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.