The log cabin quilt block pattern is one of the oldest known quilt blocks. The pattern was best known for it’s practical use of scraps, worn out clothing and other available materials at a time when nothing could afford to go to waste. It was also one of the more easy to hand sew and expeditiously make a quilt with rudimentary tools.
Log cabin remains one of the most well used patterns in both traditional and modern quilts today. Every skill level of quilter will eventually make this block or a form of it within their projects. Modern quilts using this pattern often bring a way to capitalize on color, fabric pattern and present a twist to the design while still strongly retaining simplicity and close roots to the original pattern.
For my log cabin pattern I used the Downtown Cabins pattern from Natalia Bonner and Kathleen Whiting’s book Cabin Fever. This is actually a very worthwhile quilting book. I’ve made a couple different ones from this particular book and they’ve turned out great.
Even if you’re not drawn to modern quilt designs, this book provides several perspectives on the traditional log cabin pattern that are interesting and creative.
Bonner’s design and style appeal to me. She is a self-taught quilter who has brought a no nonsense fresh approach to quilting. Her instructions are easy to follow giving you the confidence you can build a beautiful quilt. Even though she often uses a longarm machine for her quilting, many of her designs are adaptable to a standard machine. I love that all of her books, whether co-authored or solo, give you options in sizes, suggestions to consider for color alternatives and obviously lots of quilting examples. She’s a proponent of end-to-end quilting.
The beauty of an end-to-end quilting design is it works very well on most quilts giving them a nice finished look and it’s easy for for beginners to learn new techniques, build up their skills and eventually adapt them to create their own styles.
I often use end-to-end quilting in my quilts because it can be forgiving in hiding mistakes, is repetitive, yet interesting and allows me the opportunity to experiment.
The bonus of this book is there are numerous suggestions on using the leftover materials which is a fantastic find since there are always leftovers from a project. I’m constantly seeking new ways to use the scraps from my projects and not waste expensive and cute fabrics.
For my Downtown Cabins quilt, I enlarged the pattern to make it queen sized. The instructions in the book only went to a coverlet size requiring 60 blocks.
(Coverlet is a fancy way of saying throw blanket size.)
I made 88 blocks instead of 60 for my quilt. While I knew this was a little over what I would need, my fabric was different in the small square going around the pink center so I wanted to be sure I had enough to scatter the different prints throughout the quilt.
The outer strips are a black, gray and white flower pattern. I thought it nicely coordinated with the design of the inner strips making it both feminine and modern. The blocks come together very easily and it’s a great pattern to use chain piecing on.
It’s really important to have floor or wall space to lay this quilt out before piecing. With it being on an angle it can be really challenging to see your rows and how to bring this one together. With my quilt being a queen size that was a big challenge and I found myself laying it out a few times to check what I was doing in my rows.
You run the risk of having to odd angles to sew if you don’t take the time to have it laid out first.
My quilt is still in the UFO stage (official quilt term for Unfinished Object) as it still needs backing and quilting but I think it turned out stunning!
There were enough blocks left over to make this matching baby sized quilt as well. It measures 34 by 42 inches. In the baby version my half square triangles all match with the small strip fabric and the alternating black and white border are what is different. I think it gives it a nice unofficial border. This would look incredible in a gray coordinated baby nursery. Again, this small quilt is in the UFO status while it awaits backing and quilting.
From both of these I ended up with exactly 2 squares and 2 half square triangles. The perfect amount of make one of the coordinating pillows that is described in the back of the book!
I’d love to hear how you’ve used the log cabin quilt block. Share some pictures!
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