The Free Motion Quilting Project: 40. Learn how to Piece a Log Cabin Block

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

40. Learn how to Piece a Log Cabin Block

I've been hinting about this for more than a week and it's finally time to get started! We're piecing a new version of Express Your Love!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

This version is going to be all piecing, all beautiful colors, all dynamic texture created with pieced shapes. There's something about piecing that is fundamentally simple and calming. Summer always feels crazy and chaotic to me, but working on this little quilt has really helped bring balance back into my life.

So this new quilt is going to be yet another version of Express we can make together, or you can take whatever elements or techniques you like and use them in quilts of your own! Remember there are no rules for this project - only have fun and follow along at your own pace.

I have to say that it was with this particular version of the quilt that I finally began to feel the joy of working in a series. I would never have picked this method to create a goddess quilt as my first choice because it seemed kind of scary and "out there."

Having pieced it this far, I can say this was a thrilling adventure and I will definitely make more quilts this way again! Sometimes it's nice to not know how things are going to turn out, but to trust in skill and intuition to open new doors.

So where do we start? Well, it's best to start at the beginning and the background for this quilt is what started it all. This background is going to be the stable base for all the elements that will be pieced separately and appliqued on the surface.

The design inspiration came from the little paper pieced star block I sewed at Sew South. This little star was so cute, but I knew I didn't want to keep paper piecing so I pinned it up and planned to use it somehow this year in Express Your Love.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
Only recently the inspiration struck to surround the little star with log cabin blocks to create the diamond effect radiating out from the center. So let's start first by learning how to piece a log cabin block!

Yep, I'm playing with all new camera angles so sometimes things got fuzzy, but hopefully you were able to see how these blocks are pieced together. I'm definitely working on these new angles so I'll be able to share piecing and applique videos as easily as quilting videos.

Now for the piecing! Personally I just grabbed my Accu Quilt GO! and the log cabin die and sliced up loads of scraps. So long as you line up the fabric on grain with the edge of the die knives, you will cut strips that are fairly accurate and easy to piece.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

Just in case you don't have a die cutter, here's the cutting list:

First cut 1.5 inch strips. You will need to cut strips of both Dominate and Recessive colors. My dominate color is the dark blue dot batik. My recessive colors are the mix of various lighter blues.

1.5" square both color sets
1.5" x 2.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 3.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 4.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 5.5" rectangle both color sets
1.5" x 6.5" rectangle only Dominate color

Piecing the Log Cabin Block:

1. Start with the two squares and piece with an accurate 1/4" seam.
Press the seam allowance open (don't argue with me, just do it!).

2. Next layer the 2.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

3. Rotate the block and layer the 2.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open. You should find the block is starting to make a diagonal stair-step effect.

4. Rotate and layer the 3.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open.

5. Rotate and layer the 3.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

6. Rotate and layer the 4.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

7. Rotate and layer the 4.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open.

8. Rotate and layer the 5.5" recessive strip on top, stitch, press open.

9. Rotate and layer the 5.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

10. Rotate and layer the 6.5" dominate strip on top, stitch, press open.

This block will be 6.5" unfinished (before it's pieced with other blocks).

These instructions will make one single block, but do keep in mind that these are super easy to chain piece. I chained 10 blocks at a time and buzzed through this background in about 2 days!

To make the new background, you will need to piece 30 of the blocks just like this. We will also need some other blocks and plain pieces of fabric, but I think this will get you started for now. On Thursday we'll learn how all these blocks are put together and what other blocks we will need to complete the background.

Let's go piece!

Leah Day


  1. What a great video! I love, love, your new hair cut. Thanks tons for demonstrating how you cut and piece a log cabin block. I learned something new from you today, to shorten the stitch length. How very clever. Happy stitching.

  2. I am so excited!!!!! I check everyday to read new posts so when i saw ur first post with this version u got so excited. I love piecing quilts, and couldnt wait for u to post directions....cant wait to see how u quilt it also. U rock!!!!!! You have taught me so much over the last year. I am all ways (at 34 but i swear people think i am 20) the youngest person in the quilt shops and i dont ever seem to get the same attention as the experenced ladys there. So to have a growing number of new quilters closer to my age totally rocks. Thank u so much for sharing.

  3. I'm new to guessing yardage needed. How much of the dominant fabric will I need? I think I have enough blue scraps to do the recessive :)

  4. Sunshine - Something I do to gauge fabric amounts is look at the size of the space being pieced. The original goddess is 1 yard (42 x 36). This pieced background is a bit bigger (48 x 36). The dominate color takes up a good bit of space on the surface, but not the ENTIRE space, so if you have 3/4 - 1 yard of fabric that will likely be more than enough.

    I hope that helps!


  5. Thanks for the help with the amounts. I think there is a chart on the internet somewhere, but I wanted to get started. I bought 1 yard of the dominant fabric and 1/2 yard of the others. I am sure I will have more than enough.

  6. Thank you!! I have a yard of dark blue that should work beautifully. I really love that you talk to us. You have been a great inspiration and teacher to me :)

  7. What thread do you use for piecing? Is it the same as free motion quilting, Isachord?


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at