Monday, January 9, 2017

Wonky Log Cabin Block Tutorial {Down and Dirty Method}

I am well aware that I am not inventing anything new here, as there
are a million tutorials out there for Wonky Log Cabin Blocks.
I'm just going to share my method for getting down and dirty with your scraps.
I'm also aware that my blocks are not "true" log cabin style blocks. I'm going for a loose interpretation, but the general idea is the same.

First off, I organize my scraps by color.  

rainbow shoe box scrap bins
 I keep them in these clear plastic shoe boxes from Wal-Mart ($1).  This make it easy for me to see what I actually have, besides making my shelves look pretty.  These bins contain my string-like scraps -- long skinny pieces I've saved from the trash can.

orange scrap bin
 I lay my scraps in the bin nice and flat so I don't have to iron them when I use them. (no reason to add extra work) Once a color bin is overflowing it's time to tackle the scraps!  

So here's where things get down and dirty...

Step one is to DUMP the bin on the floor! 
The dump method makes it easier to see what you have while sewing and sorting.  

Once you've dumped your scraps it's time to do a quick sort. Pull out scraps and sort them into equal lengths. But if you spend more than 5 minutes doing this, you are taking too long!  You don't need to sort the whole bin, just enough to get you started.

small pink scraps
Pull out the smallest scraps first.
Mine are about 1.5" wide by 2" long, but just use whatever you have.
These will be the start of your blocks.

The idea is to make multiple blocks at a time while using the size of the scrap to determine it's placement on each block.  By doing this you can think less with minimal trimming!! (Who doesn't want less work?!)

matched up little pink scraps
After pulling out all the tiny scraps, lay them out on your design board and try to match up similar sized pieces. (The picture above shows my matched pieces before they are sewn.)

chain pieced scraps
Once you have done that, chain piece them into pairs fast and furiously. 
These are now your block centers.   

Then it's time to iron.
(Iron open or to one side, it doesn't matter.)

Next, lay your newly ironed pairs out on your design board, dig thru your scraps for more small scraps, add them to each pair, and sew like the wind! Remember, you are trying not to trim so find similar sized pieces.

the start of log cabins
This picture shows how I've matched up scraps as I've added on. Sometimes I'll combine my initial pairs together (like the block in the upper right corner) and sometimes I'll add a new scraps, always letting the size dictate it's placement.

Once you are done sewing on a new scrap to your blocks, take them back to the ironing board, iron, find a scrap that is the right size, sew, and REPEAT. Over and Over and Over...  I can't stress enough that chain piecing will be your best friend!

pink log cabin blocks
The goal is to mix up the placement of lights and darks in your block to create more depth and dimension in the quilt.  If you put scraps that are too close in value together it will create less dimension.  But again, the idea is not to think too hard. That's why making multiple blocks at a time is so helpful. If a scrap doesn't work for one block it will likely work in another.

chain piecing log cabin blocks
And, because my fabric is all over the floor I can sort and find the length I need easily for each block without much effort.

trimming log cabin blocks
 Once the blocks get to a certain point I will need to start cutting strips to length. But I use my scissors. Again, fast and furious (down and dirty) is the name of the game. No need for a rotary cutter at this point.

back of log cabin block
You can see on the back of my block that not everything is perfectly trimmed.
I'm totally ok with that because it's so minimal. And no one looks at the back.

Let me stress again, that the only trimming I've done at this point is cutting off super long ends with scissors. The rest of the scrap is used as is. That is how it becomes wonky!

pink chain piecing
Once you get into a rhythm you can bust out blocks pretty quickly and tear thru your scraps fast.
Chain piece, chain, piece, 
chain piece...

Find a scrap, sew, iron, repeat! Easy as that!

pink log cabin block trimmed
Once your block is BIG, square it up to 12.5".  If your block isn't wonky enough, this is when you can add some extra tilt.

four pink log cabin blocks
 Up close your blocks might be a bit crazy, but once you step back and look at the whole picture (as I like to call it... using the "Galloping Horse" Method) you'll enjoy great dimension in your quilt.

pink log cabin quilt on fence
When you are done you'll end up with a beautiful quilt!
The idea is to have fun, work fast, and don't over think it!
Good Luck!

P.S. I like to think of this kind of quilt as being a "FREE" quilt, since the scraps could have easily been thrown away.

For me, one shoe box full of scraps yields 35 blocks (or a 60" by 72" quilt top)
(This pink quilt is made up of 48 blocks, or a quilt measuring 72" by 96")