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Master the Log Cabin Quilt Block, Pt 2

Stitching up the block

All the patches for our Log Cabin are cut and organized.

Before we get started, let's share a few...


Tips for Perfect Piecing


The Log Cabin is the perfect block for the beginner because it's all straight edges—no pesky bias to fiddle around with.

Accurately sized blocks are much easier and faster to assemble into the quilt top.

Who doesn't want to see their vision come to life—in their lifetime! 

There are several techniques to help you create the most accurate blocks possible. My favorites are:

  • A secret pressing technique. Borrowed from tailoring, this simple, one-step, no extra tools needed, is the hands-down best trick for flat blocks.
  • And finally starch. I know it's extra work. I know you have to wash it out at the end. But it aids in more accurate cuts, more precise piecing and it allows you to fingerpress to prevent tucks at the seam allowance. Well worth the extra effort.

Click any of the underlined links above to learn more about each technique.

Let's get to the fun part--SEWING!





General Instructions, continued...


The block in this sample is stitched with an almost white 50wt Aurifil thread and a 70/10 Microtex Sharp needle.

My favorite quarter inch foot with a guide is installed on my machine—it's the perfect complement to starched fabric. The cut edges glide right along the guide. (You'll see it in the first picture below.)

All the seam allowances (SA) are 1/4".

Seams can be pressed either open or towards the most recently added patch. 

If you plan on stitching in the ditch to quilt the quilt, then I recommend pressing all SAs toward the last patch added,away from the center. That way you'll have a ditch to stitch in.

Personally...

... I prefer to press my seams open—I feel the blocks lay much flatter.

And I am loathe to quilt a Log Cabin in the ditch. There's just too many starts and stops for my taste.

Check out this wonky way to quilt a Log Cabin (scroll all the way to the bottom of that page for the diagram) and miss the ditch entirely!

signature



To press, do so first with the patches in the closed position. This 'sets' the seam, meddling the fibers of the thread into the fibers of the fabric.

Then open the patches and press the SA in the direction you've chosen—either open or toward the last added log.

If you've starched your fabrics, you'll be able to give the seam a nice fingerpress after opening the patches. This helps keep a tuck from forming at the seam line.

And finally, don't forget to try my secret pressing technique. You'll be amazed at just how flat your patchwork turns out.


Step 2: Assemble the Log Cabin block - Round 1


With right sides together (RST) align the edges of the Center (violet) and 1a patch.

Stitch along one side with a quarter inch seam allowance.


Sew 1a to the Center patchThe red arrow points to my 'spider'. I start sewing on this scrap of fabric first and then onto the patches to prevent my sewing machine from 'eating' the fabric and to get a great first stitch.

Press. For this sample block I have chosen to press all my SA open.

If you intend to ditch quilt then press toward the most recently added patch (or out from the center) to create a ditch.


1b and the Center/1a units are ready to layer.1b and the Center/1a units are ready to be layered.

With Patch 1b in front of you, right side up, layer the Center/1a unit on top, right side down. The last added patch 1a is at the bottom of the unit and closest at you. 


Add 1b to the Center/1aStitching the layered 1b and Center/1a patches with 1a closest to you as you sit at your machine.

We'll use this same positioning as each log is added. There are two specific benefits:

  • It's harder to add logs in the wrong direction.
  • You can see the previous seam allowance as you sew and avoid having it flip over during stitching.


Brass sewing stilettoMy much used brass sewing stiletto—love the patina of of a well-loved tool! On the left, it's uncapped. On the right, the cap is used to create a longer stiletto.

I use a brass stiletto to:

  • Help guide the patches through—especially to keep the ends of the patches even and the stitching straight
  • Keep the SA in position

You could use the tip of your seam ripper or a bamboo skewer instead if you don't have one or purchase one here.

Stitch and press.

With RST, layer 1c (closest to the feed dogs underneath) with Center/1a/1b, with 1b at the bottom, closest to your body.

Stitch.

Adding 1cUp to this point, I've not used any pins—just my stiletto to keep the cut edges even. As the patches get longer, I'll pin the start and end.

Press.

To complete the first round of logs, add 1d to the sewn unit. The wrong side of 1c is closest to you as you sew.

Here is the unit after stitching. 


After sewing 1dReady to press the last seam of the first round.

Press.

With Round 1 complete it's a good practice to measure the unit to confirm the accuracy of your SA.

Use the chart below. These are edge-to-edge dimensions.

RoundFinished Block Size
11" 13¾" 16½"
1 3½" x 3½" 4¼" x 4¼" 5" x 5"

The first round of our 11" finished sample block should measure 3-1/2" from edge to edge. 

Measuring for accuracy.We're right on the money!

Make any adjustments you need to your seam allowance settings now before stitching any more blocks.


Step 3: Finish Rounds 2-5


The logs in each round are added in exactly the same manner as the first round:

  • The new patch is on the bottom closest to the feed dogs, right side up
  • The sewn unit is on top, wrong side up with the last patch added closest to you at your machine, right-side edges aligned
  • Stitch with a 1/4" seam
  • Press, first closed and then open, SA either open or toward the most recently added patch
  • Measure after each complete round of logs is added to check for accuracy

Below is the complete chart for measuring after each round.

Chart of the measurements of each full round after it is added to the center.

After adding Patches 2a, 2b, 2c and 2d, our 11" sample block measures 5 ½" x 5 ½".


Two rounds completedTwo rounds complete!

Fast forward and adding 3c.

You can just barely make out the pin under my index finger. I like to use pins to hold the ends of the logs even with the stitched unit and then use my stiletto to keep the long edges even as I sew.


Adding 3cThe last added patch, 3b, is closest to me and the newest patch, 3c, is underneath closest to the feed dogs.

The stiletto also comes in handy as you guide the last bit of your block through the sewing machine. Sometimes those ends want to go a bit wonky as you stitch. 

The stiletto puts YOU in charge!


Straight stitching in the seamA nice straight seam line!

After three rounds, our Log Cabin block is starting to look pretty good, eh?


Log Cabin block with 3 roundsAt this point after 3 rounds, the edge-to-edge measurement is 7 ½" x 7 ½".

Continue adding the logs in order. Remember to check your accuracy as you go.

Now adding 4c.

You can see where the edges are slightly out of alignment, I'll use my stiletto to even them up as soon as I put the camera down! 


Adding log 4cThe ends of the log are pinned, they're just not visible in this photo.

Finally our Log Cabin block is complete.


The finished 11" sample block

And here it is from the backside with the seams pressed open. Thread tails have all been trimmed away.

Another benefit to pressing SA open is that the dark fabric can't show—or shadow—through the quilt top. This can sometimes be a problem, especially when you're using light-lights or thinner light colored fabrics.


Backside of blockOur Log Cabin from the backside—all nice and neat!

For more about Log Cabin quilt blocks, visit:



Log Cabin Design Resources


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  5. Log Cabin, Pt 1
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Remember to pin this tutorial for later!


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