Mastering the Log Cabin Quilt Block

Beginner-friendly instructions for the new quilter

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

NEXT: Stitching the Log Cabin block

The Log Cabin quilt block is perhaps the most well-known, best loved of all quilt designs. Simple enough for a beginner quilter to confidently stitch...

Log Cabin quilt block tutorial

...yet versatile enough to pique the interest of a more experienced quilter.

The basic structure of this quilt block is a center shape surrounded by strips, or 'logs'.

While square blocks typically come to mind, log cabin blocks can be square, rectangular, triangular, diamond shaped, twisted or even curved. The starting shape can be centered or anywhere else in the block.

The standard log cabin block is constructed by adding strips (the logs) one at a time around a centered square.

In this tutorial you'll find:

  • Trimming charts to keep each round accurate
  • A step-by-step illustrated tutorial of the construction process

Let's begin!

General Instructions

Several common abbreviations are used in this tutorial:

  • RST - right sides together
  • SA - seam allowance

'Logs' is another name for 'patches'. Since we're talking about a Log Cabin block, the word seems only fitting! 

SA are all 1/4".

I prefer to prewash and starch my quilt fabric before cutting.

In my humble opinion, the cutting and sewing are both more accurate when using starched fabric. The downside is that you'll need to wash the quilt after it's finished to completely remove the starch.

But hey!

We're not having to beat the crap out of our quilt on a rock at the stream. We simply throw it in the washing machine and turn the knob.

To further improve the accuracy of my Log Cabin blocks, I cut all my rectangular patches with the long edge on the lengthwise grain (parallel to the selvedge).

Lengthwise grain has far less stretch than cross grain patches. That means you won't accidentally stretch your units out of shape as you stitch. Learn more about grainline here.

Finally, I do a sewing test with scraps from the fabrics I'll use in my quilt. A perfect seam allowance is a beautiful thing!

For a more on these techniques, go to "Perfecting Log Cabin Quilt Blocks: Two simple techniques no one talks about...".

Step 1: Cutting

Our Log Cabin block has a center square surrounded by five 'rounds' of logs.

Log cabin block with each round in a unique hue, both light and dark sidesRound 1 is yellow, 2 is orange, etc.

In the picture to the right, round is colored in a unique hue that includes both light and dark values to represent the opposite sides of the block.

For the Patch names in the chart below the number refers to the 'round', so all Patch names that start with 1 are in the first round of logs.

The letter—a, b, c or d—refers to the order of piecing.

Cut one of each patch for each block you make. So if you have a design with 40 blocks, cut 40 Centers, 40 1a, 40 1b, etc.

The sample in this tutorial is constructed with like pairs of dark logs. 5 different purple fabrics are used where 1c/1d is one fabric, 2c/2d is another, etc.) and a single light fabric.

You, of course, are free to use any combination of fabrics. Choose what makes YOUR heart sing!

The only 'rule' to follow is there should be a clear difference between  your light and dark fabric values.

The stepped diagonal line created by the piecing should be strong and easy to distinguish.

Log Cabin block design with 5 rounds of logsLog Cabin block with 5 rounds of log. Each round is composed of 2 light logs and 2 dark.

Download the coloring page for the block here.

The cutting chart below is for strip widths that finish at 1", 1-1/4" and 1-1/2". This results in blocks with finished sizes of 11", 13-3/4" and 16-1/2" respectively.

Cutting chart for a log cabin block with 5 rounds. 11

Click here to download a copy of this cutting chart.

Below are all the patches, stacked one on top of the other. 

It's easy to see that for our 11" finished sample block, each patch is 1" longer than the previous one. Instead of a traditional red center, I've chosen to use a shade of violet.

Cut patches for the Log Cabin blockAll the patches are cut and ready for sewing.

If I'm making a single block, I like to keep my patches stacked this way to keep things organized.

If I'm making loads of blocks, then I'll sort out the pairs of lights and pairs of darks by round.

You might choose to label the patches instead. Do what works best for how YOU work.

NEXT: Stitching the block

Log Cabin Design Resources

  1. Home
  2.  ›
  3. Free Quilt Block Patterns Library
  4.  ›
  5. Log Cabin Block

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, please let me know by clicking this button - thank you!

Share Your Comments, Tips and Ideas

Quilt patterns, books and kits to tempt you...

Click any image or link for more info

"Judy Martin's Log Cabin Quilt Book"

"Fractured Flowers"
by Happy Stash Quilts

"Extraordinary Log Cabin Quilts"
by Judy Martin

"Shattered Gems"
by Cindy McCracken Designs

Subscribe to our StashTalk Newsletter