After a busy month in August visiting the Festival of Quilts (click here to read all about it) I’m back this September with my Quilt Basics series, focusing on traditional quilt blocks and giving them a modern twist, with some fun, fabulous fabrics!
The Log Cabin block is one of my favourites. Hold on, I say that about all the blocks I make…I think it’s because I love them all! Anyway, I wanted to tell you a little bit about the history of the Log Cabin block, because it’s fascinating, and there’s so much scope to play with colour, scale and of course fussy cutting – that centre square is just calling out for a cute motif!
The log cabin block quilts first appeared in the United States of America in the 1860s during the time of the Civil War. It quickly became very popular and was identified with the pioneer spirit and values of America. In traditional log cabin blocks, a red centre symbolised the hearth of the home and one half of the block is made of dark fabrics and the other of light fabrics. Folklore suggests that during the Civil War, log cabins with black centres were a signal for a stop on the underground rail road.
There are many variations on this traditional block, including Court House Steps, Barn Raising and the eight-sided pineapple. With each block comprising of a series of strips, there’s so much opportunity for fabric play, and of course scrappy variations.
I thought I’d show you how to make a block, which would be ideal to turn into a cushion, or mini quilt, without committing to a full quilt. This block measures at 11″, but you could just keep adding strips to make it bigger.
I’ve used a centre fabric (the moon) and 4 additional fabrics. A fat eighth of each of these is plenty, with lots left over.
Fussy cut the centre, 2 1/2” square
From the dark grey cut: 2 1/2″ x 2, 7″ x 2″, 8 1/2″ x 2″
From the green cut: 5 1/2″ x 2″, 7″ x 2″, 11 1/2″ x 2″
From the pink cut: 4″ x 2″, 5 1/2″ x 2″, 10″ x 2″
From the white text cut: 4″ x 2″, 8 1/2″ x 2″, 10″ x 2″
(Obviously you can choose your own colours and fabrics, but this gives you an idea.)
If you have everything cut out, the block takes shape really quickly, and it’s really satisfying! You will notice that in my block I’ve alternated the fabrics on the diagonal for each side of the block. But you can use any formation you choose, or even go scrappy! There are literally no limits.
Ok so here we go. Start with the central square. Add the first fabric above the central square.
Then add the next strip to the right.
Next add a strip to the bottom.
Now add a strip to the left.
Keep adding the strips in a clockwise formation to complete the block. It’s that easy!
There is so much fun you can have with light and shade, and there’s some wonderful secondary patterns that form when you put log cabin blocks together. Just take a look on Pinterest and you will be amazed at how incredible and impressive the log cabin quilts can be. And yet they are so simple to construct, as you’ve now seen for yourself.
My advice would be to sketch it out on paper and have a play with colour combinations and placement first, then get stitching!
I do hope you will give Log Cabin blocks a go, they have so much history written into them and they really are such fun.