How to Make an American Flag Rag Quilt

How to Make an American Flag Rag Quilt

When Memorial Day was right around the corner, the kids and I decided to do some sort of flag craft/project. At first I thought about sewing our own 3x5 American flag. But then I decided it would be way more fun and functional to make a quilt that we can enjoy all year round. 



Fair warning, this flag quilt is HUGE. You can half everything to make a smaller one if you want to, but we have six people up in here so we needed a big one!

What I love about this quilt is that it's so personalizable and a great project if you're not experienced in quilts. It's very forgiving! I am NO expert in quilts, in fact I'm sure this isn't the "proper" way to quilt. But that's what's great about rag quilts, they aren't meant to be perfect!

Here's what you'll need:

  • about 6 yds red fabric stripes and backing (if you choose)
  • about 6-6.5 yds white fabric stripes, stars, and backing (if you choose)
  • about 4-4.5 yds blue fabric for union and backing (if you choose)
  • about 3 yds several fabrics of choice for backing OR just one
  • corresponding thread colors
  • sewing machine
  • XL (king size) cotton batting (optional but it does give it more of that heavy weight quilt feeling)
  • pins
  • fabric scissors
  • measuring tape/measuring stick
  • sharpie/pen or chalk pencil
  • cutting mat (optional)
  • rotary blade (optional)

*Note about fabric. I estimate the yardage needed, but you may need to get more or use less depending on your pattern. I try to make sure I don't have too much excess left over and would rather go back and get more if needed than waste fabric. But, if you want to make sure you have enough and don't want to make extra trips I recommend getting a yard extra.

Directions:

  1. First things first, you want to decide what look you're going for. I decided on a Betsy Ross flag design for the front, and was going to do a solid fabric for the back. Well, half way through I changed my mind and did a quilt pattern of different fabrics for the back. Keep in mind if you do a solid print for the back, you'll need to sew large portions together to get the size you need. 
  2. Cut all your pieces out ahead of time. If you do the exact pattern I did you'll need: 13 white stars (pattern included at the end), 7 red stripes, 6 white stripes, and a blue union for the front. For the back you'll need 4 different fabrics. I used solid red from the front of the flag, the white from the front of the flag, the blue from the front union, and a fireworks pattern. *I did also substitute one of the fabric square in the corner with USMC MARPAT fabric and embroidered our last name on it. I a total of 70 12.5"X12.5" squares. I cut 18 blue squares, 17 red squares, 17 white squares, and 17 firework squares. Like I said I also cut 1 12.5"X12.5" MARPAT square as well. I also cut one row that was 12.5"X4.5". I cut 2 blue rectangles, 2 red rectangles, 3 white rectangles, and 3 firework rectangles.
  3. Once you have all your pieces laid out, you'll start pinning the short stripes together. To get the rag look for this quilt you'll put the wrong sides together. Once you have a red and white stripe pinned together, you'll sew them with a 1/2" seam allowance. Repeat with the remaining short stripes until you have them all sewed together. Set the rectangle of stripes aside. *TIP:  Start sewing from the same side of the quilt each time so that all the uneven ends end up on the other side. 
  4. Next you'll work on sewing the long stripes together. I ended up having to sew two strips of fabric together to get the length, which I didn't mind the seam. If you do this, you'll sew the two separate pieces right sides together so that the seam is less visible. Once you have the stripes the correct length, you'll sew them together like you did for the short stripes. Making sure to put wrong sides together with a 1/2" seam allowance. When you're done, you'll have two separate rectangles of red and white stripes. Set aside.
  5. Take the short stripes and sew them to the blue union, again with a 1/2" seam allowance and wrong sides together. When you're finished you'll have two separate sections of the flag; the union with short stripes and the long stripes. 
  6. Sew the long stripes to the short stripes and union. Using a 1/2" seam allowance. When you're done you'll have a full flag without the stars. Lay the flag on the ground and place the white stars on the union in a circle. Once you have them where you want them pin them in place.
  7. Sew the stars on using a 1/4" seam allowance. Place flag aside so you can work on the back pattern. 
  8. Arrange the quilt squares in a row to create your pattern and pin them together. Sew them together using a 1/2" seam allowance and wrong sides together. Repeat for each row until you have 7 rows of 10 12.5"x12.5" and 1 row of 10 12.5"x4.5". Once you have all the rows sewed, sew them together. You'll be left with a pattern that looks like the diagram above. 
  9. Now it's time for the batting. This step is optional but it will give it that heavier quilt feeling as well as be a bit warmer. Lay the back pattern on the ground. Place the batting on top of it and make sure it is smoothly laid out. Pin the batting to the backing fabric. When placing the batting on the backing fabric, make sure you have a 1" border of fabric. Meaning, the batting should be smaller than the backing fabric all the way around by 1". 
  10. Sew the batting to the backing fabric all the way around. Once the batting is held in place you're ready to sew the quilting pattern. It will depend on the batting you use how far apart your stitches have to be. For the one I used, I ended up just sewing each 12.5"x12.5" square in quarters. I started on one row and sewed half way through the square all the way down the row. Once I finished that I rotated the quilt and did the same. By the end you should have each square "sewed in quarters" if that makes sense. 
  11. Now you're ready to sew the front flag to the backing. Lay the two sides on the ground wrong sides together and line it up as best you can. It's okay if there's overhang. This is the part where you'll straighten the edges of one side of the quilt that is uneven.
  12. Pin the front and back pieces together and sew all the way around with a 1" seam allowance. 
  13. You're almost done! Now that you have everything sewn together, you'll want to go through and cut all the seam allowances every 1/2 ". Get every row and all the way around the edges. You'll need to wash and dry it several times to get the look you want. After each wash I like to lint roll and cut off any long stragglers. You won't have to do this every time, but the first few you'll need to.

If you choose to do a 50 star flag, you'll have to cut your stars smaller and that may be a trial and error thing since I haven't tried it!

 

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