Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wonky Log Cabin Block Tutorial

I love to work improvisationally. I have been inspired and influenced by the work of the quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Much of their work is done improvisationally. The variations on the housetop block used in many of their quilts are beautiful in wonkiness and unpredictability. I also admire the work of Nancy Crow and Denyse Schmidt. Both of these women work improvisationally and one day I would love to take one of their classes. I’m sure there are others, but I recommend these books for quilters who want to work in an improvisational way: Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts and Beyond, Denyse Schmidt, 30 Colorful Quilt and Patchwork Projects and Nancy Crow by Nancy Crow. It was reading about these quilters that gave me the confidence to strike out on my own and dip my toe into improvisational quilting. I started out knowing how to do a traditional log cabin block and I went from there. This tutorial demonstrates how I make a wonky log cabin block like this one.

Getting Started:
For this block you will need
fabric cut into 1.5 inch strips selvage to selvage (for this block I used 4 different fabrics, you will need at least two)
rotary cutter, ruler and self healing cutting mat
iron

These are the fabrics I chose. If you cut strips selvage to selvage you will have plenty of fabric to cut the logs. If I’m using scraps I trim so that the strips have straight edges so I get nice straight ¼ in. seams.


















Step 1
To start you will need a center for your log cabin block. I cut a rectangle approximately 2 x2.5 inches. You can start with a square or a rectangular shape. It can be a bit wonky if you choose. The shape of your center will influence the look of your block.


















Step 2
Line up the strip with your center and cut the strip a wee bit longer. With right sides together and using a ¼ inch seam, sew this strip to the top of the center. Press the seam away from the center.

















You’ll have a unit that looks like this.

















Step 3
Line up your ruler with the straight edge of the center piece and trim the excess from the first log. Trim the other side as well.


















Step 4
Notice that I have put in a pin. This pin marks the top of the block. I learned this technique in Denyse Schmidt’s book. She calls it a compass pin. The order for adding logs is top, right, bottom, and left. It is easy to confuse top and bottom or left and right and this pin helps keep you oriented so you don’t add logs in the wrong order.
Now you are ready to add your next log. Cut your next strip, again a smidge longer than the right side. Sew again right sides together. Press the seam away from the center.


















Step 5
Continue this process, cut, sew, press, trim until you have completed one round of logs.


















Step 6
I like to sew with the log on the bottom so that I can see and make sure seams lay properly.














Step 7
Your first round of logs should look like this. Here is where the fun and the wonkiness begins. It is also the time where you have the freedom to make design decisions that will impact the look of your block.


















Step 8
Use you ruler and your rotary cutter to trim a bit of wonkiness into your block. I decided to trim the left side. Notice that the angle of the trim is very slight. Just a slight angle will multiply as the block grows. I have found that severe angles make this process much more difficult and don’t give that subtle wonky feeling that I like a block to have. Don’t feel that you need to trim everywhere. A little goes a long way. I’m only trimming one side in this round.


















Step 9
Now you’re ready to add a new round of logs. It’s hard to see the wonkiness at this point. It will become apparent after the next logs are added. Be sure to orient you block so the pin is at the top. Cut and add your next round of logs, top, right, bottom, left. Be sure to press and trim after each addition.


















Step 10
Here is the block with the second round of logs. Do you see how the wonkiness of the left side is now more apparant. Also, notice I cut one of the logs a bit short, a disaster, of course not. I think I'll trim and add wonkiness to the top.


















Step 11
Time for another design decision. This time I chose to trim just a bit of wonkiness on the top and bottom of this round of logs. Sometimes I use a bit of paper to audition the wonkiness so I can decide which way or how much to trim. There is no right answer, just go with your instincts. I do make sure I always leave at least a ½ inch of the log so that it doesn’t disappear in the seam allowance. Again, notice it's a slight angle for the trim.


















Step 12
Check your compass pin to be sure it’s at the top and add a new round of logs, top, right, bottom left.


















Step 13

For this round of logs I decided to change it up a bit and piece one of the logs. Cut three pieces of your 1.5 in. strips. Make sure you make the total length longer than usual to account for the seam allowances.


















Step 14
Sew the pieces together, press, and you have a log with a little personality. Add this log, press and trim and you have completed another round of logs.


















Step 15
It’s time to make another design decision. I decided at this point not to add any wonkiness to this round of logs. You may want to trim one or more of the sides to add additional wonkiness. It’s up to you.
















Step 16
Continue to add rounds of logs and when the whole round is complete, trim for wonkiness if you desire. I chose to add this polka dot next. Again, I left this round of logs straight. At this point the block measures approximately 9 inches square. I want 12 inch blocks for this quilt. Are you up for a little math? To get a block large enough to trim to a 12 inch square I need to add at least 4 inches to the length and width of the block. Don’t forget to take into consideration the seam allowances. I decided to use the cream solid and add 2 inch logs to the top and right and 3 inch logs to the bottom and left. That gives me a bit extra to play with when I’m ready to square up the block.

















Step 17

The block is ready to be squared up. You can square up your block a couple of ways. A see through ruler works great, but I don’t have a 12 inch one. If you have one, place it over your block and trim making sure you have at least ½ inch of the outer row of logs.














Step 18
I use the lines on my cutting mat to square up my block. Position your block on the mat and use the lines on the mat to make a straight edge. Before you trim make sure you know where the block will trim on the opposite side. I have trimmed too much on one side and had to replace logs because I made the block too short. The woodworkers mantra “measure twice, cut once” is really good to remember when squaring up a block.














Step 19
Rotate the block 90 degrees and line up your straight edge to the line on the mat. Trim the opposite sides. Again, measure twice then cut!














Done!
This is the finished block.

















Something to Think About
This is another quilt I did using this method. What I love about making wonky log cabin blocks is that in addition to fabric choices you have the opportunity to make design decisions as you work. Notice in this quilt how the shape of the centers affects the look of the blocks. You can choose to use different strip widths. In this quilt I used as small as 1 inch strips to as large as 4 inch strips. You can choose to vary the size of the strips in a round of logs, small ones on the top and right and large on the bottom and left. You can skip a side in a round or blocks or add extra, or piece in an extra block of fabric here and there. All of these decisions will change the looks of your blocks. The possibilities are endless.

















Another Example
This is another quilt using the same method, but it looks very different. In this quilt I varied the number of rounds of logs I did in the blocks. Some have as few as one round. This method is very forgiving. If it’s too big, trim it, too small, add another log. Have fun making quilts with wonky log cabin blocks. I’d love to see your work.

84 comments:

Amy said...

I love wonky! Your quilts are so great :)

Liz said...

Great quilts. I'm a wonky fan now too! I'm going to have to add this to my project list.

BusybeeDebQuilts said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm thinking this would be great for a baby quilt ... simple and colorful!

Deb

Leanne said...

Thanks for the tutorial the finished block looks great - I will add it to the list of things to do - you know the list that is getting ever longer.

LeeAnn said...

I found your blog about a month ago, and I'm so inspired by your quilts. Thanks so much for your tutorials, they are very easy to follow, and greatly appreciated. Keep them coming!!

Dana said...

OH MY WORD!!!!!!!! This tutorial is amazing!!!!!! I was considering just winging it but I'm soooo glad that I read this!! Wow! Now it makes sense to me. I cannot wait to get started. :)

So very inspiring!

Thank you!!! I will show you pics for sure!

Thanks friend.

Jackie said...

The tutorial is wonderful!! Thanks for sharing your technique! I love the finished products!

gardenymph said...

Thanks for the great tutorial. I look forward to to making something like this as soon as I can. :~)

monica said...

beautiful quilt jacquie!!!

Stacy A. said...

Jacquie, What a great tutorial. I couldn't quite figure out how everything went together until you showed it perfectly. If I could find a few fabrics I think I could take this on! Your quilts are awesome! Love Stacy

Randi said...

I love these!

lindsay said...

great tutorial! i just found your blog today but have been thinking about making something like this for a while. thanks for the inspiration!

susan said...

great job on the tute! it is very understandable. one thought for you, i wait to cut my strips until after they are sewn on. there is less waste that way, and i just trim it off as you do after sewing.

apple cyder said...

This is a great tutorial. Very generous of you to share your technique. Thanks!

Jacquie said...

Susan,
Great suggestion. Thanks for adding your idea!

amandajean said...

what a wonderful tutorial! I am a big fan of improvisational piecing. it's so addictive. I appreciate your tips on wonky piecing. it really is something that is much harder than it looks. and you do it so well.

Stina said...

The blocks are so fun to make this way...love your tutorial...a great idea for a new quilt for my daughter...
Thanks for sharing...

bettyninja said...

Wonky is the perfect word! Really great tutorial and I love your examples.

Gunnels blog said...

Lovely quilt! Thank for visit and comment on my blog! Always fun to found new blogs :-)

ivyarts said...

Wonky is such a great quilting word. I love the blocks. The polka dots are fabulous.

driftwood said...

this is a fantastic tutorial, have you entered it in the sewmamasew tutorial competion?

shannon said...

Oh my goodness, I love these three quilts, all the different color variations. Thanks for the tutorial.

Catherine said...

What an absolutely super tutorial! I am really tempted to make one of these -- think it would look super in pinks and greens too! Thank you for the inspiration.

The WoodLand School said...

FINALLY I understand how to make these blocks that I have obsessed about for so, so long. Thank you, thank you!

Potiron said...

Thank you for your tutorial. I've just discovered your blog. It's great.

Although I knew the same kind of technique, the one I know makes more crazy movements. I like the graphics of your technique, and now am thinking hard about doing something similar. Will let you know. But don't hold your breath.... I'm very slow!!!

Thanks again for the tutorial, it's nice to be reminded of things especially when offered with a twist.

Looking forward to reading you more....

Julie said...

What a great tutorial. I've tried unsuccessfully to create a wonky log cabin but now I see the trick. I was wonkying too many sides!! Thanks so much.

purple and paisley said...

oh, your tutorial is fabulous! i cannot wait to try a wonky log cabin! thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

You have such a gift for teaching! Please do more.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I have wanted to try this kind of block, but I've been intimidated by the templats in the Denise Schmidt book.

upstateLisa said...

Looove wonky!!! Looove log cabins! Gotta love the two together! thanks for sharing!

Deb said...

Simple and amazing! Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I love your color use! I can't wait to finish my current project and start going wonky! haha! Have a great Thursday!

kate said...

Wow, this is a great tutorial! I'm about to start quilting and I'm going to print this and keep it in my "tutorial book". I love the look of this. Thanks!

wyndesnow said...

Thanks for a great tutorial. I have been quilting for some time now and am always looking for new and intersting ways to make blocks. Thanks again for sharing.

Becca said...

I love this! I've been working up my nerve for my first quilt, and the "forgiving" nature of this sounds like it just might be *perfect*! Wonderful, clear directions and photos. Thanks for a fantastic tutorial!!

audreypawdrey said...

Thanks for the tutorial! I am going to try this out soon. I love learning how to do different quilt blocks.

Jacquie said...

Thanks to everyone. I enjoyed doing it and am loving seeing the projects you are making. Don't forget to share!

Miss Lady Bug said...

Beautiful wonkies and great combinations. Love them ;)

Thanks for posting.

Ginger said...

Oh thank you ,wonky log cabin block tutorial just wonderful! Great job on tutorial.Can't wait to start cutting .
Thank you so much!

Bridget B. said...

This is a great tutorial!! Thanks for sharing!

Lisa (quiltsbylisa@yahoo.com) said...

You have inspired me! Now all I need to do is find a mini-stripe, similar to the one you used here, but in purple/white. Do you have any idea where I might find that? Web searches have yielded no results!

Frogdancer said...

What a fantastic tutorial. Thank you! I'm in the throes of making a couple of quilts at the moment. but I've saved this, because I'll definitely be making one in the future. For ME!!!!
They look amazing.

HomespunMary said...

Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! I am very tempted to give it a try!

Also wanted to say that I found your blog the other week, and have enjoyed it tremendously! It is so inspiring :-)

The WoodLand School said...

THANK YOU for this confidence-inspiring tutorial! I'm going to take the plunge and make some blocks myself.

Marie said...

Great Info. I am a beginner. Thank

everythingquilts said...

This is great. I love the wonky blocks. I posted about your tutorial and added a link back to your site. Hope you don't mind. I just thought this was somethingmy readers would be interested in.

elsie123 said...

Everythingquilts' post brought me over to look at this, and you've got a great site! I've seen wonky a few times, and always like it. One of these days... Thanks for the tute.

Amber said...

your quilts make me want to quilt! definitely convincing to get a little more adventurous with starting to sew and sewing different things.

Little Bitsys said...

Many thanks for the tutorial! I have been making log cabin quilt blocks and UNintentiallly they come out wonky so this way, I have an excuse!

:)

Quilts by Lisa said...

This IS a great tutorial. I'm using it right now! And you're right, a little wonkiness goes a long way! ;)

Roslyn Atwood said...

Nice tutorial Jacquie on a Log Cabin variation.
I have been collecting B&W for a quilt.....
Roslyn

Rose said...

I love wonky, but have always thought it would be too difficult! Thanks for the tutorial, I may be brave enough to try one! Maybe I'll make some cute log placemats for my kitchen...hmm!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tutorial! I made this quilt for a nephew for Christmas. It was fun and simple to do. Thank you for sharing it. I love your blog!

liz taylor said...

Thanks for the great tutorial, I have always loved the funky look, but was never quite sure how to do it.

Anonymous said...

This is a great tutorial. I am a knitter, weaver and after spending a fair amount of time in a great fabric store, a wanna' be quilter. I saw a wonky block quilt and really wanted to do that. I don't know if this is an easy question to answer - I have sewed for years but never quilted. After reviewing your tutorial (great!) I'm convinced I can do this. But how much fabric does it take to make? Is there a rule of thumb for purchasing the yardages needed for this quilt? In other words, is it 1 yard total for each block, mixing and matching the different fabrics as you make each block? jsample@pixius.net

M said...

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! My scream of utter delight. I love this method and have been wanting to try it....but well had no clue where to start. Your tutorial is great...and your work is awesome.

The Jen said...

Great tutorial! I think I'll have to jump in and give it a try.

Nonerz said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! I am adding this to my list & feel much more confident after reading your how-to!

Valerie said...

I have had my eye on this tutorial for several months now and would love to make this for my son! I have never quilted before but am excited to try this out. My only question is the yardage, is there a rule of thumb for how much fabric to buy? I plan to make a twin sized quilt and I already have the fabric picked out but am not sure of the quantity. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!
vcambler@yahoo.com

Kritta22 said...

Thank you for sharing how to do this! I heart you even more!!

How are you doing?

jandofabrics said...

This is an awesome tutorial! Thanks so much for posting it!

JeolsliesMomma said...

Great tutorial! I haven't made a quilt in a long time, and I recently got a new sewing maching, so I think somebody is going to get a quilt for Christmas, lol. This was very very helpful! I need to get me a rotary cutter mat and some new blades and I'll be on my way!

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Miss Nettie said...

Love this!! I just made my first Wonky Log Cabin Block. I posted my block on my blog and linked back to your blog. Thanks for all the inspiration. Your blog is wonderful!

www.missnettiecreates.blogspot.com

UlliPulli said...

Dear Jacquie! I found your blog this weekend ... working on wonky blocks since then :-) I love your work. Thanks a lot and nice regards from germany,
Ulrike

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nyblais said...

Love this tutorial and just finished my first wonky log cabin quilt in michael miller "zoology" fabrics. Where can I post a fan pic of some of my squares???
Thanks

jacquie said...

just click on the flickr group in my sidebar and post your pictures there. i'd sure love to see them!

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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Amanda said...

I am working on my first wonky lag cabin quilt. I am doing them all at the same time, is there a method to cutting when you do so many at a time? I find it is a little difficult to think about each block, when there are so many to think about it. I guess its just random cutting on each block.
I added a pic of my first block, I did one by itself to see how it looks, and willl post pics of the finished product

Annette said...

Im not actually into sewing - but i just find this blog so appealing with all its colors and pictures - and its easy step by step tutorial! Im loving it!

Fafa Aniston said...

Awesome post. i am looking for the same information thanks for posting.

logo design said...

Hello ,I was considering just winging it but I'm so glad that I read this.Its very best .

D said...

step by steps tips thats exactly what i need lol

Amy said...

Thanks so much for the tutorial. I love it and it's the next thing for me to try!

Whippet said...

I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thanks again!

Adrienne said...

Oh my goodness, I think this is EXACTLY what I was looking for! My niece is having a baby, and their nursery theme is Dr. Seuss. I think the wonky lines will go PERFECTLY with the theme of the Dr. Seuss fabrics I bought. Thanks so much for sharing your creativity!!

Brinda said...

I love your work! It is so inspirational! Thanks for that. I live in India and we have different kinds of traditional quilting here.

Brinda said...

I really love your quilts! They are so inspirational! Thanks for sharing. I live in India and we have a lot of styles of traditional quilting here, but different form the Western ways of quilting!

Louise said...

Oh! I enjoyed reading about this log cabin tutorial so much, my dear, like you wouldn't believe! So very inspiring!! I think I will start one tomorrow. Thank you so much for your generosity in your tutorials. Very appreciated!!
Louise

Kari @ The Purple Quiltapotamus said...

I just stumbled across your blog and am loving this wonky log cabin post! Thank you.

mandalei said...

Hi Jacquie, There's a way to do Log Cabins without the compass pin, too, in case it gets dislodged. If you look at all the edges, only one of them has two seams running perpendicular to the edge. That will be your next sewing edge.

Pamela said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial. I saw you on QuiltCon and was so impressed I had to look at your blog. I have only made traditional quilts but now I'm sold on the modern ones. Can't wait to see more.

Judy said...

Just watched your talk @ Quilt Con . Loved it & you. I have recently become a fan of "modern " quilts & bright colors after many patchwork quilts. Thanks for the blog. Will carry on with some more with your help.

Jane said...

I love the description of your quilt but none of the pictures show up. Have they been deleted? I'm new to quilting and need all the help I can get. Thanks.