Log Cabin Basics
What is a Log Cabin Quilt
Before learning how to make a log cabin quilt, let’s first talk about what a log cabin quilt is. The log cabin quilt began in America, though many other forms of quilting influenced its beginning.
Various forms of quilting date back to the Middle Ages in Europe and Asia where quilting provided insulated clothes, decorative head pieces and wraps. Early settlers brought this knowledge to America. Limited fabric availability caused pioneer women to turn to what they had on hand. Old, worn clothing. This was the beginning of the American patchwork quilting we know today.
The log cabin quilt has been around for over 150 years, dating back before the Civil War. As with all early quilting, it was a method to extend the use of worn clothing and linens. Usable pieces were saved, cut, and sewn together becoming a patchwork block. Sewing these blocks into quilts with layers of worn blankets provided much needed comfort for many more years past the life of otherwise unusable clothing.
What Does The log Cabin Quilt Mean
The log cabin block became very popular and widely made. Today, many textile and quilt museums display vintage log cabin quilts along side other popular and familiar quilt designs. The significant characteristics of the log cabin block is its red center. This represents the chimney, or the hearth of the home. Narrow strips surround each side of the center, sewn individually creating the iconic pattern we are so familiar with. These added strips represent the logs of the cabin homes. With each row of strips, the block expands into a larger patchwork block. When sewn together, these blocks create a log cabin quilt. That’s where the fun really begins as the design layout opportunities are endless.
How Do You Make A Traditional Log Cabin Quilt
The original log cabin quilts were made of what was available. The blocks probably had variations versus the even repeating patterns we use today. As women were able, quilting bees became popular which is where many ideas were shared. This likely led to some of the designs we still see in more modern quilts.
Today, a traditional log cabin quilt may have a common center for each block. While it may not be red, the color used will repeat throughout the quilt top. The strips, or logs, will likely all be the same width, finishing in a square with an equal number of rows on each side. These blocks are assembled and sewn into rows to create the quilt top which is then quilted.
Whereas the modern log cabin may differ significantly. Placing the center square off-center results in a very distinctive and appealing design. The rails will likely vary in width creating a more randomly placed block. An easy log cabin quilt uses a single log cabin block with numerous rounds of strips creating a large quilt top. While the definition of the log cabin quilt has been stretched into new and modern looks, but the traditional block is still alive and well.
How to Make a Modern Log Cabin Quilt
General Log Cabin Quilting Tutorial
How Do You Make a Log Cabin Quilt
Multiple log cabin blocks of equal size make up a log cabin quilt. Making a log cabin patchwork block begins with lots of fabric strips. Beginning with the center square, adding rows of fabric strips creates each individual log cabin block. Simply continue adding more rows until reaching the desired block size. It’s important that the finished blocks are square in order to be sewn together into a quilt top.
Traditionally a log cabin quilt block is made using precut strips. Each row consists of fours strips sewn in rotation around the center block, creating rings of concentric squares. With each additional row added, the strips become longer and the block becomes bigger. While this is a very effective method, it’s not the way I make my log cabin blocks. I prefer to keep my strips long, sew them in place, then trim them as I go. It’s quicker for me to trim my block after each row rather than cut each piece before sewing. It also allows me the opportunity to change fabrics as I go since they aren’t already precut to size.
If you prefer precutting your strips, below is a great downloadable PDF pattern that is free from the Fat Quarter Shop. Simply click the link below and download your free pattern immediately.
Easy Log Cabin Quilt Block
You’ll learn easy Tips for Sewing Log Cabin Blocks with this Fat Quarter Quilt Tutorial. Log Cabin Quilt Designs are great for Fat Quarter Quilts and will become a favorite fat quarter quilt pattern you’ll enjoy making again and again.
For an easy log cabin quilt, this tutorial uses 2.5-inch strips. You may use your scrap or stash fabrics for a great scrappy look. Precut fabrics are a great time saving option plus you can get curated bundles with a great mix of colors. Whatever fabric you choose, you’ll want at least 3 to 5 yards for small to medium size quilt.
This quilt began with a beautiful bundle of fat quarters shown above. I cut my 2.5-inch strips into 20-inch lenths and began sewing. Alternatively, you may purchase these strips in precut rolls called a Jelly Roll, which contains about 40 strips of fabric.
This is an easy way to start as precut bundles include multiple coordinating fabrics that will work well together. Alternatively, you may also cut your strips from yardage, fat quarters or the popular favorite fabric source – our own stash fabrics. For best results, cut your strips from selvage to selvage to reduce issues from shrinkage.
How Much Fabric Do you Need For A Log Cabin Quilt
Fabric requirements for a log cabin quilt will be slightly more than other patchwork blocks which have fewer seams. That’s because more fabric is used for the seam allowances since multiple strips are sewn closely together. The width of the strips will definitely contribute to the amount of fabric needed. Using narrower strips will require more fabric than wider strips.
This tutorial is for a 14-inch finished log cabin block, though the finished size may vary depending on your seam allowance or variances in fabric strips used. Each row, or strip, will finish at 2-inches wide which makes the block easy to adjust in size. First the center 2.5-inch square is cut. There are three rows sewn around the center block with each row consisting of four individual strips or ‘logs’. Adjusting the number of rows or the size of the strips will vary the finished size of your block. This size block sewn in this manner will require about ¼ yard of fabric or one fat quarter. A quick cutting tip is to use a 5-inch charm square for your center. This is also a great opportunity to us fussy cut pieces for themed quilts.
For a large log cabin lap quilt, you can expect to use approximately 5 yards of fabric or 20 fat quarters. Whereas a baby log cabin quilt requires about 2 yards of fabric or 8 fat quarters. This block is also a perfect option for using your scrap fabrics. Strips sizes vary in each row so you’ll be able to use many of your cut, scrappy prints to make colorful blocks.
How Many Fat Quarters Do I Need for A Log Cabin Quilt
There are many variables in determining the number of fat quarter needed for a log cabin quilt. A good rule of thumb is that one 14” block will require 1 fat quarter. But keep in mind that you’ll want multiple colors of fabrics for each block. So determine the quilt size you want and figure how many blocks you’ll need. That number will be the total number of fat quarters. I usually add one extra fat quarter to use for the center blocks, plus a couple extra for additional colors to make sure I have plenty to choose from.
Once completing your log cabin patchwork blocks, you need to consider the quilt top design. Deciding how to layout the blocks isn’t an easy choice. There are so many different layouts available to choose from. It starts with the individual block. Is it the traditional style of light and dark, also known as ‘Sunshine and Shadow’? Or will you sew parallel strips into a block commonly called ‘Courthouse Steps’? Each of these will create very different quilt designs. Plus, the colors and or contrast within the blocks will greatly change the look of the design, too.
How to Make a Log Cabin Quilt Block
Sewing Your Log Cabin Quilt Block
My quilts all tend to be more random and asymmetrical and my log cabin won’t be any different! First I select a group of 5-inch charm squares for my centers. Cutting them into quarters gives me four 2.5-inch squares per charm.
Next I divide my strips into basic color groups and sew them into long strips. Use a diagonal seam to attach the strips of each color group together. This will allow me to chain piece and trim my strips as needed, saving quite a bit of time. To change the color scheme as I go, I rotate through my strips by color as I move to different blocks, This ensure the blocks will each have an individual look and not become repetative.
Begin your block by sewing a center square to a background strip. Chain piecing is an effective and quick method to assemble your blocks. Allow at least an eighth inch of space between squares for easy cutting into individual blocks for the next row.. Let the seams of the long strips fall where they may, finger pressing as you go. This will create variety in your blocks as the fabric strip transitions from one fabric to another.
After sewing the first strip to the center block, cut sewn unit apart and sew the next background strip in place. Then add two focal color strips to complete your block. Press your blocks and trim them square. They all need to be the same size. If you find variances use the smallest block size to trim the rest.
Adding Rows to Log Cabin Blocks
Add the second and third rows in the same manner as above. Chain piece the two background fabrics first, then add the focal fabrics to keep the light and dark pattern consistent. After attaching each row, press and trim blocks to a uniform size.
With a stack of beautiful log cabin blocks pressed and ready to become a quilt, you need to decide on which layout you’ll use. Which one will you choose?
Log Cabin Quilt Layouts
Log Cabin Quilt Designs
With all your blocks pressed and trimmed to the same size you’re ready to assemble your quilt top! Select your favorite block layout and get started.