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How to Make Small Log Cabin Blocks

by | Sep 7, 2021

Are you fascinated by small-scale piecing and miniature quilts? Have you ever found yourself admiring a small log cabin quilt block in a magazine, in a show, or at your local guild and thinking “Oh, that looks so amazing and way too difficult for me”?

In quilting, a small scale usually means it is harder to make. Many quilters will agree with me that the smaller the scale of the project and the more intricate the piecing, the more tricky it is to achieve precision. For many, it also means that the quilting process becomes more stressful and frustrating, as opposed to the enjoyable and relaxing past time it should be.

Log cabin quilts are no exception to this rule. The smaller the blocks, the trickier it gets. So, we provided a quick guide on how to make a mini log cabin block. 

small log cabin blocks

How do you make a log cabin block? 

1. Select a Fabric

The first thing that you need to do when starting a quilting project is to choose a fabric. There are several fabric collections and color schemes that you can choose from.

Also, consider if you want to work on printed or plain fabrics. Do you like to work on textured fabric? Maybe a silk one?

There are pre-cut fabrics, jelly rolls, charm squares, and even quilt kits as well that help you get started with your quilts right away since these are already curated by fabric designers. Hence, do you not need to plan out color schemes.

july pincushion pattern

2. Paper Piece your Log Cabin

It isn’t some long-kept secret and it doesn’t involve 15 years of diligent practice. The secret to very accurate piecing at a small scale, is more often than not, foundation paper piecing. Of course, not all traditional quilt blocks can be easily or efficiently pieced this way, but when they can, it means accurate points, even strips, and blocks the size and shape they are supposed to be!

I have a life-long love affair with log cabin quilts and their relatives, the pineapple, and the courthouse steps. However, I always used to make my blocks at a generous scale with logs no narrower than about one inch. But once I discovered the joy of paper piecing the blocks, the blocks started to shrink dramatically, and the logs got narrower. The result is a series of quilts that are simply exquisite.

The foundation paper pieced log cabin blocks look refined and crisp no matter the size. I have used the technique with large 10″ blocks in dupioni silk, and I have gone as small as 2 1/2 inch blocks with 1/8″ wide strips. (Just to see if it could really be done. It could!)

small log cabin quilt

3. Use 4-Inch  Paper Pieced Log Cabin Templates

One of the sweet spots for log cabin block size is 4 inches. This enables you to make adorable mini quilt blocks but also big enough that you can still make a bigger quilt should if you want to.

However, the blocks are definitely small enough to give you the wow-that-looks-exquisite feel. (I actually have a customer who is working on a king-size quilt! Can you imagine how incredible that will look? I hope she is planning to enter it in a show as it is sure to blow the audience away.)

paper piecing template

In the video tutorial below, I walk you through the steps of constructing the 4″ log cabin blocks. To try this for yourself, you can purchase the 4-inch templates of log cabin quilts.

I also have a kit with the exact fabrics I used in the graphite-pastel model quilt available in my shop. This log cabin quilt kit comes with two books of templates (96 total blocks) and allows you to make a quilt a little bigger than the one I made if you should wish.

I hope this inspires you to make your own amazing paper-pieced log cabin quilt.

(This article was written on August 7, 2020, and updated on Sep 7, 2021.)

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