Monday, 29 June 2015

Log Cabin - Red Sky at Night Quilt

I grew up in a log cabin, did you know? My dad built it off the side of a big old caravan from trees off the farm. It was supposed to be our temporary accommodation while he built our 'real' home. But then he got sick, and money became tight and that simple log cabin just was our real home for many years. I've always imagined the Log Cabin block to have sprung from the American Pioneer heritage. But this week I was excited to learn that the design was possibly first discovered by British Archeologists digging up animal mummies in Egypt! If I had stumbled upon these kitty cats below, I would have gone home and made quilts too! Early British quilts of this design were called 'Egyptian' or 'Mummy' quilts.

The design came to America in the 1860s, probably via British and Amish settlers, a decade of turmoil and war in US history. In 1865, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, Andrew Johnson came into office. Both men had been born in log cabins and this become a powerful symbol through the second half of the 1800s, used often to remind voters of their humble origins. They were 'men of the people'.

The log cabin symbol came to encompass American history, ideals, and identity. It was linked to a president that ended the civil war, it expressed trustworthiness and humility, and also that anyone, no matter their beginnings, can become anything they choose. If you want a quilt that represents the great American dream, this is your quilt.

The first time we see this quilt design named 'Log Cabin' is in 1869. By the 1870s, the design became so popular that it was often given its own category in country fairs. They were often made of wool blends, and then later from cotton and silk. Interestingly, they were almost always foundation pieced onto a square of muslin. They weren't often quilted, but tied in the centre squares.

I'm guessing the reason for this explosion of log cabin quilts was not only political or nostalgic, but also due to the seemingly endless variations in design that can be achieved through this simple block. Today I chose a variation called "White House Steps", a name a whole lot less humble than log cabin, but I think the symmetry will work well with the rest of my sampler quilt.


You will need:

Red: Two 3.5" x 2" rectangles, two 6.5" x 2" rectangles, two 9.5" x 2" rectangles, two 12.5" x 2" rectangles.

White: One 3.5" square, two 6.5" x 2" rectangles, two 9.5" x 2" rectangles.

1. Sew the two red 3.5" strips to opposite sides of the white square. Press toward the red.

2. Sew the 6.5" strips to the other sides. Press.

3. Next, sew the 6.5" white strips to the sides which have the shorter 3.5" strips. Press. Sew the 9.5" strips to the other sides.

4. Finally, sew the 9.5" red strips to the sides where the 6.5" strips were sewn. Press and sew the remaining 12.5" strips to the last edges of the block. Press.

And done! 

With so much history and symbolism encompassed in one humble design, I can see why they became a category of quilts all on their own, can't you? I'm adding this to my 'want to make' list!


  1. How flippin' cool are those cats!!!!

  2. My love for the log cabin block just doubled - how cool?!

  3. I really enjoy reading the history of these blocks! There are so many possibilities with this block and each one I love!

  4. How exiting to see the egyptian "mummy"quilts! What a fun piece of information. This series could easily become a book don't you think?

  5. I just found you and these red & white blocks. I dearly love all the history you've shared. Thank you so much. Are you writing a book?


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx