Creative Challenge: Taking a Log Cabin out for a spin

October 28, 2022

How do you make something traditional look contemporary? That’s what the Modern Quilt Guild asked us to try this year for the Log Cabin Challenge. I like challenges, and I LOVE a Log Cabin block- I couldn’t wait to jump in!

Traditionally a Log Cabin block has a central square that is built outward using strips added around the edges of the block in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. I have done a few log cabin-inspired pieces over the years:

Creating a Concept

Hands up- who remembers this Modern Quilt Guild/Riley Blake fabric challenge from 2015? I used this common zen-tangle inspired quilting motif in the background squares on the star mini quilt, fell in love, and frequently incorporate the design into background quilting.

Ever since I stitched this all-straight-line design (It sure looks like it has curves- doesn’t it?) I wanted to take this motif out of line form and into a pieced quilt.

While you draw this motif from the outside of the square inward, pieced construction of this design will happen from the inside out. Start piecing from the center block, add a strip to each side, and work outward to the quilt’s edges. Even though the strips are not rectangular, the basic process for constructing this design is the same as constructing a traditional Log Cabin Quilt Block.

Developing a Design

You may have noticed that I don’t do a lot of symmetrical designs, and this is no exception. However, to create a square center block with this motif, you need to start with a square outer shape. I hopped on AutoCad and drew the overall design I was looking for using black lines.

With the basic design in place, I drew a rectangle in red in the size I wanted for the finished quilt. I moved that rectangle around until I liked the composition within it, and then I had my composition!

With the basic layout in place, I put the line drawing into Photoshop to experiment with color placement, rotations, and design mirroring. Value is the highlight of the finished design with a nine-step gradient from black to white.

Constructing the Quilt Top

The quilt top is constructed using nine colors of Painter’s Palette Solids, and each fabric color has a matching color of Aurifil thread. I used four thread colors to piece the quilt, but all nine thread colors were used in the quilting process.

So how did I get all of those wierd triangular shapes into fabric form? Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP) to the rescue! At 30″x 40″ this may be the largest section of foundation paper piecing I have done, and you can see how crumpled the paper became toward the end of the piecing process.

In foundation paper piecing, the fabric is placed and sewn on the back of the paper template

FPP requires stitching on the printed side of the paper while positioning the fabric on the back of the paper. Keeping these long strips of fabric in place as I sewed presented quite a challenge. Sew Tite magnets worked beautifully for holding everything in place. I used a mix of their diamonds and bars. I found it easiest to position key points with the diamonds and then add the bars in between to prevent any fabric from slipping around as I sewed.

The stitching in foundation paper piecing is done directly on the printed lines

Here is the finished quilt top! I took this photo right before tearing out the paper backing and giving the top a final press.

Quilting and Finishing

The piecing is the most important design aspect of this quilt, so I wanted the thread to meld with the design rather than stand out. 50 weight threads matching each fabric were perfect to achieve that goal. I combined stitching in the ditch and an echoing triangular spiral in each fabric wedge.

Remember how I cropped a rectangle out of a square line drawing to get this composition? I want each viewer of the quilt to imagine the design extending infinitly. A facing finishes the edge of the quilt without truncating the design with a visual border.

Naturally, Monty is in charge of the final inspection!

Quilt Stats

Title: (still deciding!)

Size: 30″x 40″

Techniques: Foundation paper piecing

Quilting: Walking foot quilting on a Bernina 1008

Fabric: Painter’s Palette Solids

Batting: Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 Cotton/Poly batting

Thread: Nine colors of 50wt Aurifil

Edge Finish: Facing

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  • Reply
    Linda Selby
    October 28, 2022 at 6:48 am

    Gorgeous in its simplicity!! Canโ€™t wait to see it in the show! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    October 28, 2022 at 10:22 am

    So simple and beautifully complex. Your work is aspirational and inspirational. What a fantastic piece.

  • Reply
    Vivian Joyce McCagg
    October 28, 2022 at 10:24 am

    Simply stunning! I hope that the judges recognize all the work, both in the design and the execution of this quilt! Good luck in the show.

  • Reply
    October 30, 2022 at 10:01 pm

    Love the facing finish..just love the whole little quilt. Hope you wow those judges.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2022 at 2:36 pm

    I love this design. I want to make a tie quilt in the future. Do you think this pattern would work.

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