Just For Fun – Vintage Log Cabin Blocks

I have been itching to do some “just for fun” sewing. Ever since making the Manx Quilt Block a few weeks ago, I’ve had traditional log cabin quilt blocks on my mind. Here’s where those thoughts are taking me this week…

After finishing up writing and publishing a new quilt pattern last week, I realized I had a deadline-free window right now (which is a rare feat for me, but one I’m actively striving to make more time for).

10 or so years ago I saw a 20th-century vintage log cabin quilt while I was on vacation. To this day I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t ask the carriers if I could take a picture. (Mind you, this was pre smart-phone days, but I was carrying an actual camera with me at the time. It would have been so easy. *shakes fist at herself*)

Anywho, I’ve been wanting to replicate that quilt (or at least make one inspired by it) ever since. Last Friday we had a crazy all-day snowstorm and I figured that was the permission I needed to cancel most of my plans, stay in my sweats and dig into and start cutting up 10-years-worth of stashed away vintage-inspired prints and scraps.

Here is a sanitized version of the mess that has ensued. I’m trying to cut and refold as I go, to maintain some semblance of controlled chaos. And so that the fabric mountain doesn’t get too out of control (or look too embarrassing for public consumption).

Retro Log Cabin Quilt blocks with Vintage reproduction fabrics by Amy Smart

Here’s a shot at some of my blocks thus far. It’s very safe to say that I like where this is going. I wasn’t sure at first if it was going to look like a chaotic mess, but now that I’ve got a few blocks done and can stand back and look at them, I am super pleased.

I’m going very traditional with my piecing. Since sharing on Instagram I’ve had a few people ask about a tutorial to make these blocks. At some point I will write one, but if you’re anxious to start in the meantime, there’s lots of Log Cabin Tutorials online if you just search for them. I like this log cabin tutorial as it’s very similar to the way I piece mine.

If you like the accuracy of foundation paper-piecing, Amber from Gigi’s Thimble has a free printable log cabin template here.

There are lots of different methods and I give you permission to find the one that works best for you! I have lots more Log Cabin inspiration on this pinboard here.

Chain stitching Log Cabin Quilt blocks

I really like to chain piece my blocks. I pre-cut all of my strips ahead of time and put them in piles. (I cut my center squares 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ and the widths on all of my strips/logs are 1 1/2″ wide, starting at 2 1/2″ long going up in 1″ increments to 10 1/2″ for the longest log.)

Then I can take a stack of blocks and a stack of the next size strips and just chain them through my machine. I’ve also found this as the easiest method for making my blocks super scrappy – no two blocks are the same.

I also recommend sewing with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance as that will help your blocks stay accurate in size as they grow.

Vintage inspired Log cabin quilt blocks made by Diary of a Quilter

For my fabric choices I’m calling this ‘controlled scrappy’. I want it to look like it’s a very scrappy quilt, but I’m sticking with a limited color palette and choosing fabrics with a vintage-reproduction feel. I’m happy that my Gretel fabrics are playing so nicely with this bunch. The fact that I’m using pieces I’ve accumulated over the past 10 years means I have plenty to choose from. It’s a little bit ridiculous, but I’m feeling no-holds barred on using all the favorites.

Diary of a Quilter - making log cabin quilt blocks

So, here’s where you’ll find me for the coming while. I’m slightly obsessed. I’m almost disappointed that it’s a nice day outside and I don’t have the excuse to just sit and cut fabric and sew…

POST UPDATE: you can find the finished Vintage-inspired log cabin quilt here. 🙂

PS I had a few people ask about my snazzy white cutting mat. It’s designed by Christopher Thompson for Riley Blake Designs. You can find them here and here.

*this post contains affiliate links

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  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    I love your log cabin! They are very happy blocks. I have been making a spider web with patriotic fabrics. I think strip piecing is so relaxing! I hope you have more time soon to work on it!

  • Reply
    Eva Kočí
    March 11, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    It’s so beautiful!

  • Reply
    Gwyn Welliver
    March 11, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    OMG, I finally figured out how to comment. Suffice to say, after a year of reading, I love your blog! I too have homemade clothes memories from the ’70’s and some Sunnyside Ave. fabric. 🙂 Thanks for the inspriation!

    • Reply
      Cynthia Fedor
      March 16, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      This is an adorable quit! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and pictures! Precious fabric!

      • Reply
        March 18, 2019 at 10:19 am

        Thank you!

  • Reply
    March 12, 2019 at 12:02 am

    I just love it. I started quilting in the fall of 1976 after my high school graduation. Log cabin blocks were the second thing I learned after crazy quilting (which was all stitched by hand onto muslin with embroidery around the seams. I just loved the crazy quilt blocks and log cabin blocks and I really need to stitch one. I would give anything to have those first blocks I made as a young 18-19 year old. 61 now and have been back to sewing for about 20 years. I have lots of time to make up for.

  • Reply
    Kelly Bliss
    March 12, 2019 at 6:01 am

    I have also enjoyed reading your posts your log cabin is lovely. Your solution for all of those little pins and buttons we collect is such a great idea. I’m going to gather mine up and make one of my own, thank you!k

  • Reply
    March 12, 2019 at 11:02 am

    I love log cabin quilts! You’re is gorgeous!

  • Reply
    March 12, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    These are adorable. I have mountains of scraps and really should do something about them. I like this idea.
    Your blocks are really sweet

    • Reply
      March 13, 2019 at 10:14 am

      Log cabin blocks are one of the best uses for scraps!!

  • Reply
    Judy Lackey
    March 12, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    I made a prototype Manx block Sunday. Sew much fun! Thanks for the quilt lesson. Love learning about different methods. Especially if I can use up some scraps.

    • Reply
      March 13, 2019 at 10:13 am

      I’m so glad!!

  • Reply
    Anna Bucciarelli
    March 12, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Adorable fabric used for these logs. Great work as usual Amy. I am now the proud owner of multiple yards of each of the fabrics in each of your lines. I am now broke (Hahaha), but so happy to begin using these luscious, memory-enticing fabrics. If I had to choose which I love most I would never be able to in a million years. Thanks Amy for your energy and cheeriness. You make my day!

    • Reply
      March 13, 2019 at 10:13 am

      Aww, thank you, Anna! You made MY day!

  • Reply
    March 13, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Such charming colors!

  • Reply
    Sandra B
    March 13, 2019 at 11:49 am

    LOVE this log cabin, Amy!!
    It is so cheerful! I have always loved log cabin quilts…. I have a log cabin flimsy made several years ago, now in line, awaiting hand quilting.
    Thanks for sharing your process….I, too, like to cut my strips first rather than sew first and then trim… Cutting them first helps with accuracy which keeps the blocks consistent in size, making the blocks fit together like a dream….ask me how I know that!
    Thanks for the inspiration you give us!!

    • Reply
      Suzanne Coady
      January 21, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      Absolutely lovely. My great grandmother taught me how to quilt 49 yrs ago. Life got in the way and I started quilting a year ago. I LOVE ltraditional quilts. Love looking at all thats new and appreciate all the work that goes into building but my tastes on the 5 I gave as Christmas gifts are traditional. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Reply
    Dianna Street
    March 16, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    I just finished the harvest log cabin block quilt. It’s been 6 years since I made a quilt as I had 2 bouts of cancer etc. It’s my inspiration to do another.thistledownstreet@yahoo.ca

  • Reply
    Krystyn D
    April 24, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Gorgeous! I love how you write, Amy! So humble and relatable.

  • Reply
    April 28, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful quilt!! Also, the way you organize the process before starting putting together. You are an inspiration ???

  • Reply
    February 16, 2020 at 7:54 am

    L.O.V.E.! She turned out beautiful! A scrappy log cabin quilt is now on my list. Quick question, did you just finger press or actually iron press after each log?

  • Reply
    February 16, 2020 at 7:58 am

    L.O.V.E! She is beautiful! A scrappy log cabin quilt is on my list. Question, did you finger press or iron press after each log?

  • Reply
    April 11, 2020 at 8:22 am

    I love this quilt! I’m going to get my vintage theme scraps out this week and start one! Do you have a guide as to how many strips you used?

  • Reply
    Connie Malston
    July 17, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Love the fabrics! And the manx block too. Your blog is very easy to read. 🤗

    • Reply
      July 18, 2020 at 5:24 pm

      Thank you, Connie!

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