Itty-bitty Log Cabin Quilt Blocks

One of the first quilt blocks that intrigued me as a non-quilter was the Log Cabin.  The Log Cabin, beside having an endearing name, can be manipulated to create interesting patterns throughout a quilt.  To a novice, the Log Cabin can appear an intimidating block, but you just have to try it to realize that it really isn’t all that bad.  (Personally, I prefer blocks with straight lines, as angles and diagonals, tend to be harder for me to get exact.  Plus, if there are a few goofs it is proof that something is handmade.)

As part of my monthly Strip Club (a very G rated quilt group that exchanges fabric strips), I amassed a lot of strips. Therefore, per my use-what-you’ve-got-first philosophy, I knew that a strip project had to be a priority.  I found an adorable pattern for a Log Cabin quilt made entirely out of 1-inch blocks and I knew this would be it, my new project.

From the very beginning, this project required some organizational intervention.  To help me keep track of the plethora of pieces, I decided to cut all of my pieces first and organize them into labeled ziploc bags.  Taking this tedious step required hours of cutting (thank you, NPR podcasts for keeping me entertained!), yet it allowed me to be able to proceed straight to quilting without stopping repeatedly to cut fabric.  When it became time to assemble, I could simply reach in to every bag and grab a piece, so the quilt still maintained a very scrappy, random look.

Prepping for the quilt blocks

Prepping for the quilt blocks

My second strategy was adopted halfway through the project.  For the first half of the blocks, I constructed them piece by piece until I assembled a whole quilt block.  My awakening came when I realized that I could just repeat the same steps, chaining together every new piece and constructing multiple blocks simultaneously.  The only downside to this method is that you don’t get to see a full block until the end, but the upside is that you get multiple complete blocks at once.

Look at all of these pieces!

Look at all of these pieces!

After all the construction of the top, I hand quilted the top with perle cotton.  I used a very basic utility stitch and “stitched in the ditch” of my machine piecing.  Hand quilting can be both relaxing and tedious at the same time.  I tend to wind up with multiple needle marks on my thumbs, so it is evident that either I am not the most efficient hand quilter or that I must need more protective gear.  For the first time, I used a dyed muslin backing fabric, and I will say that I probably will not use that again, especially when hand quilting.  It is not as stiff as regular cotton and it bunched up on me a lot while quilting.  The end result is not evident, but it just wasn’t right for me.  This project was so small and used so much fabric on hand that splurging on some good fabric, even for a back that won’t be seen, is a good idea.

Log Cabin Muslin back

The backing after hand quilting.

Lessons learned from the itty-bitty quilt:  organization and preparation go a long way.  It is very easy to get excited about a new project and want to delve right in, but by preparing all of my pieces first and working multiple blocks at the same time, I achieved a greater sense of control over a somewhat challenging project.  This project was also a good reminder that little steps turn into bigger steps and to never forget that many good things take time to achieve.

Log Cabin

Here it is!

The $3 Chair

Here I am!  Pink and blank salvaged from a wreck.

Here I am! Pink and black and salvaged from a wreck.

I have a soft spot for thrift stores, garage sales, haphazard antique stores and estate sales, all despite the fact that I absolutely detest most shopping.  It is all about finding that gem lying amidst the junk.  This quest is what led me to a junk sale (advertised as a yard sale) on the outskirts of town one hot summer day.  I had already driven the five miles, so I ventured out of the car and continued forward despite the frightening piles of debris labeled as a sale.  Among the piles of rusted yard implements and tattered faded clothes was a fine specimen of mid-century production.  The problem was that the chair needed some serious attention and it was $5.  Now, as I was one of the few brave souls who actually stopped at the sale pile, the sellers were amenable to taking anything I offered.  I bought it for $3 knowing that I had a big project ahead of me.

Typically, I’m not a fan of painting wood, my reigning re-do philosophy being that wood should remain wood, unless it is veneer, which hours of painstaking sanding (by hand) revealed.  My vision of a rosewood stained chair was soon replaced by another idea:  something painted.  Banishing my antiquated concerns about CFCs and ozone killers, I picked up a can of spray paint and quickly adapted to the idea of a sleek black chair.  The key to making painted wood look good is in the pre-paint preparation.  A good thorough sanding, preferably by hand, is very important to get a good base for the paint.  After I cleaned off all of the dust from sanding, I primed the chair with some basic primer. Once the primer dried, I painted the chair twice with the spray paint.  Since it was summer and I live in the high desert, the drying time was very minimal, but it’s important that every step is completely dry before moving on to another.

To re-upholster the chair bottom, I simply wrapped a piece of upholstery grade fabric (thicker and more durable than a cotton fabric) and used a staple gun to secure it discreetly to the bottom.  To dress it up a bit, I purchased upholstery tacks from a chain fabric store to attach the fabric around the sides and the top.

After the investment in the improvements, the $3 chair became a $15 chair, and it is personalized completely to my taste. And since I purchased the chair on a whim, I decided to make it a more whimsical project and do something  different.  The chair is a good reminder that if you see something you like, you can always personalize it; a little bit of attention can go a long way.

Side profile -- looking good!

Side profile — looking good!