Log Cabin Building Blocks

I published this article in Quilt Magazine in 1997! Thought I'd revisit some of these ideas and show you some variations on the Log Cabin.

I also show some newer quilts.

Building Blocks for Log Cabins
by Debby Kratovil

Without a doubt, the Log Cabin is the favorite of quilters the world over. It lends itself to easy and quick piecing, makes good use of leftover strips of fabric from other projects, and is just plain fun to make! This block is pieced in rounds of strips with a central square (or triangle or rectangle as you will soon see). You keep on piecing until you have the size of block you want.

I have included here a few variations on the Log Cabin. We hope this will send you to your sewing room wanting to try out these with your own color choices. There are endless possibilities with this block, four of which follow.

Block 1 is a standard Log Cabin, but we have used a half-square triangle as the center unit. When the blocks are put together as seen in the diagram, an illusion of a circle in the center is formed. The addition of the triangles in this way gives a gentle curve. Try arranging your blocks in still other patterns.
Standard Log Cabin with center half-square triangles
Block 2 is a pattern I came across in a book dealing with tiles and mosaics of ancient Rome. This is pieced in a similar manner as the Courthouse Steps log cabin. Begin with two squares. Add rectangles to opposite sides in rounds (see diagram). The coiling effect is achieved by the striking contrast of the light and dark fabrics. There are many possibilities to the arrangement of these blocks. Make several and play! These would be fantastic as an outer border in a quilt.

(I have since published several quilts using the Greek Key Log Cabin)

Here is my Greek Key Log Cabin quilt using 8" blocks. You can find the pattern with TWO versions of this quilt in my Etsy shop. First, one sewn using five Kaffe Fassett fabrics for the blocks.

Greek Key Log Cabin quilt: 42" x 50"
And another done in red and white (same size):

Red Hot Logs: 42" x 50"
Block 3 is an elongated square, otherwise known as a rectangle. You begin with rectangular strips that are at least 3-4 times the length of the width of the strip. It is pieced in rounds as in a standard log cabin. These also would be a striking border treatment. They can be placed together into a quilt if the dimension of one side is proportional to the other side (for example 3” x 6” block, 6” x 12” block, etc).

Block 4 is a Thick and Thin treatment. Beginning with a central square cut the size of the width of the thick strips, the piecing of the rounds of logs continues in the standard way. After the central square, two thin strips (half the width of the thick strips) are added. Then two of the thick. Continue adding strips, two thin, two thick, keeping the colors consistent throughout. Putting these blocks together in various settings creates lovely curving patterns that cannot be achieved with a standard log cabin.
Thick and thin logs
I now call this Block 4 treatment the Curvy Log Cabin. I have made several quilts using this technique. This blue and gold table runner is about 25 years old and I still own it!

12 Curvy Log Cabin Blocks make this table runner
And my recent Butterflies quilt. I patterned this 22 years ago (yes, I did!) and made it again using Jean Ann Wright's Curvy Log Cabin ruler (by Creative Grids).

Sunshine Butterflies: 47" x 47"; 6" block
Notice that each Butterfly is made using 3 curvy log cabin blocks and a plain block (that has the antennae and head (which is a prairie point!)

Here's another one done by The Quilting Divas Sewing Boutique (shop) in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Colorful Sunshine Butterflies by Quilting Divas shop
These are just a few of the fun ways to play with your Log Cabin blocks. The possibilities are almost endless and the results may surprise you. So, what are you waiting for? Go get out those strips and get to work!

I'll be posting more Log Cabin designs in the weeks ahead. There are so many wonderful ways with strips and logs and it's one way to use up some of your scrap stash!


  1. Love those butterflies made from log cabin blocks!! Genius!!

  2. Love all of them. The Log Cabin is one of my favorites and I did the Colorado Star Log Cabin a number of years ago.

  3. All great versions. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love them all but I think the butterflies are really cool. Haven't seen log cabin butterflies before.


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Thanks for stopping by Debby Kratovil Quilts! If you had a question and don't get an answer from me, please feel free to email me at: kratovil@his.com