Coloured Cabins - Basic Log Cabin block
This blog post is part of a series of Log Cabin and Colour theory posts.
Today I'm going to show you how to make a simple 12" log cabin block. You will need to select 2 contrasting value fabrics. If you are following the other half of this series on Colour Theory, refer to that post for information on sorting your light and dark fabrics. The easy way to sort lights and darks is to squint as you look at them. The colour sort of disappears and the value will show. If in doubt, leave it alone for this quilt.
If you squint at the above block, you'll see that the centre dark (pink) is sort of light. As most of my lights are on the grey-beige colour theme, I've decided to read it as a dark value.
A traditional Log Cabin block is visually divided diagonally with a centre contrast unit. In the quilts in this blog series I'll give you a variety of design and cutting instructions. The sew steps are the same for all block designs.
We are going to divide our fabrics into A and B. If you look closely at the above block image, you'll see each side has the same number of strip rows around a centre unit (that centre pink piece). A traditional Log Cabin block is built around that center square. The center unit is often a contrast coloured fabric (red or yellow) to represent a red door or the yellow of a light in the window. For the blocks in this post, we are going to eliminate that centre contrast unit. So, when you look at the quilt design, you'll see that one side has 4 "rows" of fabric and the other only has 3 "rows" of fabric.
For all block directions in this series, I am going to refer to Fabric A and Fabric B. Whether you are using all the same fabric or a variety of scraps, consider simply thinking in terms of Fabric A and Fabric B
Basic 12" Log Cabin Scrap Block
I had originally planned to give specific fabric requirements for this block, but have decided that I want to encourage us all to use up the scraps in our fabric stash....so start selecting and cutting some 2 1/2" strips.
Gather Fabrics - pull fabrics in light and dark values.
Cut Fabrics - cut all selected fabrics into 2 1/2" wide strips
Fabric A - cut fabric A strips into the following lengths. (I'm using the darker value in my samples).
12 1/2", 10 1/2", 8 1/2", 6 1/2", 4 1/2", 2 1/2"
Fabric B - cut fabric B strips into the following lengths. (I'm using the lighter value in my samples)
10 1/2", 8 1/2", 6 1/2", 4 1/2", 2 1/2"
In the case that you don't want to cut more fabric than you need, make a decision now to cut 16 units of each (for a 48" square quilt) or cut 20 units (for a 48" x 60" quilt) or more.
When I started writing this blog I was giving way too much detail about keeping yourself organized. It's really pretty simple. Stack your strips with the longest lengths on the bottom and the shortest on the top. I like to keep my Fabric A and Fabric B strips separate.
Start with the 2 1/2" lengths from Fabrics A and B. Sew them together and finger press towards the Fabric A unit. We are using a good 1/4" seam allowance for all these projects. You'll notice that the beige (light fabric) has been flipped over so the wrong side is facing up. That is an easy way to add more light fabrics to your quilt. Finger press the seam allowance towards the Fabric A unit.
Position the pair with Fabric A closest to you. Add the 4 1/2" Fabric A unit to the right side of the pair.
I always sew with the last seam placed horizontally across the bottom of the piece (closest to me).
Finger press the seam towards the 4 1/2" Fabric A strip.
Finger press the seam to the 4 1/2" strip. Rotate the block so the last sewn unit faces you. Add a Fabric B 4 1/2" units to the right side. Sew with the strip on top. Finger press the seam to the Fabric B strip.
Add the 6 1/2" strip of Fabric A to the right side of the unit. Finger press the seam allowance.
Next up, a 6 1/2" strip from Fabric A. Don't forget to finger press the seams to the last sewn strip.
Add the 8 1/2" strip of Fabric A to the right side.
Add an 8 1/2" Fabric B strip.
Now add another 10 1/2" strip of Fabric B.
Add a 10 1/2" Fabric A strip. One more to go!!!!!
Finally, add a 12 1/2" strip of Fabric A to the block. Finger press, then use an iron to press the blocks flat.
If all has gone well, your quilt blocks should measure 12 1/2" square. This is a large block and being off 1/4" is manageble for smooshing the blocks together.
I"m kind of lazy and impatient. When I sew, I want to put a good show on Netflix and sit down and sew, sew, sew. I have found that if I take the time as I get started I can get myself organized and not have to think too much and simply enjoy the sewing process.
flip the fabric and use the "wrong side". You are going to come across some fabrics that are neither light or dark, but you want or need to include them in your quilt blocks. Flip and sew the unit so that the wrong side is facing up. As you look at my blocks and quilts, you'll see lots fabrics that aren't just light enough for the light side of my quilt, so I've flipped them over and have the wrong side facing up.
starch your scrap fabrics as you press them for cutting - this really helps with finger pressing as you sew. It doesn't matter what you use as your "starch". I use whatever I have at hand. Spray or liquid laundry starch, best press, flatter, etc are all good ideas.
finger press. Getting up and walking around my studio breaks my sewing MOJO, so I'd rather finger press these seams to easily move onto the next unit. I will use my iron to do a final press once the block is complete.
another reason why I finger press: when I'm cutting into my scraps, I'm not worrying about the grain of the fabric, so I may get some strips that are cut on the lengthwise grain (the least amount of stretch) and some cut on the crosswise grain (a bit of stretch) and some even on a bias (the most amount of stretch)! If have found that if I am pressing with an iron every seam, I tend to stretch the block out of square.
I chain sew as many units as I can. I find chain sewing is faster and takes less brain power - have I mentioned that I'm lazy and impatient - I just pick up the next unit and keep sewing.
I once sewed 16 blocks completely in a single hour. I was organized and chain sewed 16 blocks at once.
Well, that's a block finished. If you like to chain piece, you'll have more than one block completed. In my next post, I'll give you some layout ideas for 16 blocks and 20 blocks.