Log Cabin Quilt Designs

Basic Block + Easy Design = Great Quilts for Beginners!

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

'Stars and Logs' by Linda Kennedy'Stars and Logs' by Linda Kennedy

All of the Log Cabin quilt designs shown below start with a basic log cabin block, half dark fabrics and half light, pieced around a center square.

To create the different layout designs, simply flip and rotate the blocks to change the placement of the color values.

Any quilt pattern constructed with half square triangles can be recreated with Log Cabin blocks.

It's a great beginner quilt pattern. All the block(s) use just strips subcut into rectangles and squares—no bias edges to contend with—so enjoy creating your very own Log Cabin.

My Favorite Quilt Design Software

All of the illustrations on this page were designed using Electric Quilt 7 (EQ7), a quilt designing software program.

Electric Quilt 7 software
Click here to purchase
EQ7 from Amazon.com

EQ recently added a version for Mac users, so it doesn't matter if you're a PC or an Apple fan!

This program makes it so easy to audition different colors and values with just a few mouse clicks.

Rotate and flip the blocks with another series of clicks.

I can't imagine going back to graph paper and colored pencils.

Or worse yet—simply keeping my fingers crossed. Fabric is much too expensive!

UPDATE: EQ's latest version is now EQ8, first shipped in 4Q17. I've purchased it and am using it going forward. I Love EQ! 

Playing with log cabin quilt designs couldn't be easier! I wouldn't consider my quilt studio complete without it!

The Basic Log Cabin Quilt Block

A typical Log Cabin quilt block is stitched with strips added in either a clockwise or counterclockwise fashion around a center square.

Log Cabin Quilt Block
Log Cabin Quilt Block
Light strips added first

Ours has 7 rounds of logs added clockwise, but yours can be any number of rounds. The choice is up to you as to how much piecing you'd like to do.

Is adding logs in one direction better than the other?

I learned to sew the Log Cabin by adding strips in a clockwise order, but really the most important thing is to make them all the same.

All clockwise or all counter-clockwise. It's your choice!

Take a closer look and you will see that after the center red square, the next log was a light followed by another light and then two dark logs.

If the first two 'logs' you add are light fabrics, the last two you add will be dark. The resulting design will be slightly more 'dark' than light.

If you would prefer to have it 'lighter', then the first two logs you add should be dark. The last two will then be light. Again, the ultimate design choice is up to you!

With a good contrast between your 'light' and 'dark' fabrics, the finished blocks have a strong diagonal line through the center. And that's VERY important for all the designs below.

Log Cabin Quilt Designs

While you can arrange your blocks any way you wish (and it's a lot of fun!), there are several recognized layout designs with names reminiscent of the pioneer times when this block first appeared in American culture, sometime in the 1860's.

Straight Furrows

Like the fields the pioneers plowed, this design emphasizes the straight line. To create a symmetrical quilt with this horizontal setting you'll need an odd number of rows and an even number of columns.

Log Cabin Quilt - Straight Furrows setting

8 x 9 blocks

Straight Setting

A simple setting to showcase your fabric scraps!

Log Cabin Quilt - Straight setting

8 x 9 blocks

ZigZag or Streaks of Lightning

There's lot of energy in this layout. You'll need even numbers of columns for a symmetrical layout.

Log Cabin Quilt - ZigZag setting

6 x 8 blocks


To complete the pinwheels, you'll need even numbers of rows and columns.

Log Cabin Quilt - Pinwheels setting

6 x 8 blocks

Sunshine and Shadows

Use even numbers of rows and columns to complete this quilt design.

Log Cabin Quilt - Sunshine and Shadows setting

8 x 10 blocks


Use even numbers of columns to have a balanced chevron.

Log Cabin Quilt - Chevron setting

8 x 10 blocks

Barn Raising

Concentric squares on point radiate out from the center. Prepare enough blocks for even numbers in both the rows and columns.

Log Cabin Quilt - Barn Raising setting

8 x 10 blocks

Log Cabin Star

The strong diagonal line in a log cabin quilt block means oodles of design opportunities.

Any pattern with half square triangles can be created with Log Cabin blocks like this sawtooth star in a Barn Raising setting. Even numbers of rows and columns are needed to balance the design.

Log Cabin Quilt - Star setting

8 x 10 blocks

Piecing Tip for Log Cabin Quilt Designs

Log Cabin quilt designs are a terrific way to use up your scraps because the design is determined by the contrast between the light and dark values of the logs.

Scrappy Log Cabin Quilt Block
Notice how the purple strips draw your eye.

The colors, the prints are unimportant as long as the values of the fabrics you choose are consistently dark or consistently light.

But no matter how many scraps you use, it never fails.

The same fabric ends up on the outside of a block more than once.

And as luck would have it, you find them 'touching' only after you're halfway through quilting your quilt.

It draws the eye where two like strips meet in an otherwise scrappy quilt, like the purple (left).

Drats! What's a quilter to do?

For this scrappy design where every log is a different fabric, count the number of blocks you'll need for your quilt. Multiply that number by 2.

You'll need strips from that many different light fabrics for the outside 'round' of logs.

Repeat the process for the dark fabrics. This way, there will be no duplicate fabrics in the outside rounds and no worries about like fabrics touching in your log cabin quilt design.

If each pair of logs of the same value (i.e. light or dark) is the same fabric, then you'll need as many fabrics as there are blocks to guarantee that two of the same don't end of touching each other.

For more on Log Cabin Quilt Designs check out:

Log Cabin Design Resources

Link to Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

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Quilt patterns, books and kits to tempt you

Click any image or link for more info

"Judy Martin's Log Cabin Quilt Book"

"Extraordinary Log Cabin Quilts"
by Judy Martin

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