Rag Bag Roses


  • One worn 100% cotton sheet or two large worn light coloured 100% cotton shirts or similar
  • Dylon Hand Dyes Black (12), Royal Blue (26), Olive (34), Dark Green (09)
  • 8oz/250g salt
  • 45 x 60cm ( 18 x 24in) wadding
  • Stitch ‘n’ Tear 36 x 46cm (14 x 18in)
  • Temporary fabric adhesive e.g. 505

Note: The edges of sheets don’t wear as much as the centres, so you get quite a lot of useable fabric from one. Polycotton mixes will give lighter shades. If you don’t have any suitable ragbag fabrics two FQ will be enough for the main front and backing and you could use scraps or charm squares for the other pieces.

Finished Size

15 1⁄2 x 21 1⁄2in (39.5 x 55cm)

Skill Level



To find your local stockist of Dylon products call 020 8663 4296 or visit the Dylon website.

Julie dyed a threadbare cotton sheet along with several old cotton shirts and as a result she now has yet another stash of fabric!

The background fabric for this wallhanging was traditionally dyed in a bucket using Dylon Hand Dye. The fabrics for the flowers, leaves etc were all micro-dyed in the microwave also using Dylon Hand Dyes. Micro-dyeing is fast, fun, satisfying and highly addictive! But colours cannot be guaranteed, in fact you can get some surprising results. To get darker shades use less water or more dye powder, and more water or less dye powder for lighter shades. Julie keeps a rough record of approximately how she achieved each colour and affect created, so she can get something similar if more fabric is needed at a later date. Micro-dyeing is for special effects only, you will not achieve a uniform colour with this method, and hence the background fabric was dyed in a bucket. Children love using this technique, under strict supervision of course, to dye their clothes/fabrics. Both Julie’s youngest son and her grandson enjoy dyeing tee shirts and clothes this way, and the results are almost instant!

Dyeing Preparation

  1. Cut off unsuitable sections, i.e. collars, cuffs etc, then cut into separate elements sleeves, fronts and back. Now cut off or unpick the seams to give usable pieces of fabric.
  2. Before dyeing wash the fabric and leave damp but do not use fabric conditioner.
  3. Dye two shirt backs and one shirt front with the black dye in the traditional bucket method, see manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll need one back each for the background and backing fabric with the shirt front for the binding. Alternatively, from a sheet you’ll need enough fabric for the background, backing and binding. Meanwhile, micro-dye the fabric for the leaves, petals and borders.
Figure 1: Pinning the leaf fabric in place
Figure 1: Pinning the leaf fabric in place

Dyeing the fabrics

  1. Scrunch up a piece of damp fabric and squash it into a small microwaveable tub about the size of a yoghurt pot, do not use an actual yoghurt pot, they melt!
  2. Wearing rubber gloves mix up the dye; add a teaspoon of dye powder and mix with warm water until dissolved. Add cold water until pot is about 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 full and stir. Pour over the fabric in the microwave tub, squelching the fabric into the dye. Cover the tub with a plastic bag and put in the microwave for four minutes on full power. Tip into the sink. Rinse fabric in cold water until water runs clear
  3. Repeat with the remaining fabrics using different colours.
  4. As these are such small pieces of fabric, Julie recommends hand washing in the sink in hot soapy water (it’s quicker than waiting for the washer) and rinse. When the fabric is almost dry press with a hot iron. You should get some interesting patterns and shades.

TIP! If you prepare a few dyes they can all go into the microwave together.

The Roses

  1. Enlarge the design so it measures 16in (about 41cm) from top to bottom. Trace onto the Stitch ‘n’ Tear, as this is the back of the hanging the image will be the reverse of what will appear on the front (our diagram has been reversed for you). Attach the Stitch ‘n’ Tear to the background fabric WS together, using temporary adhesive so that the drawing is visible on the back.
  2. Appliqué the flowers using reverse machine appliqué technique. First apply the bud leaves and stems, then the flowers following the sewing order on the template. Beginning with the bud lay the chosen leaf fabric RS side down. Lay the background fabric on top also RS down over the leaf shape. Working from the back pin around the outside of the leaf shape through all the layers (Figure 1). Turn the work over to check the shape is totally covered by the leaf fabric, adjust as necessary.
  3. On the back of the fabric, using a darning foot, and with the feed dogs lowered, stitch around the leaf using small stitches exactly on the traced outline.
  4. Turn the work over and using small sharp scissors carefully trim away the excess fabric close to the stitching. See Figures 2 and 3.
  5. Figure 2: Cut away the excess fabric from the front
    Figure 2: Cut away the excess fabric from the front
  6. Repeat steps 2 to 4 building up the appliqué until the motif is complete. The quilt can be finished by satin stitching the appliqué and then quilting, alternatively make up the quilt sandwich and use the satin stitch as quilting.Set the sewing machine to satin stitch and working from the RS stitch around each motif in the design. If you stitch in the same order as the pieces were applied, most of the ends will be covered giving a neater finish.
Figure 3: Pieces 1 and 2 in place
Figure 3: Pieces 1 and 2 in place

TIP! Pull the bottom thread to the top of the work to avoid getting a mess of thread showing on the front.


  1. Remove the Stitch ‘n’ Tear. Press. Trim to 12 1⁄2 x 18 1⁄2in (33 x 49cm).
  2. Cut 44 2in (5cm) squares from the remaining fabrics. With 1⁄4in (5mm) seams, join the squares randomly into two strips of 12 squares and two strips of 10 squares. Attach one strip of 12 squares to each side of the quilt and press towards the border. Add one strip of 10 squares to the top and bottom of the quilt (see Figure 4). Finally press the whole quilt top thoroughly.

Quilting and finishing

Figure 4: Attaching the borders
Figure 4: Attaching the borders
  1. Mark the quilting pattern – Julie used diagonal lines for the centre and leaf motifs joined by a meandering line in the border, which could be either marked on the quilt or stitched free hand.
  2. Cut a piece of backing fabric 2-3in (5-8cm) larger all round than the quilt top and a piece of wading the same size. Sandwich quilt top, wadding and backing fabric in the usual way.
  3. Using invisible thread quilt very close to the satin stitching around the flower motif using free machine quilting. However, if you did not satin stitch the flowers before layering set the machine to satin stitch and cover the raw edges of the appliqué using matching machine embroidery threads. Stitch in the same order as before. With this method the satin stitch doubles as a quilting stitch.
  4. Quilt a diagonal line pattern behind the flowers, followed by the border pattern.

    Note: Use a walking foot if available for the diagonal line quilting, to give an even quilt stitch.

  5. Binding: from the shirtfront cut enough 2 1⁄2in (6.5cm) wide strips to go around the quilt with approximately 10in (26cm) extra for allowances. Join into one long strip. Fold the strip in half WS together and press. With raw edges even attach the binding to the quilt. Fold to the back making neat mitres at the corners and hand stitch in place. Attach a label and hanging sleeve and admire your handy work.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 12 Number 9 - August 2004