Free Log Cabin Quilt Block Pattern | Madam Sew

Quick & Easy Log Cabin Quilt Block Tutorial

If you like quick and easy projects then you will love this tutorial featuring the classic, beautiful, and versatile Log Cabin Quilt Block, a 12 inch finished block. With three easy steps you can master this favorite of generations of quilters.  

The Log Cabin Quilt Block is so handy that you can use it to make anything from quilts to placemats. And you can get tons of different looks depending on block placement and fabric colors. Best of all, it is very impressive. It looks complicated but only you will know how simple it is to make!

Finished 12 inch square Log Cabin Quilt Block made of 11 fabric strips that are 2.5-inches wide

Finished Log Cabin Quilt Block that is 12 inches square

Before You Can Start Sewing and Quilting

Gather these Supplies:

The Straight Stitch Needle Plate helps to stabilize the fabric strips as they pass under the needle. Your fabric won’t bunch up or be pulled into the needle plate. It is therefore recommended that you use it, if you have it.

The Fabric to Make One Log Cabin Block

Two jelly rolls of cotton fabric. (A jelly roll typically has 40 fabric strips which are 2.5 inches wide by 42 inches long) For this project select a light and a dark jelly roll. So easy!

Or use this project as a cotton fabric stash buster. You will feel so gratified that you finally used those fabric scraps you have been storing.

TIP: You are cutting the fabric strips a half inch longer than what you will need. Why? You’ll avoid the frustration of happily piecing only to discover at the end of the seam that the fabric strip is too short!!! Save your time and fabric. It is much better to trim as you go. Ask me how I know this.

  • Dark Fabric
    • Cut (1) dark red 2.5 inch square of fabric
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 4.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 3 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 6.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 4 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 8.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 7 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 10.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 8 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 12.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 11 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
  • Light Fabric
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch square of fabric
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 4.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 2 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 6.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 5 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 8.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 6 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 10.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 9 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)
    • Cut (1) 2.5 inch wide by 12.5 inch deep fabric strip (Strip 10 on the Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout)

Getting Ready To Sew

  • Clean the lint from your sewing machine before each project. Check under the needle plate and remove the bobbin to clean the bobbin area.
  • Start with full bobbins for piecing and quilting.
    Use a new needle for piecing (90/14 Top Stitch Needle is recommended for cotton fabrics)
  • Workstation: A “U” shaped workstation is ideal, it makes it easier to create the Quilter’s Workstation Triangle.
  • Quilters Workstation Triangle: Many are aware that the stove, sink, fridge triangle is the best room design for a small space kitchen. Quilters also have a workstation design that helps them keep the tools they will need within easy reach. The recommended three points of the Quilters Workstation Triangle are: The sewing machine in front of you; the pressing station to your preferred side (This depends on whether you are right-handed or left-handed) and your tools on the opposite side.  
  • Sewing ergonomics. Don’t forget to make your quilting experience more enjoyable. Try adopting the correct posture shown in the illustration below.
Correct and incorrect sewing posture

Correct Sewing Posture

Sewing Machine Set Up

Set up your sewing machine to sew a straight quarter inch seam. This is called ‘piecing’. Please refer to your owner’s manual for your specific sewing machine setup for piecing.

Preparing The Fabric Strips

TIP: Prepare your fabric strips to make the piecing easier. Iron and starch your fabric before sewing it. This makes the fabric stiffer which helps to prevent stretching as it is pieced. Cut the fabric strips and trim the blocks using a cutting mat or 12x12 Rotating Cutting Mat along with a new blade in a rotary cutter or Rotary Cutter

Closeup of ironing a starched fabric strip

Starched and then steam iron your fabric strips

Piecing The Log Cabin Block – Machine Set Up

TIP: I suggest the 40 WT Cotton Thread because it is heavier than finer weight cotton threads. Your seams will be stronger when using this thread especially if combined with the 2.0 Stitch Length.  

Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout

Log Cabin Quilt Block Piecing Layout showing numerical piecing order

Follow the numerical piecing layout, it will keep you on track as you make your block

This layout shows you the exact position of each of the 11 fabric strips you will sew to make the Log Cabin Quilt Block. Just follow the numbers. Have it within easy view so that you can refer to it often.  

TIP: I use a Sewing Clip to attach my Log Cabin Quilt Piecing Layout to a Thread Stand.  

Three Easy Steps - Assembling the Block

STEP 1: Making the Center Block

Closeup of dark red 2.5 inch square of fabric

2.5 inch dark red square of fabric

You might ask why the dark red square? In general the dark red square symbolizes the hearth or fireplace that is found in a log cabin. In other words, it symbolizes a warm happy home. And during the Underground Railroad, a log cabin quilt hanging outside the house meant it was a safe house for runaways.

Always start the Log Cabin Quilt Block in the center. The first two squares are each 2.5 inches square.

A dark red 2.5 inch square is pieced to a light 2.5 inch square. When pieced together they form the center of the Log Cabin Quilt Block.

Follow piecing best practices by:

  • Placing the fabric right sides together and using a leader fabric to prevent thread nests. (A leader fabric is a small piece of cotton fabric similar to the fabric that you are sewing. It is used to start a line of stitches. Any thread nests are on the leader fabric and not on the first stitch of your pieced block.)
  • Aligning the edge of the fabric with your quarter inch presser foot to make an accurate quarter inch seam. You should double check the accuracy of your quarter inch seam by measuring the distance between the edge of your presser foot and the needle. You can use a 1.5 inch ruler or Measuring Gauge to measure this.
  • Presser Foot Option: Use the Quarter Inch Quilting Presser Foot with Guide. It makes it so much easier to keep your fabric aligned. Simply position your fabric next to the guide as you sew. Also see: 9 Tools To Sew Straight Lines Madam Sew Blog
  • Reminding yourself to check the fabric alignment at the midpoint of longer fabric strips by placing a pin at the midpoint of the strip. Flower Pins are great because their colorful flower heads are hard to miss.
  • Using your stiletto or Madam Sew Magic Wand to keep the fabric ends in alignment as you sew.  
  • Pressing your seams towards the darker fabric – for best results use a wool pressing mat or 17 x 24 inch Wool Pressing Mat on top of the ironing mat or ironing board.

The Orientation is Important!

After piecing, the finished fabric pair is a DARK RED 2.5 inch fabric square on the top and a light fabric square on the bottom that measures 2.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches deep. This is the center.

Closeup of 2.5 inch square dark red fabric square pieced to a 2.5 inch square light fabric square

The center: A dark red 2.5 inch fabric square pieced to 2.5 inch light fabric square

Please note the orientation must match the Log Cabin Block Piecing Layout .

The dark red fabric square is on top and the light fabric square is on the bottom.

NEXT:

Make the center block by piecing a light fabric strip to the center.

LOG CABIN QUILT BLOCK PIECING LAYOUT showing Center, Fabric 1 and Fabric 2.

Red fabric square, light fabric square, and light fabric strip pieced together creates The Center Block

Position the center so that the dark red 2.5 inch fabric square is on the top and the light 2.5 inch fabric square on the bottom – Piece a 4.5 inch LIGHT fabric strip to the right of this 2.5-inch wide by 4.5 inch deep center. Refer to the piecing layout to check the orientation. Now is the time to have a Seam Ripper handy. It is better to rip out a 4.5 inch seam than a much longer seam later.

When finished the center block should be a 4.5 inch square. Press the Center Block flat and trim if needed.

STEP 2: Round and Round We Go!

The Log Cabin Quilt Block is assembled in rounds. Each round consists of piecing a fabric strip to the previous block.

Closeup of 4.5 inch long Strip 3 and 6.5 inch long Strip 4 sewn to the CENTER BLOCK

Strip 3 sewn to the top of the Center Block with Strip 4 sewn to the left of the Center Block

ROUND 1:

  • Sew a 4.5 inch DARK fabric strip (Strip 3) to the top of the center block.
  • Sew a 6.5 inch DARK fabric strip (Strip 4) to the left of the block
  • Finished Round 1 is a block that measures 6.5 inches square. Note: Don’t worry if your block is a scant 6.5 inch square. It will not effect the finished block. Press the block flat. Trim if needed.  

Tip: Check the measurements by using painter’s tape at the 6-inch measurement on your quilting ruler or 6 x 24 inch Quilting Ruler 

ROUND 2:

Closeup of 6.5 inch long strips 5 and 8.5 inch long strip 6 sewn to Round 1

Pieced strips 5 and 6

  • Sew a 6.5 inch light fabric strip (Strip 5) to the bottom of the round 1 block.
  • Sew a 8.5 inch light fabric strip (Strip 6) to the right of the block
  • Finished Round 2 is a block that measures 8 inches square. Press the block flat and trim if needed.

ROUND 3:

  • Sew a 8.5 inch dark fabric strip (Strip 7) to the top TOP of the round 2 block.
  • Sew a 10.5 inch dark fabric strip (Strip 8) to the left of the block.
  • Finished Round 3 is a block that measures 8.5 inches wide by 10.5 inches deep. Press the block flat and trim if needed.

ROUND 4:

  • Sew a 10 inch LIGHT fabric strip (Strip 9) to the bottom of the round 2 block.
  • Sew a 12.5 inch light fabric strip (Strip 10) to the right of the block.
  • Sew a 12.5 inch dark fabric strip (Strip 11) to the top of the block.
  • The finished Round 4 block measures 12.25 inches square. Press the block flat and trim it down to 12 inches square.

STEP 3: Press and Trim

Finished 12 inch square Log Cabin Quilt Block made of 11 fabric strips that are 2.5 inches wide

Finished Log Cabin Quilt Block

Why All the Pressing and Trimming?

You may be wondering why do you have to press and trim the block at each round? This method helps you build a beautifully flat block that is accurately squared. You can save yourself the dismay of building an uneven and crooked block.

TIP: Press the seams towards the darker fabric. Double check your measurements before you cut your block. Save yourself some angst and fabric by following the carpenter’s motto: Measure twice, cut once.

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Congratulations!

You did it! Your gorgeous Log Cabin Quilt Block is ready to star in your next sewing project.  

  • One Log Cabin Block can make a pretty pillow cover. See:  How To Make An Accent Pillow Cover how-to Madam Sew Blog for more details.
  • Four Log Cabin Blocks can make a lovely centerpatch for a baby quilt.
  • Make 20 Log Cabin Blocks then add a generous border and you have a nice bed covering! Any multiple of four makes a wonderful quilt centerpatch.  
  • Other projects: Placemats See our DIY Homemade Placemats Madam Sew Blog how-to; Cosmetics Case Madam Sew Blog how-to; Curling Iron Case Madam Sew Blog how-to and our Madam Sew Blog DIY Yoga Bag Mat Tutoria.

And the design variations are amazing too! Your quilt will look complicated but only you will know how easy it was to make.

May your quilting always bring you joy!  

Ernie Grant, Guest Blogger for Madam Sew

Ernestine “Ernie” Grant is an avid quilter with over 17 years experience and is the owner of the custom baby quilt business www.kalibabyquilts.com. As an African American living in Harlem, NY her view of quilting is shaped by her heritage and the elders who taught her – Quilting is not just thread, fabric and stitches. It is art, it is love, it is community.

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1 comment

Thank you for this blog. I usually don’t look at them but this is THE BEST INSTRUCTIONS I have ever read on making a LOG CABIN block. thanks so much.

Barbara A Shockley

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