Friday, May 8, 2009

relaxed log cabin tutorial

There are several names for these log cabin blocks; Gwen Marston calls them Liberated log cabin, others call them Wonky log cabins, I've been calling them Relaxed log cabins. Maybe we should call them Falling down log cabins.... I used them in both of Austin's quilts. I also used them in my Texas Flag quilt pictured in my header. Sample blocks of this charity quilt are laid out here.

I have sorted my fabric scraps into different color bins. There is a purple, brown, black, pink, green, blue, yellow/orange, red, white and turquoise bin or bag. Most (nearly 100%) of my scraps are 100% cotton but if you find one that clearly isn't don't use it-I found a scrap of Melissa's prom dress with the blues. I am working with green since I need 11 green blocks.

Choose your first 2 fabrics.
I do not repeat a fabric within a block and try to use the small pieces in the center of the block, (instead of choosing a large piece and cutting it smaller).
Lay the two fabric, right sides together, with two edges together.
Stitch 1/4" from edge of fabric. I am using a 1/4" foot so I try to keep the edge of the fabric at the edge of the foot. YOU MUST HAVE EACH SEAM 1/4" OR LARGER. Smaller seams can be re-sewn easily before more logs are added; Quilts need to be sturdy and 1/8-1/16 inch seam will not hold up to heavy use. Use a slightly smaller stitch than normal so there is NO need to backstitch since every seam will be locked in place when the next seam is sewn over it. Notice the frayed bit of fabric on the left side of the top fabric; the frayed bit is not fabric and should not count as part of a 1/4 inch seam when it is eventually sewn; trim that before sewing so you do not use part of it for the 1/4 inch seam.
Press seams to one side. I use starch and the patch that the seams are pressed away from will be your center patch. (It does NOT have to be square; rectangles and even triangles can be used.)

Square it up. That does not necessarily mean cut it into a square; just cut the edges straight; so the next 'log' is easier to sew straight.
Choose your next fabric.
Sew it, right side against the right side of the previous 2 'logs'. Again 1/4 inch seam.
Here I've finger pressed the seam away from the center log (the stripe).
Here I've chosen fabric #4.

Here I've laid fabric #4 on top of the center section and you can see that the fabric doesn't line up. As long as I lay the straight piece on top of the crocked one I have a straight line (fabric #4) to follow and the seam will be fine. I will trim that piece off after I press.
Here's my block after sewing #5 on. At this stage I usually starch, press and straighten again.
Here you can see the center (stripe) and see that the seams are pressed away from the center. You can also see the extra fabric in 2 of the seams.
It's important to trim the selvages off.
Here I've straightened the edges again. Continue doing this after every 4 logs or more often if you prefer.
After sewing fabrics down look at it to figure out where the next fabric goes. The edge with the most seams is the one that gets sewn next (should be 2, if there is a mistake don't worry about it just keep going forward.) Continue going around until your block is at least 10.5 inches across.
Trim any loose threads on the surface and on the back of the block and trim it to the desired size; in this case 10.5 inches. It is easiest to use a large square ruler.
When making these it is better to have wider pieces on the edge of the block; if there is just 1/2 " of fabric after it is trimmed it will not lay as flat after it is sewn into a quilt.

notes: I just use the next fabric that comes to hand.. sort of; I have to dig to get the right size and sometimes a long piece is patched out of 2 or 3 fabrics, but I don't worry about color since all greens go together, it's called a monochromatic color scheme.

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