Using charm squares and other precut fabrics can be an excellent option for log cabin quilt projects. Making a log cabin quilt using charm packs is an easy way to achieve a scrappy look by including a wide variety of fabrics in small quantities.
Charm packs can be used alone in a log cabin quilt or they can be combined with fabrics from your stash fabric. If you want to make a larger quilt than what you can achieve with one charm pack (or jelly roll, or layer cake), consider mixing charm packs from two different fabric collections that go well together. That way, you get even more fabric diversity. Another excellent option is to use a precut pack to round out your existing collection of a particular fabric style (say 30’s reproductions or Civil War reproductions).
Lately, I have been playing around using 5” charm square packs with the 4-inch log cabin paper piecing templates and they are a near-perfect match! The 5” long fabric strips you get when cutting up the charm squares are pretty much exactly what you need for the longest strips in the 4-inch log cabin blocks. Overall, there is not much fabric being wasted either.
Another benefit of using precuts is that it is very cost-effective. Quilting supplies can easily add up to hundreds of dollars for a single quilt! A pack of charm squares runs about $10. For the small autumnal log cabin quilt shown in this article, I used two packs of charm squares and about 1 ½ yard of semi-solid contrast fabric. There are about ⅔ yards used for the border (which I dragged out of my stash but I wanted to give you a correct price).
Overall, I paid around $40 for all the fabric needed for the quilt top. I also enjoyed not having a lot of fabric leftover from the project. As a long time quilter with a sizable stash, it was nice to play with some new fabrics without adding even more volume to my already overflowing fabric collection (much as I enjoy fabric shopping).
Keep in mind that a 4-inch paper pieced block is the largest block you can use with charm packs. However, you can certainly also use layer cakes (10” packs) with the 4-inch blocks.
What are the tools needed to make the 4-inch Log Cabin blocks using Charm Packs?
The tools for these charm pack quilts are simple. These are general supply instructions so exact fabric and template amounts will vary depending on how large of a quilt you want to make. The following is enough for about 56 blocks, though this may vary a little depending on fabric utilization.
- 2 booklets of 4-inch paper piecing templates
- 2 charm packs with 42 squares each
- 1 ½ yard contrasting fabric for blocks
- Border fabric for your quilt top, if desired
If you are new to paper piecing, you can check out our video on how to set up sewing station for foundation paper piecing. This log cabin tutorial will walk you through how you can set your sewing machine when doing paper piecing.
How Many Blocks Do I Get Out of a Single Charm Pack?
This will slightly depend on how effective and strategic you are in using your charm packs. In my case, I managed to get 25 blocks out of my first charm pack. Once I opened up the second pack and combined any leftover strips from the first one, I got 58 blocks in total and almost no strips leftover. Count on using ½ to ¾ yard of contrasting fabric for each charm pack.
Below, I will walk you through the steps I took in order to get the best use out of the fabric.
Constructing Log Cabin Blocks from Charm Packs
- If you want to use fabric from the charm pack for your center squares (I used a scrap from my stash instead), select a fabric you think would look good in the middle and cut the 5-inch square into 5 1-inch strips, and cut these strips into 25 1-inch squares. Then, set aside.
- Cut the 5-inch fabric squares in your charm pack into strips 1 inch wide. Sort the strips into piles-one pile for each fabric. You should now have 5 strips of each fabric from the charm pack. If there were multiples of each fabric, you may have 10 strips of some of the fabrics.
- From each of the little strip piles, pull out one strip into a separate pile (leaving 4 behind). This new one-of-each pile that contains one strip from each fabric is going to be used in the first and second rounds as you piece your block. The remaining 4 strips are going to be used in rounds 3 to 5 of the blocks. Here we need two strips to make it around, rather than one.
- From your yardage of contrasting fabric, cut 1” strips the width of the fabric. (It is usually best to cut a few strips at a time rather than cut up the entire piece of fabric).
- Piece your log cabin block onto the 4-inch Log Cabin paper templates. If you are new to this, you can read our handy guide on how to make small log cabin blocks.
When piecing your log cabin block, use this guide for how to use the fabric strips from the charm packs:
- Round 1, first block: Use 1 strip from your one-of-each pile. (From your second block onward, you will use leftovers from round 3 of the previous block for the first round.)
- Round 2: Use one strip from the one-of-each pile.
- Round 3: Use 2 strips of the same fabric from one of the regular piles. Set aside the two leftover pieces. You will use these two small pieces for round one of the next blocks.
- Round 4: Use 2 strips of the same fabric from one of the regular piles. Throw away the leftovers.
- Round 5: Use 2 strips of the same fabric from one of the regular piles. Throw away any leftovers.
- Round 1, second block, and onward: Use leftover pieces from round 3 of the previous block. Continue with round 2 as above.
Some of us are more visual learners, so I also made a tutorial video showing how I cut the fabric and how I utilize my fabric to piece the blocks.
Watch the video below to see the step-by-step process.