The simple square shines as the foundation for many a quilting pattern. One of the easiest -- and one of the best loved -- is the log cabin design. It features a center square (representing the heart of the home) surrounded by concentric strips (the "logs") of increasing length. The log cabin was a favorite quilting pattern among the thrifty stitching pioneer women of the mid-1800s frontier, but it is by no means just a relic from another time. Its clean geometry looks perfectly at home in many contemporary applications.
Simple in concept, the pattern can vary widely in outcome. Depending on how you arrange the colors, even two finished squares created using the same fabrics can look very different from each other. Some of our projects are truly quilted, with batting and a backing, while others use the log cabin pattern as the inspiration for modern yet ageless piecework designs.
Whether you're a beginning sewer or an experienced quilter, why not stitch up a log cabin of your own? Going back to square one has never been this stylish or this much fun.
Before You Begin
Consider your fabrics: Weave and color will result in varying effects (some silks look different depending on the angles). Also think about the placement of stripes or patterns. A monochromatic palette lets the seaming be the star, and contrasting colors accentuate the pattern's rings. Prewash and iron fabric that will need to be laundered before cutting and sewing. Sew all pieces together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.
Customize the Pattern
It's easy to adapt the log cabin design. To make a pattern, decide on the desired size and shape of your finished project, and draw the perimeter on graph paper. Determine the number and size of strips needed to achieve that shape (this may take a little trial and error). As a guideline, try making the center piece double the width of the outer strips. You can experiment with pieces of various widths for a freer design. To have the log cabin spiral in the other direction, start by ironing the first seam toward the center, rotating the piece to the left as you add new fabric strips.
Quilting Projects to Try: