November 11, 2019

Scrappy Quarter Cabin Tutorial

UPDATE: This tutorial has been expanded into an online class: to get access to the printable pattern and video tutorials you can sign up for Scrappy Quarter Cabins with Christina Cameli.  

I promised a scrap busting tutorial and you all told me this was the one you were interested in! Wow there are so many pictures in here! If you enjoy this tutorial be sure to check out my new class on improvisational piecing, this is one of many ideas I share in the class!

The blocks in the piece above were made using an improvisational method based on a log cabin quilt block. It's a little different than a standard log cabin. Most people would call this a quarter log cabin. Ready? Let's do it. Starting with supplies.

Every log cabin block starts with a center. In the piece above I used charm squares (5" x 5" squares). True story about these squares: the very first time I went to quilt market I sat in on a schoolhouse session given by Cheryl Arkison and won a stack of low volume charm squares. That was six years ago and because I never get rid of anything, I finally put them to good use! You don't need charm squares, it's just what I used. Anything squarish or rectangley would work. If you like the sort of coordinated look of my piece, keep the centers all about the same color.

You'll also need some strips from your scrap bin.  I picked a desert sort of color scheme that helped me narrow down what to pull out of my voluminous scrap collection. (Sharp eyes will spot a couple prints from my advance yardage of my new fabric line, Moongate! I just totally love that my own fabric scraps are finding their way into my work now. It's truly the best feeling.)

Something that makes scrappy work sparkle is little pieced strips. I piece little bits of scraps (I call them "crumbs") into longer strips. (I have a whole lesson on crumbs in my class!) I pulled some crumb strips out of my stash that worked with my color scheme.

So now we're ready to start. You're going to see me build 3 blocks. 

I take each center (for a quarter cabin this will actually be more of a corner) and find a strip to add to the side. I trim the strip to about the length of the side I'm adding it to. We're not being finicky here. If you cut it a little too short or too long, no problem. This is improv. There are no wrong moves. Also, notice in the photo below I've got my scissors. When I started quilting I didn't have a cutting mat and rotary cutter. And you know what? I still made cool quilts. So if all you have is scissors and a sewing machine, you're ready!

After the strips are the right length, I flip them over onto the centers so they are right sides together. Then I stack all the centers with their strips on top of each other in a little pile. I place each block down a little from the block before so they will be easy to pick up as I go.

I stitch them together with about a 1/4" seam. Does it matter if your seam is not exact? No, it doesn't. We are not doing precision patchwork here. Low stress. Just sew.

When I finish adding one strip I just slide the next center and strip under the foot without lifting the foot or cutting the thread. This is called chain piecing.

After they're all added I press them open with my iron. I trim away any excess strips that extend past the edge of the block center.

Now let's do that whole thing again! Pick strips for the next side (going either direction) and trim them to size.

Stack and stitch again.

Press them open and now it's time to do it again. But wait! If this was a normal log cabin you'd go to the next open side of that center. But in a quarter cabin, we don't keep going around the center, we go back to the first side, leaving two sides without any strips added.

Also did you see me tossing in one of those pieced strips above? Yum. I usually get at least one pieced strip in each block.

As you trim your strips you will start to collect scraps. You might just sew some of those together to make your own pieced strips as you go!

When you get several little scraps sewn together, just trim up the edges to make them straight so they're easy to join.

Here's the next round I'm setting up.  Oh no! I want to use the green polka dots on the left but that strip isn't long enough!

So I join a few more scraps to it and yay! It will be long enough.

I trimmed the edge straight after sewing those bits together.

That round is done.

Let's do the next round. Here's a subtle thing to notice: the top block has something special going on. If I was strictly following the pattern I would always go from one side to the next and then back. But for that block the last strip I added was on the left side and now I'm adding another one on the left side. Can I do that? Of course I can! You only have to follow the rules you want to. Also, some unpredictability makes for interesting patchwork.

I also decided there was a little too much of that gold brown so I cut it narrower. No rules folks. Trust your instincts.

There we go.

And below there's another round finished. 

And now I'm starting to ask myself: how big do I want these to get? I think it's easiest when I trim each of these blocks to the same size. You don't need to do that of course, but it will sure make putting everything together at the end simpler. These are looking about the right size to me so I measure them. This one is 8" wide. That seems like a good size so I'm going to go with it.

But the other direction isn't 8" yet so it needs another strip or two added to make it big enough.

I picked out a few to bring the blocks to size...

After those additions they're quite big enough!

Using my quilting ruler and/or cutting mat, I trim all the blocks to 8" x 8". Notice in the picture below I cut off a significant bit of the center block. This is good. It creates variety in the centers so that even though I started with centers of the same size, I end up with different sizes at the end.

There they are! Three lovely scrappy blocks, trimmed to the same size.

Do that over and over and you get amazing patchwork!!

In the piece above, I set the blocks "on point". On point patchwork requires that you use some triangles at the corners and sides to fill in around whole blocks. I made my triangles by cutting up full size blocks. That's not how you would do it with precision patchwork because the triangles would be a little smaller than you needed for a nice smooth edge. But this isn't precision patchwork and losing a little bit of the edge won't be a big deal, so I recommend doing it the easy way unless you like quilt calculations. 

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! I would appreciate seeing anything you create with it! If you want a more in depth tutorial with videos and a quilt plan, have a look at my online class Scrappy Quarter Cabins. Happy stitching everyone!


Chris K. said...

This looks like a lot of fun. I'm going to have to try it.

Christine B said...

Brilliant tutorial Christina and I totally love your new class, can't wait to try out some of the techniques! Christine xx

Sheila said...

Thank you for the tutorial, looks like a lot of fun. I'm going to try it.

Ramona said...

Great tutorial for such a fun block. Thanks!

Esther said...

Great tutorial!! Thanks!

KaHolly said...

Thanks bunches for this tutorial. I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

Pamela Arbour said...

I have your class and this tutorial is very helpful, but I do encourage people to get your class as well.

Gene Black said...

I love doing improv piecing - no stress, just sew. You explained this very well.

Brenda Perry said...

Absolutely love your tutorial! Your phase, "...that worked with my color scheme" made me finally understand why my improv/crumb piecing always looks so chaotic - color scheme - what color scheme??!! LOL - now I know what I've been doing wrong! I'm betting that improv piecing will start to look better around here! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful expertise with us!

EYSchmitt said...

THANK YOU for this clearly written tutorial for a wonderful quilt! I am totally excited about giving this technique a 'go' with my bunches of scraps!

Linda said...

Love improv...def trying it!
I have many overflowing scrap bins!

Susan said...

Well, yes, I did enjoy that! When I finish my current log cabin leader-ender, I think I'll switch to these for a while. I certainly have all the pieces I need to make lots! Thanks!

Julierose said...

What a fabulous tutorial--I really appreciate both visual and written instructions...and your blocks are really beautiful ;))
thank you hugs, Julierose

Tehachap said...

Thanks for this. I love the look of a really scrappy quilt but hadn't a clue how to go about making it. Sincere regards! said...

A very clear explanation. Looking forward to giving it a try.

Michele T said...

Your quilt is gorgeous and you have an amazing scrap bin too!!

Camille Fleischli said...

Great tutorial. This has been added to my to-do list as well as the Scrappy Market Tote Bluprint class.

Amy's Crafty Shenanigans said...

AWESOME! Loving the colours you picked!

Mónica said...

Thanks for sharing this! I love all your inspirational techniques, both for piecing and quilting.

Jocelyn is Canadian Needle Nana said...

This was a fabulous tutorial...too good actually because now I want to drop everything and make some of these blocks. There is nothing so relaxing as this kind of sewing. I love it. Thanks and good luck with the website!

Unknown said...

I was able to attend your presentation to the quilters in Moscow, Idaho and loved this quilt but was unable to attend the workshop. I am so very grateful for this tutorial. I love doing scrappy. Thank you very much for generously sharing your technique !!

twodraftmom said...

Ive never actually done a scrappy quilt but this is the one i will make! Thanks fuller the great idea!

Sandra Askill said...

Going to try this, looks fun.
Thank you

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