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I don't technically live in a log cabin, but I did recently move to a home that has a fireplace...so yeah. I pretty much live in a log cabin. Which is AMAZING for my quilt street cred cause the Log Cabin quilt block is one of the most well-known and popular of all patchwork patterns! Also, one of my absolute favorite designs to recreate over and over again.
To pioneers traveling West, the Log Cabin design symbolized home, warmth, love and security. Traditionally, the center square of the block was done in red to represent the hearth, the focal point of life in a cabin or home.
The name, Log Cabin, comes from the narrow strips of fabric, or logs arranged around the center square. Each fabric strip, or log, is added to the pattern in much the same way logs were stacked to build a cabin; and because the straight lines and small pieces of the pattern can utilize almost any fabric scrap available, historically it often became the final step in the recycling of used fabric.
Grandpa's got an old shirt? Throw it in. Baby Ethel outgrew her bloomers? Into the quilt it goes! The Log Cabin quilt block is a symbolic melting pot, if you will. Hmmm...a melting pot...remind you of anything? Ahhh yes, the original heritage of the U.S. of A.
Now, because of its simple construction, it can easily be made with pre-cut bundles, yardage or scraps, and appeals to beginners and advanced quilters alike.
Modern Adaptations Of The Log Cabin Quilt
Like many traditional quilt blocks, the Log Cabin Quilt has evolved and adapted to modern tastes and quilting techniques. Below are some examples of quilters who have mastered the Log Cabin block and elevated its form into beautifully modern designs.
One key element to notice is the use of negative space – which is uniquely modern.
Kelly Biscopink & Andrea Johnson
Authors of Modern Designs for Classic Quilts: 12 Traditionally Inspired Patterns Made New
Make Your Own Log Cabin
- Cut two of your 2 ½” strips into 2 ½” x 2 ½” squares. One of these will be the center of your block, so you most likely do not want them to be the same color.
- Place right sides together and sew the squares together using a ¼” seam. Press seam. Fig.1
- Cut two 2 ½” x 4 ½” strips and sew one to the unit created in Step 2. Press seam, then sew the other strip to the side of the unit. Fig.2
- Cut two 2 ½” x 6 ½” strips (different colors) and sew one to the unit created in Step 3. Press seam, then sew the other strip to the side of the unit. Fig.3
- Keep going with this pattern of cutting two same-sized strips, sewing, then pressing the seams. Taking into account the ¼” seam allowance, you can make these blocks as large as you want by adding 2” to each set of strips (eg. after 2 ½” x 8 ½” strips, the next set will be 2 ½” x 10 ½” strips).
This block is incredibly versatile. Based on the color of fabric and arrangement of blocks, you can make hundreds of different quilts. Once you have all of your blocks made, spend some time rearranging the layout of the blocks to see which one you like best. Below are a few examples of different layouts using the example block.
Layout Example 1
Layout Example 2
Layout Example 3
Tip! Once you have made a couple blocks, and are familiar with the process, try cutting out strips for more blocks and chain piecing the units together (Chain piecing is when you sew your pieces of fabric together with one length of thread rather than snipping the thread in between each block. This saves time, thread and can prevent the fabric from getting eaten up by your sewing machine’s feed dogs.) Making multiple blocks can sometimes get confusing, so keep a finished block nearby for reference.
After you know the basics for this Log Cabin pattern you can change it up by varying the width of fabric, changing the colors or even using shears rather than a rotary cutter to give your blocks a wonky look.
Below is an example of a mini quilt I recently made using only shears to cut pieces of fabric. One thing I love most about this quilt block is how different each one can look based on which scrap of fabric you use!