Log Cabin Traditional - Kate's Fun Art

Traditional Log Cabin

Traditional Log Cabin

December 17, 2019

The log cabin pattern may be the best known traditional quilting pattern which is why I chose it to represent traditional quilting for an upcoming show. The show will be held in St. Charles, IL in spring 2020. The theme of the show focuses on 15 small quilts ranging from abstract to traditional.

I am not a traditional quilter and sewing an accurate 1/4" seam has always been a definite challenge. The local library has many books on quilting in general and log cabin patterns in particular which is where I learned about some of the history and significance of the colors. (Red for the heart of the home, light on the sunny side of the house and dark on the shadow side.) I also found a detailed list of exactly what size and how many pieces to cut for my small quilt.

There are 13 pieces in each of the 24 blocks in my quilt. That's 312 pieces. With the exception of the red center, each piece was cut 1" wide so each finished piece is 1/2" wide. (Who said you never needed math after high school?!)  

I sorted through my stash of fabrics focusing on the small, appropriately colored scraps, cut all the pieces, sorted them by length and light or dark and counted 15 piles. 15 is not 13 so I had to figure out what didn't belong. (As if cutting measured pieces wasn't tedious enough, I cut too many. Sigh. Have I mentioned I don't care for piecing?) 

Especially when I don't know what I'm doing, I make lists and detailed plans. I had cut unnecessary short darks and long lights. Silver lining - I had extra pieces to make a practice block. The practice block let me find the best combination of settings on the sewing machine for me be successful with the 1/4" seam allowance.

From there, it was pretty straightforward. Just sew, sew, sew. My seams are not perfect, but they are pretty darn good. As with all things, improvement comes with practice. Guess I can't fear 1/4" accuracy any more. (Doesn't mean I'm going to be making traditional quilts either!)


A funny thing happens when you sew bits of fabric together, even ugly fabrics can add value to the whole. Arranging the blocks on the design wall was surprisingly fun.

Here are the different layouts i tried:



Once I chose the final layout, I tweaked the individual blocks to reduce any super dark blobs, bright spots, or blurred lines between light and dark. This fussy step felt particularly important since this is a small quilt intended to hang on a wall in an exhibition. Plus, I have to be true to my detail oriented artist self.

The top is sewn and the batting is cut. All that's left is the back.

One of my overriding goals these days is to use what I already have. I was thrilled to use so many small scraps of fabrics I consider hideous in the blocks. (They were from a large bag of scraps I had bought from a quilt store many years ago.) Because I miscut so many pieces for the blocks, I decided to sew them together to make the back more interesting. The practice block is there, too.



Would've been much easier to use a single piece of stash fabric and put the small cut pieces in the dog bed!


"Log Cabin Traditional" is pinned and ready for quilting and binding. I've spoken with several traditional quilters to get ideas for the quilting. General consensus is to keep it simple. I'll post another picture when it is completed.

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