I’m excited I’ll be teaching a quilting basics class at SCRAP-SF in September and October. I’m focusing on my favorite block – the Log Cabin Quilt Block. I love this block because of its versatility: it can be traditional, straight and tidy or messy, scrappy and wonky. Even a single block used many times can yield a multitude of layouts and patterns. I love the puzzle of it all!
Here are some of the quilts and blocks I’ve made using versions of the Log Cabin Block:
This provides a reference to students – and anyone else! – on how to make log cabin blocks, layout ideas for quilts
I start by making strips of light and dark fabrics. For this I’ve made them the length of the fabric I had on hand (all from SCRAP-SF) and cut strips of 2 1/2″.
I made the centers red – and 2 1/2″ square. For a beginner, I suggest marking the wrong side of the fabric (WSF) with a pencil, chalk or disappearing ink marker 1/4″ from the sides of each edge to mark where you will sew a seam. All seams will be sewn 1/4″ from the edge (a standard size for most quilting)
LIGHT/DARK LOG CABIN BLOCK WITH RED CENTER
This is probably the most familiar version of the Log Cabin block. For many traditionalists, this block will have a red center. A red center square was thought to symbolize the hearth of the home, and a yellow center was believed to represent light shining through the window.
Starting from the red center piece – mine are 2 1/2″ square, (1), sew a light piece (2) that is the same length/size as the red squares along the edge. The seam allowance (measurement from the edge to the sewing line) should be 1/4″. Once sewn, finger or iron press, the seam flat* Cut a piece (3) that is the length of the red center and piece 2 sewn together. This piece should measure approximately 4.5″ Again, press the seam flat.
(*Note: I’m recommending pressing seams flat to one side. For this I press the seam towards the outside of the block. Some people like to press seams open. Your call.)
Now you’ll alternate to the card fabrics, and continue adding pieces the length of the latest long edge that you’ve sewn. Sew a dark piece (4) to the joined (3) and (1/center) piece. Finger or iron press the seam flat (you’ll do this after each piece is attached to help keep the block flat and sewing lines straight.) Sew another dark piece (5) to the long edge that includes piece 4, 1 and 2. The block should measure approximately 6.74″ square.
Continue sewing clockwise around the block, adding two light, then two dark strips.
COURTHOUSE STEPS BLOCK
I currently don’t have photos of work in process to illustrate this, but hope that my explaining the diagram above, you can get going on this block.
Again, start with the red center block (1) cut at 2 1/2″. Cut two of the same color pieces (2) and sew 1/4″ on each side (beige floral in the photo, dark in the diagram.). This piece will be approximately 6.5″ in length. Press seams to the outside. Then cut two pieces of fabric of the different color (dark blue in the photo, light in the diagram) and sew the length of the three pieces (a 2, 1, and 2). You will alternate cutting/sewing on two light vs. dark pieces of fabric for as much and as big as you want!
Here is an example of taking this idea and blowing it out to a full quilt. This was made from my son’s outgrown pants and jeans one year. Each piece is 1″ wide finished (I cut each 1.5″, and with 1/4″ seams, the result is a 1 inch finished ‘bar’. This quilt is about 47.5″x47.5″ and was hand quilted (that was HARD! But worth it.)
WHITE HOUSE STEPS BLOCK
The White House Steps block uses the same concept as the Court House Steps. The variation is that you sew the same color first on either side of the center (2 x 2) then use the same color to complete square surrounding the center (3×2). You alternate light vs dark with concentric square. This is one of my favorites and I use this one a lot.
I recently made this piece I call “Log Cabin Fever Dream” that finishes at 36″x36″. It is made up of 6″, 4″ and 2″ log cabin blocks totaling 129 blocks. You can see examples of all the blocks I’ve outlined here, and many modifications of “wonky” versions of the Log Cabin. Enjoy!
More great Log Cabin Block links:
Look at all the ways you can use this block! Artist, Luke Haynes, really shows us how. The Log Cabin Quilts of Luke Haynes
The Quilts of Gees Bend exhibition at the de Young Museum in 2006 was probably THE inspiration for me to start quilting. Here are some of their Log Cabin quilts.