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Behind the Seams: Log Cabin Quilt Design

How do you design a log cabin quilt? In this post, Laura Brown, a Resident Artisan in the Artisan Development Program walks us through the process of designing a quilt from scratch. 

Posted on March 14, 2023
by Laura Brown

I thought I would bring you along to the studio and share a little about how I compose a quilt. I start with an idea, usually a color scheme or specific fabrics I want to use. In this case, I was thinking about a non-Christmasy way to use red and green together, and I wanted to invite more improvisation into the design of a log cabin block variation. Making anything is a very intuitive process for me, and I usually know one or maybe two steps ahead, but even when I have an idea of the overall composition, I like to leave room for surprises and new directions.

1. I started with a few scraps that fit the colors and shapes I wanted to use:


2. The first blocks start to emerge:


3. I like the size of these blocks, but I think I want more of them:


4. Left seemed to be the direction to go next:


5. An interloper! Attention is temporarily diverted to this other new start of a quilt:


6. I’m back on track and ready to make a top row of blocks:


7. Aha! My central patchwork composition feels mostly complete, though I have some gaps, and I decide I want to fill them with more of the golden color:


8. Now it’s time to think about borders. I take the opportunity to use up some white and lighter colored scraps I have hanging around before moving on to darker colors.


9. Now it’s about making the borders wider and getting the quilt to a specific size (about 5’x5’). I have used up most of the black and red floral fabric, so I go digging through my collection for more black fabric.


10. I don’t have a lot more black, but maybe some more teal would work?


The photos in my camera roll leave us at a cliffhanger! Will I find more black fabric in the studio? Which desire will win out: not wanting to buy more fabric, or completing my VISION for this quilt with wider black borders? Only time (and probably a future blog post) will tell.