew diagonally from one corner to opposite corner.  Hint:  If the corners of your fabric are pushed down into the machine by the needle try running a piece of scrap fabric folded in your half through the machine first.  Do not cut it off!  This helps keep a tension on the fabrics and minimizes problems.

5)  This a great time to chain piece.  Chain piecing is when you don't cut the threads between the pieces that you've sewn.  You'll have a really long chain of quilt blocks.

6)  Once you've stitched all the squares in one direction, clip the chain apart, turn the blocks and stitch the other direction creating an X on the block.  Hint:  You may find the presser foot pushing the fabric towards you causing a pucker to happen at the previous stitching line.  I counter this by gently pushing the fabric back under the presser foot.

7)  Repeat steps #1 through #6 with the large squares.  You should have eighty-four 5" blocks and twenty-one 9" blocks.

8)  At this point, depending on what level of I-Just-Want-To-Finish-This-Quilt you are at, you can choose to square up the blocks to the backing squares. 

9)  Next sort the little squares into the different colors.  My piles were blue, pink and green.  And ... there's no picture.  How I missed this I'm not entirely sure ... so imagine three piles.  One pile will be the bigger than the rest, in this case it was the blue pile.

10)  Using the layout on the pattern (PDF at the bottom of the page) I decided to use the blues as my dark squares and the green and pink squares as my cream squares.  Pair one medium and one dark (in this case a green with a blue). 

Layer Cake Rag Quilt Tutorial

Hint:  Due to the nature of Layer Cakes there is an extremely high chance of a wide variety of colors...this is good!  It lends to the scrappy nature of these quilts.  Go with the flow of it and try not to get hung up on what will look good where.  The most important part is the contrast between light and dark so be consistent!

11)  Put your two squares together with backings touching.  Line up the edges and the corners ...

13)  Sew down the side using a 1/2" seam allowance.  Did you get that??  1/2" SEAM ALLOWANCE.  That's super important.

14)  Repeat #11 through #13 with remaining green/blue and pink/blue squares.

15)  Match two pairs turning the second pair so the blues are opposite of each other.

16)  With backing sides together, match center seams by folding them opposite of each other.  Butt them up right next to each other.  Pin if you need to.  Sew according to step 13 with a 1/2" seam allowance.

17)  Open that bad boy up!  Should look something like mine with those seams standing up for the whole world to see.  :D

18)  Repeat #15 through #17 until all four patches are completed.  (btw ... you're more than half way finished!  congratulations!!)  You should have 21 four-patches.

Take a moment ... get something to drink.  Stretch.  We're in the home stretch with the sewing but it's the perfect time to move a bit.

Okay.  Ready??  Now we're going to make rows:

19)  Lay out your blocks. Be sure to alternate one large square with one four-patch with six blocks in each row.  Make 7 rows.

20)  Sew the the blocks together following steps #12 and #13.

21)  Sew rows together following step #16 where seam allowances match up.  I like to sew a completed row to the rest of the quilt when I'm done sewing it together.  Gives me the feeling of progress as I move down the quilt!

22)  Once all the rows are sewn together sew around the outside edge of the quilt with a 1/2" seam allowance.

23)  I open up the seams as I come to them.

24)  Don't forget to back-stitch at the beginning and end of each side of the quilt!

Phew!  Almost.  Done.  I guess if you really wanted to not go any further you'd have a wonderful quilt but ... BUT ... it just wouldn't be finished.  Right??

Okay ... grab your scissors.  But not any old scissors!  Spring loaded scissors are your best bet.  Though my very favorite scissors for rag quilts?  The Kai 5150 6-inch Rag Quilt Scissors.  Like cutting through butter.  I promise.

25)  Now ... all those 1/2" seam allowances ... you are going to start clipping them.

I keep my sections about 1/2" so they are square'ish.

What NOT to cut:

  • The four actual corners of the quilt.  Don't do that.  Not good.
  • Any stitching lines.  Yeah ... don't do that either.  Really not good.
  • The quilt top fabric itself (it is possible to accidentally catch some of it when clipping).  That's not good either.

What to clip:

  • The outside edges ... all four
  • All the seams that are sticking up

26)  When you come to a seam that is sewn open, clip one side ...

then clip on the other side ...

and when the seam stands up continue clipping 1/2" sections until the next intersection.

27)  I start at the top edge and work along each row until the row is finished.  Inevitably I miss a section.  But it's fine ... it's simple to clip it later (the wonderful part of having the seams outside the quilt).

28)  When it's all cut (but not yet washed) it'll look like this.

Thoughts on washing ... rag quilts create a huge amount of lint so I recommend that you take it to a laundromat to wash it the first time, especially if it's a larger quilt.

29)  Throw it in the washing machine on regular cycle with whatever soap you use. LOTS of little threads will be in your machine when the cycle is done so be sure to wipe it out really good.

30) Once washed put into the dryer.  Regular heat. BEWARE!  The lint trap will be super full of lint so change it.  (of course ... my quilt is flannel so there was an exceptional amount of lint ... if you use regular cotton quilting fabric you won't have nearly as much lint.)

And here it is!!  All soft and warm and finished!

Layer Cake Rag Quilt Tutorial

You can get the downloadable PDF version here.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you learned something new and enjoy the pattern.


~ h

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