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Log Cabin Quilt Blocks: Four Popular Block Pattern Variations

Updated on January 8, 2013
Basic Log Cabin Quilt Block
Basic Log Cabin Quilt Block

It's All About Lights and Dark Fabrics

Why are Log Cabin blocks so popular? It's partly the appeal of a block that says home, tradition, and pioneer spirit. It's partly the fact that it's easy to mass-produce Log Cabin blocks from fabric strips. But the real secret of Log Cabin blocks is the diagonal effect created by the arrangement of contrasting light and dark fabric "logs" in each block. The lights and darks give Log Cabin quilts their visual interest.

The four popular Log Cabin quilt blocks profiled in this article use contrasts between lights and darks in four different ways that help you create a variety of dramatic quilt looks.

Classic Log Cabin Quilt Block
Classic Log Cabin Quilt Block

Basic Log Cabin Quilt Block

In the most familiar type of Log Cabin block, the dark and light fabrics are stacked around two corners of the block, creating a stair step pattern of logs that climbs diagonally across the block from bottom to top. When you look at them from a few feet away, the block looks almost like a half-square triangle with one half lighter and the other darker. You can make many different quilts from the standard Log Cabin block.

Courthouse Steps Quilt Block
Courthouse Steps Quilt Block

Courthouse Steps Log Cabin Block

This block shares the central "hearth" square and surrounding fabric "logs" with the basic block, but the fabric strips are arranged in a different way: a symmetrical stairstep fashion that creates four pyramid-shaped blocks of light and dark. The "logs" divided into four equal triangles, with two triangles of dark logs and two of lighter logs. The design possibilities are more limited for Courthouse Steps than for classic Log Cabin blocks. They are usually made into a diamond quilt pattern.

Pineapple Log Cabin Block
Pineapple Log Cabin Block

Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt Block

The Pineapple block is the most difficult Log Cabin block to put together, because it requires half of the “logs” to be placed diagonally instead of at right angles to each other. That’s why quilters often use foundation or paper piecing to sew the block accurately. In a Pineapple block, the logs are laid out in eight piles, four light and four dark, which radiate out from the central square in an “X” shape.

Chevron Log Cabin Block
Chevron Log Cabin Block

Chevron Log Cabin Quilt Block

The hearth square in the Chevron variation of the Log Cabin block is at one corner of the block, instead of in the center. The "logs" are stacked around the hearth in an L configuration. Also, the logs are either all dark or all light, instead of half light and half dark. This effect can be helpful for making certain patterns such as a Log Cabin heart or Christmas tree, where some blocks need to be all dark and others all light.

Of course, there are many other variations on the basic block. You can find at least 75 different Log Cabin blocks in the Electric Quilter quilt design program. The easiest way to change the look of a Log Cabin block is to simply use different fabrics.


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    • prestonandkate profile image

      Preston and Kate 4 years ago from the Midwest

      I just ran across the pineapple log cabin block last night on another site, and I think it's BEAUTIFUL! I am not sure I have the skills or patience to make an entire quilt from it, but maybe one day. Thanks for sharing! -Kate

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Beautiful. I'd love to make one of these. I have the one my grandmother made many years ago. I used to spend hours reading and looking at the patterns.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      I haven't made a log cabin quilt yet, but it is on my list of quilts I want to make still.