Manx Log Cabin was a popular quilt pattern in the Victorian era, along with the traditional hexagon pattern (variations include Grandmother’s Flower Garden) and the ‘Crazy Patchwork’; which uses all the scraps of fabric regardless of shape or design. The Victorians wasted nothing. The log cabin is an interesting pattern; the stitches hidden by folding the strips of fabric.
The pattern itself traditionally represents a log cabin; a red square in the middle symbolizing a fire with different sides (diagonally) representing the light and dark sides of the cabin. Different strips of fabric are layered; reversed (fabric side down) and sewn across one side before being folded over to reveal the right side of the fabric. Stitches are hidden, creating a very neat and interesting sewing pattern.
The Log Cabin quilt was preferred by members of the lower class of Victorian England for two practical reasons. The first is that the pattern is quick to construct; when getting into the hang of the pattern and sewing it can become really speedy. The second is the layered effect the pattern takes on –it becomes an insulator, helping to battle the surroundings due to a lack of central heating and in some extreme, but highly likely, situations of homelessness.
Log Cabin strips were often torn by hand and measured by own judgement or using measures of the hand – for example the width of the fabric strips were measured using the length of a finger to ensure equal sizing throughout the pattern.
Regardless of the practical purpose of quilt making, Log Cabin patchworks can be incredibly beautiful.
I’ve chosen to use the basis of the Log Cabin pattern to create a cushion cover. Due to spending a lot of my time making Log Cabin squares in a replica Victorian Drapers Shop (so realistic even down to replica light conditions!) and therefore hand stitching I’ve opted to use a sewing machine for this quick project! I’ve had quite a lot of people asking me how it works as I stitch, so I’m using this post as an attempt to explain online.
Since I’ve gone crazy by buying the whole set of the new Beatrix Potter fabric, I’m going to make a bunny log cabin piece.
What you need are:
- One large piece of backing fabric, cut into a square. The bigger the square the more layers of the log cabin can fit.
- Different fabrics. You can have two contrasting pieces used throughout, or a range of different pieces. Traditionally there are two ‘dark’ fabrics to contrast with two‘light’. I’ve decided to use pastel colours, two blue bunny fabrics to contrast with the pale pinks. Between each ‘bunny’ layer I’ve continued with the pastel theme; green accompanying the blue and yellow alongside the pink. This will help to break up the ‘busy fabrics.’ The central square is a peach shade to add definition to layered effect.
- A needle or thread (if doing it by hand) or a sewing machine!
What you do is…
- Cut the strips into different lengths; the first four lengths of your chosen pattern should be a tiny bit longer than the central square to make sure there is no gaps. The following strips should also be a tiny bit longer than the growing layered
3. Take the first strip and place it on its reversed side. I want the bunnies to be facing the right way up, so make sure you position the fabric to be your preferred way when folded over. I’m working with the pink fabric first, on the top panel. Line the top edge of the fabric with the top edge of the central square. Pin in place and sew around half a centimetre in across that edge. When sewn, fold the fabric over and pin to keep the fabric flat (and the correct way up).
4. Take the second strip of fabric and place it on the right side of the central square, again matching the edges and partially layering the first strip. Pin again and repeat the sewing and folding.
5. Repeat on the remaining two sides of the square using the alternative fabrics.
6. Once the first round of the pattern is complete, you can continue to layer the strips, positioning each new strip correctly over the previous fabric so it overlaps evenly. The central square is only a reference point in the first round as each layer builds on the previous folds, showing the pattern as it grows.
Find and shop some of my vintage inspired sewing here!: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheVintageSewerShop