New Year, new term, new students; but hopefully into the second month and second of our monthly classes we’re all beginning to settle back and relax a little.
We always start the year with simple rotary cutting for new students – just a few strips to start with and then how to cut those strips a little bit further. So January lessons are taken up with safety (it is a very small classroom and we can’t afford to have blades left uncovered) and making blocks with strips and squares. This year we’ve tackled Log Cabin and Courthouse Steps which both have lots of potential for cutting strips, rectangles of different sizes and an occasional square for the middle. Opportunities too for talking about colour, shade, tone, contrast, scale of prints and even ‘fussy cutting’ for central squares are seized with glee by all as “I’m no good with colour” is a common cry in class.
Log Cabin is one of my favourite blocks but I’m surprised to discover that I only have one full size quilt. Over the years though I have made a lot of smaller wall-hangings – mostly, it has to be said, as class samples. Browsing through my photos (and the quilt cupboard) I found a lot of them must have been done at Christmas time.
There are Log Cabin blocks put together to look like a wreath, there are stars made from square Log Cabin blocks and from diamond blocks and there are blocks with pieced logs to make stars appear between the blocks. There are also several trees – two made with triangle blocks and one very small one made from rectangular foundation pieced blocks that are only about 4 inches by 3.
I like the way that you can make Log Cabin blocks any size, or shape (almost) you like.
Start with a square, or a rectangle, or a triangle, or . . . whatever takes your fancy and just add strips in sequence around it until it’s big enough or you get bored. Your strips don’t even have to be straight – wonky Log Cabins are even more fun to play with – just straighten them up at the end so you can join the blocks together.
Using different width strips around your centre creates the illusion of curves so you can make circles or waves up and down (or across) your quilt. You can piece the strips to give the illusion of a ribbon weaving in and out of the blocks or add triangles (or squares) at the corners of each round of logs, or forget that lights go on one side and darks on the other – mix them up, or . . . the possibilities are endless!
And you can piece the centres too.
I think one of the main reasons I enjoy Log Cabin is that it can be so free and easy (and it’s a great scrap-buster). Yes, you can buy or draw a pattern for the block and carefully measure everything, or foundation-piece, so all the blocks are the exact size to make the size of quilt you want – and that is great; but you can also forget the maths and just cut a centre (try it with a square to start with) of whatever size you fancy and then cut your strips – usually (but not always) the same width as, or half the width of, your centre square. And stitch them in sequence, round and round until your block looks big enough. Make lots of blocks this size in the same way and before you know it you will have a quilt’s worth – and no maths were involved.
When you are sewing the strips the ‘two seam’ rule is a useful thing to remember – once you have stitched three strips around your centre square the fourth strip and all subsequent strips will be sewn over two seams. If you find you are not sewing over two seams then you are adding that strip to the wrong side of the block.
Go and raid your scrap bag today and make yourself a Log Cabin cushion, or even a little quilt.