How to make a turtle rag quilt

One of my friends really loves turtles, and with love, I mean really LOVES them. This is actually the third turtle-related present I’ve made for her and her turtle. Before this one there was a bookbag and a mini-quilt. This is both the birthday and housewarming present for her and her turtle Stoffel. So: congratulations! So far this quilt is unnamed, but if my friend feels the urge to name it, I’m sure to tell you all.

Finished turtle rag quilt
Finished turtle rag quilt

What is a rag quilt?

A rag quilt is a quilt where instead of putting the seams inside the quilt you put them on the outside. If you cut into the seams and put it in the washer and dryer the fabric frays, creating a lovely effect. Unfortunately, that did not happen with this quilt. I am sure it will happen one day though, after many more turns in the laundry. Sometimes a quilt needs some time to grow into its full potential.  Below you see a picture of how the fraying at the edges should look (not my work). But it doesn’t matter that the fraying did not happen yet. I like the quilt with the clipped seams as well.

Personalized Boy Rag Quilt- Rolled

So, how do you make this quilt?

Like a lot of quilts, this started with a pattern. For this quilt, I really did try to buy and use a pattern, but my computer and the website were not cooperating. So I drew one myself with the help of photos of finished rag quilts and newspapers. Newspapers are great to work with because they are free, big sheets of paper and in abundance. The body is one piece of newspapers taped together. The head, tail, feet and arms are loose parts so I could move them around to adjust placement.

Pattern of the rag turtle quilt
Pattern of the rag turtle quilt

The body consists of six pie wedges, which are later on sewn together. Each wedge is made up of five parts. Those are the lines you see in the drawing. It looks a bit like a spider web, doesn’t it? I chopped up one of the wedges, to use as a template to cut the fabric

On to the sewing part of the quilt

My sewing machine Fray Pfaff was NOT happy with the fabrics I’ve used. Especially the dark olive one was terrible because it has a lot of lint. However, the green fabric I used as backing wasn’t much better. Lint gets into your machine and messes things up inside, until your machine simply stops working until you’ve cleaned it. Great learning moments. I also discovered my machine has a preference for certain threads. I’d heard about that, but not experienced it yet. My machine doesn’t like cheap thin thread. If I use that one the thread snaps more than with thicker thread.

As mentioned before, the body consists of six parts. First I sewed the different components of every wedge together. After that, they have to be quilted to give the end product strength. For that, I used fleece blankets as batting and a green blanket as backing. The quilting I did with zigzag lines. I haven’t got much experience with machine quilting, so I decided to keep the design simple. Also zigzags kinda made sense for the body.

The other body parts are sewn with round shapes. I tried to get the two hands and the two feet as similar as possible:

For the tail, I used roundish shapes to compliment the shape of the tail. This went surprisingly well. With machine quilting, I’ve learned one should take a shot of whiskey, make the sign of the cross, give a nod to your mother and just go for it.

Tail of the rag turtle
Tail of the turtle

The head was kept for last. For this I also used wavy lined and some straight lines around the eyes.  The eyes are applique with four different fabrics.

Head of the scrap turtle
Head of the turtle

Putting all the pieces together

Putting all the pie wedges together was a whole challenge on its own! With the three layers per wedge, the amount of fabric to sew through was getting very thick. To such an extent that I decided to join the points by hand. Sometimes hand sewing really is the best solution. But I have to admit that I mainly came to that conclusion after breaking several needles on this quilt.

Middle of the rag quilt
Middle of the rag quilt

Sewing the other body parts on was easy. I pinned some the wrong way first though, because with a rag quilt you put everything together opposite from a normal quilt. That is a very confusing way to work. But all mistakes were discovered before any real sewing was done and I am very pleased with the result! I’ll end this post with a picture of this turtle chilling on my balcony.

Chilling rag quilt turtle
Chilling rag quilt turtle

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blogpost every Sunday or Monday.


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