It's All About Lights and Dark Fabrics
Why are Log Cabin blocks so popular? It's partly the appeal of a block that says home, tradition, and pioneer spirit. It's partly the fact that it's easy to mass-produce Log Cabin blocks from fabric strips. But the real secret of Log Cabin blocks is the diagonal effect created by the arrangement of contrasting light and dark fabric "logs" in each block. The lights and darks give Log Cabin quilts their visual interest.
The four popular Log Cabin quilt blocks profiled in this article use contrasts between lights and darks in four different ways that help you create a variety of dramatic quilt looks.
Basic Log Cabin Quilt Block
In the most familiar type of Log Cabin block, the dark and light fabrics are stacked around two corners of the block, creating a stair step pattern of logs that climbs diagonally across the block from bottom to top. When you look at them from a few feet away, the block looks almost like a half-square triangle with one half lighter and the other darker. You can make many different quilts from the standard Log Cabin block.
Courthouse Steps Log Cabin Block
This block shares the central "hearth" square and surrounding fabric "logs" with the basic block, but the fabric strips are arranged in a different way: a symmetrical stairstep fashion that creates four pyramid-shaped blocks of light and dark. The "logs" divided into four equal triangles, with two triangles of dark logs and two of lighter logs. The design possibilities are more limited for Courthouse Steps than for classic Log Cabin blocks. They are usually made into a diamond quilt pattern.
Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt Block
The Pineapple block is the most difficult Log Cabin block to put together, because it requires half of the “logs” to be placed diagonally instead of at right angles to each other. That’s why quilters often use foundation or paper piecing to sew the block accurately. In a Pineapple block, the logs are laid out in eight piles, four light and four dark, which radiate out from the central square in an “X” shape.
Chevron Log Cabin Quilt Block
The hearth square in the Chevron variation of the Log Cabin block is at one corner of the block, instead of in the center. The "logs" are stacked around the hearth in an L configuration. Also, the logs are either all dark or all light, instead of half light and half dark. This effect can be helpful for making certain patterns such as a Log Cabin heart or Christmas tree, where some blocks need to be all dark and others all light.
Of course, there are many other variations on the basic block. You can find at least 75 different Log Cabin blocks in the Electric Quilter quilt design program. The easiest way to change the look of a Log Cabin block is to simply use different fabrics.
More on Quilting
Preston and Kate from the Midwest on February 21, 2014:
I just ran across the pineapple log cabin block last night on another site, and I think it's BEAUTIFUL! I am not sure I have the skills or patience to make an entire quilt from it, but maybe one day. Thanks for sharing! -Kate
FlourishAnyway from USA on February 21, 2014:
Beautiful. I'd love to make one of these. I have the one my grandmother made many years ago. I used to spend hours reading and looking at the patterns.
Shasta Matova from USA on November 14, 2012:
I haven't made a log cabin quilt yet, but it is on my list of quilts I want to make still.