Sunday, 20 March 2016

Quilt As You Go - Log Cabin

For me, the biggest appeal of quilting is that it's a fabulous way to use up small pieces of fabric.  With textiles now so readily and cheaply available, it's oh so easy to become complacent and wasteful.  The log cabin design on quilts is one that is instantly recognisable by all.  It is steeped in history and I was surprised to read that it dates back as far as the ancient Egyptians - just look at these amazing mummified animals found in Egyptian tombs.

While there are regular appearances of the log cabin design over the centuries that followed, for many it is quintessentially American.  The design adopted by early American settlers reflected prairie log cabins - a red centre reflects the fire in the hearth and dark and light fabric on opposite sides reflect the dark and light sides of the house.  Early log cabin quilts were stitched without wadding onto foundation pieces.  It is now a quilt design instantly recognisable around the world and its popularity continues.

Of recent weeks I've been teaching how to create log cabin blocks by a Quilt As You Go method.  What I most like about the approach I use, is that the blocks are quilted with wadding onto backing as they are made up - and this allows for much larger quilts to be made on a normal domestic sewing machine.  The starting point is to take a square of wadding with a slightly larger piece of backing fabric temporary sprayed to the reverse and an initial cut fabric square on the front.  My wadding block was 7" and the yellow square was 1.5".

Next cut a second piece of fabric that is the same width and maybe depth, and line at least one edge with the original block.  I tend to fight against uniformity, so I opted for a rectangle rather than a square.  Place right sides together against the first block, and stitch a quarter inch seam along the matched and aligned edge.

Fold back the second fabric piece and press open the seam.

A third piece of fabric is now cut with sufficient width to cover both placed pieces and a depth as desired - I chose my depth by eye.  Again place right sides down and stitch a quarter inch seam and flip back and press.  Oh and it's good to pull up the bobbin thread from the bottom as you go so that they'll be stitched into the next seam - then you'll have no threads to sew in on the back!

Continue working your way around the initial square cutting, placing and stitching pieces to fit the size of the next set of raw edges.  It's less confusing to keep going in the same direction

The wadding piece quickly covers, particularly if like me if you chose to use some wider strips.  This does sometimes mean that you need to place 2 narrower strips on one side to balance the piece out.  No worries if your last pieces slightly overhangs the wadding - just trim back the whole square - I opted for 6.5" as the width of my ruler!

These QAYG log cabin squares are very easily joined together with sashing strips.  First cut a 1" and 2" strip the exact size of the square side and press the 2" strip in half lengthways.
Next take one of your blocks and align the long edge of the 1" strip to the back of one edge and the folding 2" block to the front on the same edge.  Make sure everything is flush and stitch a quarter inch seam.
The front of the block will look like this.
The next bit is a touch fiddly, but hang on in there as you're on the home straight.  Take the free edge of the 1" strip and pin the right sides to the back of the next block.  Stitch another 1" seam - precision is all important at this point even if you've been free flowing with the log cabin design.
Finally take the 2" folded strip on the front and fold over the raw edges of the neatly butted blocks - as long as you've kept those quarter inch seams straight!  Machine stitch the strip through all layers with a slightly longer stitch and as small a seam as you can.
So here are my scrappy log cabin squares without quite observing all the rules - ah well, I do like to make up my own traditions!  You then join the joined strips with longer sashing strips to make the whole quilt.  You can also reverse the sashing strips so that the 2" folded strip is on the back and is then hand stitched down - my personal preference. 
I've recently spent lots of enjoyable hours teaching this technique and showing just how versatile it is.  What I most like about 'quilt as you go' is that a sizeable quilt can be completed from start to end on a domestic sewing machine - and is therefore truly a quilters own work.  These quilts completed by Ann Wood and Alison Fielder at Barrington Patchwork show just what can be achieved with a little knowledge, time and patience.

1 comment:

  1. Really like this idea. I've often considered 'quilt as you go' for log cabins, but wasn't sure how to join the blocks neatly. Thank you!