Tips for making unique log cabin pillows

by birdinthehand on 06/03/2006

in Quilting, Whip Up Tutorials

I’ve noticed many folks out there are taking on making log cabin pillows. And this is thrilling. It’s a traditional design that lends itself so well to originality and invention.

The log cabin quilt design has been around since the 19th century. I was originally inspired to make log cabin pillows when I got ahold of a Japanese craft book in which there was an entire section on log cabin quilts and pillows. I was completely taken with the bold colors and non-traditional use of color and fabric in the book. I never took a class on making the log cabin design or even read a book. In fact, the book from which I got the idea is in Japanese, so I couldn’t have read it if I wanted to! Case in point: until recently, I didn’t even know that traditional log cabin quilts and pillows use the placement of light and dark fabrics on opposite corners to create depth and dimension.

I’ve gotten several emails lately from folks asking for tips on making their own “unique” log cabin pillows.

Here are a few pointers for making your pillows look gorgeous:

  • Choose your fabrics before you begin. I like to start with one “inspiration” fabric around which I design the rest of the pillow. Once you have that picked out, begin selecting about 5-10 complimentary fabrics. What you determine as “complimentary” is up to your own individual taste, but try to select fabrics that have similar color schemes—and that are different enough, but don’t clash.
  • Usually I say, “Okay, I am going to make a pillow in green, red, pink and light blue (or whatever my color scheme may be).” And then I go to my fabrics and pull down those that fit into this color scheme, and I lay them out on my work table. And then I narrow my selection to 5-8 fabrics, depending on the size of the pillow.
  • Cut the strips before you begin sewing. I usually cut 2 strips of each fabric to start—each about 1-2 inches wide. I determine the placement of the fabrics as I go. I start with a center square, but build the pillow strip by strip.
  • Pay attention to the balance of color and detail in the fabrics as you build your log cabin square. Unless you are making a traditional log cabin design in which lights and darks are situated at opposite corners of the pillow, balance your colors and patterns on each side for an overall visual affect that is pleasing to the eye. Use your intuition to tell you when that balance is right.
  • Use a cotton batting behind the square once you have finished it before you begin stitching to give a slightly puffy “quilted” affect.

The most important idea is to have fun and enjoy the experience of playing with fabrics. Joy is at the heart of quilting.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ellia March 6, 2006 at 4:01 pm

thank you sooooo much for this tip! i am actually trying to use some quilting techniques with my paper…. use paper for material… glue for thread… i was looking thru magazines trying to imitate the quilt style but it didnt turn out… with these directions, i am going to try it again and see if it will work! (i know, it sounds different but i really love the style of quilts but also love paper… i was hoping to merge the two- haha) thank you once again! what good timing ;)


2 sixandahalfstitches March 6, 2006 at 6:53 pm

Thankyou :) You’re enabling a log cabin obsession to flourish here (an unfulfilled obsession so fra, but the urge is growing).


3 Denise March 7, 2006 at 3:34 am

Ok that is really cool!! I love it!!


4 Barb March 7, 2006 at 11:54 am

Thank you for posting that, and for being so open with sharing your ideas. I think it would work to directly stitch the pieces onto the batting also (sew and flip method). I think I’ll try both. I am so excited about this idea though–that you have eliminated the “rules” of this design and made it so open to interpretation now.


5 stephanie March 8, 2006 at 12:06 am

thanks so much! i already have my fabric all picked out for my pillow, but i wasn’t sure where to begin! thanks so much for this post!


6 Angie March 8, 2006 at 10:55 pm

Thank you for those tips. Your quilted pillows are amazing! I’ll have to try it.


7 Trevor March 6, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Those are lovely pillows.
We have asked a friend to make some to put into our show log cabins. You may see them on our site,, in a few weeks time.


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