How to Sew an Easy Log Cabin Quilt Pattern

Log Cabin Quilt Block Pattern
Janet Wickell

This easy log cabin quilt block pattern demonstrates how easy it is to sew traditionally designed blocks that finish at 14" square. While you can cut patchwork strips from your quilting fabrics, jelly rolls make it a cinch to sew a scrap quilt made up of log cabin blocks. Jelly rolls are bundled rolls that are formed from pre-cut strips of coordinated fabric. The rolls are usually made up of 30 or 40 strips that measure 2-1/2" in width and are cut from selvage to selvage—about 42" long. The block illustrated was sewn with retro-look fabrics but strips are available in any color and fabric type you desire.

  • Do not prewash jelly roll strips in a washing machine because they will stretch out of shape.
  • If you absolutely must prewash the strips consider doing it very gently by hand.
  • Quilters have not reported issues with color bleeding or crocking when using jelly roll strips produced by major quilting fabric manufacturers.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing shears
  • Iron or presser
  • Needles

Materials

  • Jelly rolls
  • Thread

Instructions

  1. Plan Your Design

    This traditional log cabin design is sewn by adding patches in a clockwise direction around a center square. Patches on one side of the block are lighter than the other, creating a diagonal division in the finished block.

    • The outermost strips of the block contrast slightly with the adjacent patchwork, to create just a bit of a frame, but it's more typical for strips on each side to have similar color value (contrast).
    • Fabrics will contrast if one group is cut from cool colors (such as blue and green variations) and others are cut from warm colors (such as yellows, orange, and reds).
  2. Gather the Fabric Strips

    The below image illustrates the patchwork sewing order.

    Place strips below in seven piles, keeping them in order by patch size.

    • Red center: (1) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" square. (Or square of another color. Red is traditional and thought to represent the 'heart of the cabin.') 
    • Light fabric for patches 2 and 3: (1) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" square and (1) 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" strip.
    • Dark fabric for patches 4 and 5: (1) 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" strip and (1) 2-1/2" x 6-1/2" strip.
    • Light fabric for patches 6 and 7: (1) 2-1/2" x 6-1/2" strip and (1) 2-1/2" x 8-1/2" strip.
    • Dark fabric for patches 8 and 9: (1) 2-1/2" x 8-1/2" strip and (1) 2-1/2" x 10-1/2" strip.
    • Light fabric for patches 10 and 11: (1) 2-1/2" x 10-1/2" strip and (1) 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" strip.
    • Dark fabric for patches 12 and 13: (1) 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" strip and (1) 2-1/2" x 14-1/2" strip.
  3. Assemble and Sew the First Block

    Before you begin, be sure your ironing board and iron are handy, because log cabin quilt blocks have lots of seams that must be pressed. A standard or mini iron set up on a portable board next to your sewing makes pressing a cinch.

    Pressing is less of a chore if you chain piece, but it's helpful for beginning quilters to sew a couple of individual log cabin quilt blocks first, to make sure construction steps aren't confusing.

    Be sure to sew with an accurate quarter-inch seam allowance.

    Pressing to set seams before pressing to one side always improves accuracy.

    1. Top left illustration: Sew the 2-1/2" light square to the right edge of the red square. Press seam allowance towards the red (or darker) square. Sew piece 3, a 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" light strip, to the bottom of the red/light pair.
    2. Press all new seam allowances towards the newest strip.
    3. Top right illustration: Find piece 4, a 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" dark strip, and sew it to the left edge of the block. Press. Sew piece 5, a 2-1/2" x 6-1/2" dark strip, to the top edge of the growing block. Notice that you're adding patches in a clockwise manner. Refer to the block schematic as necessary.
    4. Bottom left illustration: Find pieces 6 and 7, a 2-1/2" x 6-1/2" light strip, and another light strip that measures 2-1/2" x 8-1/2". Sew the shorter strip to the block's right edge first. Press. Add the longer strip to the bottom and press.
    5. Bottom right illustration: Add dark pieces 8 and 9 to the quilt block, in the same manner, beginning with the shorter 2-1/2" x 8-1/2" strip on the left and finishing with the 2-1/2" x 10-1/2" strip on the top.
    Log Cabin Quilt Block Pattern
    The Spruce Crafts / Janet Wickell
  4. Finish Sewing the Quilt Block

    Finish sewing the log cabin quilt block by adding the remaining pieces with the same clockwise movement.

    1. Top left illustration: Pieces 10 and 11 are next—a 2-1/2" x 10-1/2" light strip sewn to the right side of the quilt block, followed by a 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" light strip sewn to the bottom.
    2. Top right illustration: Sew the remaining two pieces to the quilt block, beginning with a 2-1/2"x 12-1/2" dark strip on the left and finishing with a 2-1/2" x 14-1/2" dark strip on top.
    3. Bottom left: Press the quilt block. It should measure 14-1/2" x 14-1/2".
    Finished sewing quilt blocks
    The Spruce Crafts / Janet Wickell
  5. Make Additional Blocks

    Calculating yardages for scrappy log cabin quilts isn't as precise as determining fabric requirements for an orderly quilt. The amount of each fabric needed depends on where that fabric will be positioned within the block and how many log cabin quilt blocks you intend to make.

    • Each quilt block requires about 105 running inches of fabric, but keep in mind that you'll use multiple fabrics to create the blocks. The number of fabrics can vary.
    • A quilt with a layout that's five blocks across and six down finishes at about 70" x 84" (without borders). That's 30 quilt blocks and a total of about 6-1/2 yards of fabric.
    • A jelly roll pack with 40 2-1/2" wide strips should make 13 to 16 quilt blocks, depending on how you position fabrics and whether or not all strips work with the design.
    • Compare mattress sizes if you aren't sure how large the quilt should be.
    • After determining the number of blocks required, refer back to the cutting to calculate the dimensions and the total number of strips needed for the quilt.

Yardage for a 30-Block Quilt

It's important to know how to cut fabric strips with a rotary cutter for this step.

  • Red center, patch 1: (30) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares (can cut from two 2-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage)
  • Patch 2, light: (30) 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares (can cut from (2) 2-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage)
  • Patch 3, light: (30) 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 4-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—a little over 1/4 yard to allow for shrinkage and squaring up)
  • Patch 4, dark: (30) 2-1/2" x 4-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 4-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—a little over 1/4 yard to allow for shrinkage and squaring up)
  • Patch 5, dark: (30) 2-1/2" x 6-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 6-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—13" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 1/2 yard to be safe
  • Patch 6, light: (30) 2-1/2" x 6-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 6-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—13" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 1/2 yard to be safe
  • Patch 7, light: (30) 2-1/2" x 8-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 8-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—17" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 5/8 yard to be safe
  • Patch 8, dark: (30) 2-1/2" x 8-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 8-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—17" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 5/8 yard to be safe
  • Patch 9, dark: (30) 2-1/2" x 10-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 8-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—21" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 3/4 yard to be safe
  • Patch 10, light: (30) 2-1/2" x 10-1/2" bars (cut 2-1/2" segments from (2) 8-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—21" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 3/4 yard to be safe
  • Patch 11, light: (30) 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" bars from (2) 12-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—25" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 7/8 yard to be safe
  • Patch 12, dark: (30) 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" bars from (2) 12-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—25" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 7/8 yard to be safe
  • Patch 13, dark: (30) 2-1/2" x 14-1/2" bars from (2) 14-1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage—29" of usable length along the straight grain of fabric, 1 yard to be safe

Layout

Log Cabin Quilt Block Pattern layout
The Spruce Crafts / Janet Wickell

Once you've made a quilt block or two, and are familiar with the process, try chain piecing to make block assembly faster. When chain piecing a log cabin block, it's helpful to place a completed block within view for quick reference.

  1. Sew a patch 1 and 2 together as described earlier. Instead of removing it from the sewing machine, feed another patch 1 / 2 combo under the presser foot (without breaking threads).
  2. Continue sewing the units together in a long string until all 1 / 2 patches are joined.
  3. Remove from the sewing machine, clip threads between the units, and press seam allowances.
  4. Repeat the process to add patch 3 to the bottom of all units. Clip apart and press seams.
  5. Repeat the chain sewing process to add each new patch to the growing quilt blocks.

Another Quick Piecing Option

Some quilters prefer to work with long strips of fabric, rather than cutting fabric into strips of a specific length.

  1. Cut all 2-1/2" squares required for patch 1. Leave remaining fabric as long strips.
  2. Align a squared-up end of a strip to the top of patch 1 and sew. Trim the long strip to match the edge of patch 1. Press seam allowance.
  3. Add new strips in the same manner, sewing first and then trimming and pressing.

Amish Inspired Log Cabin Quilt

Shipshewana Log Cabin Quilt by Diane Rode Schneck
Diane Rode Schneck

This vibrantly colored log cabin was inspired by an Amish quilt made in Indiana. The unique design comes from the fact that there are actually two centers—one black and one patterned, with the color half of the block being larger. The result is, while uneven, a striking quilt.