Thursday, September 17, 2015

Log Cabin Quilts

Log Cabin Quilts:
July 4th came and went, one of my favorite holidays of the year!  I am as excited as a small child, watching fireworks, but this year I watched from my deck, although I only saw faint edges of the display in the distance.  I was entertained by the firefly show displayed against the dark trees, however.  They seemed to be agitated by the booming noises surrounding us, and really put on a show of lights of their own.  Last summer, grandson Quentin was fascinated by the fireflies; they would sit on his hand and flash their phosphorescent glow.  We Googled them and discovered that is the way they attract their mates, and by the show of lights on my lawn, there must be a lot of firefly merging going on!  They don’t seem to be as abundant in the neighbor’s yards, and I wonder if it is because I don’t poison my “weeds”.  What most people consider weeds are actually wonderful herbal medicine in many cases, and I enjoy the bursts of color… purple violets, golden dandelions… a wonderful array of royal colors adorning my grass.  Two poems came to me while I was watching the show of lights, two tributes to summer.  I tried without success to capture the fireflies, and the fireworks were just as elusive on camera.

Fireflies, flickering
a phosphorescent dance,
seek romance;
inherent trust
Lighting the dusk
of a sultry summer night.

Fireworks hidden by tall trees;
Lingering sparks
Reach for the stars;
booming trails
shatter the silence,
On the dark side of the moon.

Nature in all her splendor offers inspiration to those of us who need to feed the artist within, whether our medium is paint or fabric.  Perhaps my pleasure in budgeting contributed to my love of scrappy quilts… they use every bit of fabric in some way.  Two of my favorite traditional patterns that I’ve made many times are the Log Cabin (it uses 1-1/2” strips of all colors) and Around the World, which I make with 2-1/2” strips.  There are many variations of Log Cabins and many different layouts of the blocks.  I prefer cutting my strips to the correct lengths before sewing them into blocks, but others just sew and then cut the strip off after sewing.  When I have leftover scraps of fabric, I often cut them into 1-1/2” strips and put them into a Ziploc bag or basket.  A plastic bin with a lid also works great for storing those bits and pieces.  If you like, you can further cut those strips into the largest sizes you can for your “logs”… see below for the lengths needed for each block.  If you are REALLY organized, you can even put the same length strips into Ziploc sandwich baggies so they are already separated into the sizes you need. 

I’m enamored with Robert Kaufman’s Far East and Luxe fabric lines!  Some have metallic accents and many have an Oriental flavor… truly elegant and lovely.  I am using them in several patterns, but the Log Cabin done in his Far East and Luxe lines is what the focus is in this blog.  It’s a very easy block to do, and goes quickly.  I cut my pieces to length before I start sewing, and lay them out in order; a cookie sheet is a good way to organize the strips according to size.  
(See photo at left)
Traditionally, the center square of the block is red, orange or shades of gold, to signify the fire in the hearth of the cabin, or the “heart” of the home.  I use a 2-1/2” square for the center, and work out from that, attaching 1-1/2” strips to each side.  The center of these blocks is a gold print.
There are four strips in each round of the block, and you can do as many rounds as you like, depending on the size block you want.  I first attach a strip of light to the center square, then working clockwise, I add another light strip, then a dark and the final strip on the round is another dark.  Four rounds will result in an 8" finished block.  One more round would make a 10" finished block.
The strips are cut as follows: 
                          Light:                             Dark:
          Round 1:  2-1/2”                            3-1/2”
                           3-1/2”                            4-1/2”
           Round 2:  4-1/2”                            5-1/2”
                            5-1/2”                            6-1/2”
            Round 3: 6-1/2”                            7-1/2”
                            7-1/2”                            8-1/2”
Here are photos of each round. 

Round 1:

Round 2: 

Round 3, Light and Dark at left

This is a photo of the quilt my son took in a guest bedroom upstairs.  It does not have a border yet.  It will be queen sized, and grace the bedroom of him and his wife someday when it is completed.  I am much better at sewing the tops than quilting them, so I hope they aren’t holding their breath in anticipation!

Here are photos of a few more log cabin tops I have waiting to be quilted.  The one with the fire-breathing dragons is for my oldest granddaughter, who wanted a quilt in blues and oranges and loves dragons.  I found this little remnant of dragon fabric for the center blocks, and discovered my daughter had found the same fabric many states away and made curtains for her bedroom from it.  My granddaughter now has her own apartment and a queen sized bed... so I need to add some borders and get this quilted, finally!

This is a lap quilt that has not had any requests for a permanent residence yet, made totally from scraps with no planned color story. 

In a prior post, I have a tutorial for an offset log cabin, where the lights and darks are not the same width strips.

I have also made a 9-Patch Log Cabin, 
with a 9-Patch block as the center, rather than the 2-1/2” square, and using 2-1/2” ‘logs’ instead.   
The quilt on the right went to my youngest daughter, and is actually quilted!

The variation on the left is made completely of 2-1/2" scraps left from other projects, and is loved by my youngest granddaughter, Charlotte.  She loves the kitten border, especially, and this one is also quilted.

Log Cabin quilts are very easy to make, a great way to use up your scraps from other projects, and they look pretty, too!  


  1. This post was so entertaining that I read it through twice and reveled in it. Thank you for all the beautiful photos of your log cabins! My favorite is the queen for your son on the bed. That one looks like 100 blocks so far? Gorgeous!!

  2. Ha, I was happy to read you have made many quilt tops, waiting to be quilted! It is the same with me, I am 82 and when I finally head to my heavenly home, there will be many quilt tops stored in various places. I see you are from Cincinnati, I lived in Xenia, Ohio until 2000 and moved to Texas. I miss Ohio.