A client once sent me a beautiful, intricate, gigantic log cabin quilt. I stared at it as my long arm machine stitched away, and I became entranced by the repeating patterns and tiny piecing. That’s when I knew I wanted to make a scrappy log cabin quilt.
Well, I suppose I really just wanted to make a log cabin quilt, but I decided to make it scrappy when I realized just how many scraps I had on hand.
Thoughts on scraps
First of all, I’ll say that I don’t really enjoy having scraps. In my perfect world, I would buy fabric for a specific quilt, use it all up during the construction, and not have even one tiny bit of fabric left over at the end. If only that could be true! Sigh.
The truth is that even with careful planning and cutting, quilters will inevitably end up with a scrap pile. Mine was starting to get out of hand, so I needed a system to organize and store them.
Organizing quilting scraps
I like to keep things manageable, which in my mind means having fabric strips of uniform width on hand. I first saw this method used by Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet, but have seen many others do the same (including Sherri of A Quilting Life).
When I finish a quilting project, I take any piece of fabric 5″ or narrower and cut it into strips and squares. Pieces that are wider than 5″ get put back into my fabric stash (which is also growing at an alarming rate, but that’s a problem for another day).
I now have containers of 1 1/2″ strips and squares, 2 1/2″ strips and squares, and 5″ strips and squares that I can pull from whenever I want to work on a project.
Back to the scrappy log cabin quilt
When I realized that a log cabin quilt is made up of strips, I thought it would be a GREAT idea to use my scrappy stash. I imagined that it would substantially reduce my pile, which you probably realize it did not. You can’t even tell I used ANY of them! Silly Shelly…
As a happy coincidence (or maybe it was a contributing factor), Camille of Bonnie and Camille fame was hosting a quilt along at that time for Sweet Escape. There was so much beautiful scrappy log cabin goodness popping up in my Instagram feed that I felt the timing was meant to be.
Respect your limitations
I’ll be the first to say that queen sized quilts are not my forte. I much prefer the quick win of a baby quilt, and with that in mind I set about making a tiny scrappy log cabin quilt.
I decided that I wanted a high-contrast design, and went with a combo of aqua / mint / teal for my lighter colours, and navy as my pop of dark. This was a pretty easy choice because it’s what I have the most of. Almost every quilt I make sneaks in some kind of aqua fabric. I used white and low-volume prints for my other half of my log cabin blocks.
Log cabin approach
Do you know that there are lots of different ways to make a log cabin block? It’s true! Just google “log cabin quilt tutorial” and you’ll end up with a LOT of different approaches. Some start with a 2.5″ square in the middle and add 1.5″ blocks around the outside, while others use exclusively 1.5″ squares and strips. Some have you trim each round, and others assume you’ll build them perfectly as you go!
I’m a sucker for precise results, so before I even got started I decided to use a method that trims after each round. Luckily I had a handy dandy Creative Grids Log Cabin Trim Tool that I had picked up in a quilt shop a few weeks earlier. The idea with this tool is that you can use any width of strips and then you trim each time you add a round, which gives you accurate results when you’re done. I found it worked really well for me!
As a quick aside: I once again used my Juki TL-2010Q to piece this quilt, and I am still in love with it. The speed! The precision! Be still my sewing heart.
Scrappy log cabin realness
Guys, my sewing room REAL MESSY REAL QUICK. As I dived (dove?) into my scrap stash, I was pulling out pieces left right and center. I was sorting mostly by colour, trying to find any and all strips that might work. They all ended up on the floor in what could best be described as a “loosely organized pile”. As in: there was a giant mess on the floor of my sewing room and it made me uncomfortable. This lady likes order! ?
When I realized I didn’t have enough strips to make a quilt, I raided my main scrap stash and pulled out more fabric. I’m happy to report that I didn’t cut into any full fat quarters – I was able to find enough pieces that had aleady been cut down from FQs. I cut them into strips that were roughly the length and width that I needed, and didn’t worry if I was “wasting” an inch or two. These were fabrics that were already in the scrap pile, so I felt good about using them up. Predictably, you cannot tell that I used up ANY fabric at all. Sigh. #morescrapsmoreproblems
This project got REAL TEDIOUS REAL QUICK. One of my quilting superpowers is chain piecing, which means that I do the same thing a million times in a row. Y’know what’s kind of boring? Doing the same thing a million times in a row. BUT, it really does help speed up the process.
A few times during chain pieicing I “cheated” and pulled a block out of the production line. I would finish it completely and then tape it up on the wall above my sewing machine, just so I could feel like I accomplished something. Sometimes you just need a little confirmation that your hard work is actually leading somewhere, am I right?
That “uh-oh” moment…
My ruler only worked for blocks up to 6″, so I started by making blocks that size. They had a round of aqua, then navy, then aqua. It quickly became apparent that it would have much more visual impact if I added an extra round of navy (just look at the difference!) So, I went back to my scrap pile and cut a 36 blocks’ worth of extra navy strips. At the time it felt like a LOT more work and I was reluctant to commit to it, but it was definitely the right choice. There are times that you have to bite the bullet and do the hard thing, and this was one of them.
Choosing a layout
Here’s something else I didn’t know about log cabin quilts: different layouts have different names! If you want to kill a few minutes and learn something new, I encourage you to check out this site. If you’re looking for some different ideas of layouts (without knowing their “official” names), this is a great page. The possibilities are truly endless!
I narrowed my choices down to four different layouts, then put a poll in my Instagram stories. The results were truly unhelpful! They were fairly evenly distributed across all four options, which left the decision back in my court.
In the end I opted for a layout that is sort of (but not really) like Barn Raising. If there happens to be an actual name for this layout and you know it, please share!
Finishing the quilt
I used some fabric that I found on sale at Fabricland (who even AM I??) for the backing. It quickly became too small when I changed the dimensions of the blocks, so I added a pieced section to up-size it. As a fun bonus, this also used up some more scraps. Win!
Given that it’s such an angular and blocky quilt design, I chose to quilt it with a more flowy pattern. I chose Featherize as the pantograph, and I think it looks so beautiful!
I attached the binding by machine, using my favourite glue-basting method. Is that something you’re familiar with? Please let me know in the comments section if you’d like me to do a post about it.
You can buy this quilt!
Great news for people who are in search of a quality, handmade baby quilt: this one is for sale! You can find it in my Etsy shop, along with several other quilts. It always warms my heart when I sell one because I know it will be well used for years to come.
As always, thanks for stopping by!