Project Design Team Wednesday~Willow Improv Log Cabin Quilt

Posted by administrator on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Hi everyone! Today we've got a FABULOUS tutorial from
Heather Jones

Hi! Thanks for joining for my newest project for the Riley Blake Design Team. I've come up with an easy quilt project for you, featuring one of my favorite types of blocks: the improvised log cabin. One of the things that is great about this block is that there is really no need to measure your fabrics. You just build it as you go! It's a fun way to make quilts, and I think it's a great exercise in creativity for those of you who typically tend to follow patterns while quilt making. You'll notice that there are not a lot of precise measurements in this project; you basically just construct each block until it measures a bit larger than 12 1/2" square. Then, you'll use a gridded square ruler to trim each block down to size. Using the same fabric for the last tier of the log cabin eliminates the need for traditional sashing and borders.

Let's get started!

1/2 yard Pink Willow Leaves
1/2 yard Green Willow Herringbone
1/2 yard Pink Willow Medallions
1/2 yard Yellow Willow Main
1 yard Slate Cotton Shade
1/2 yard White Willow Herringbone
Supplies and Notions:
12 1/2" gridded quilters square
coordinating piecing thread (I use Coats & Clark Dual Duty)
coordinating quilting thread (I use Coats & clark Machine Quilting thread)
40" x 40" piece of batting (I used Legacy by Pellon 100% Natural Cotton batting)
rotary cutter
straight edge
straight pins
safety pins 
sewing machine
For this project, you will make nine improv log cabin blocks. Start with a small square, and then construct your block by adding tiers or "logs" around the center square, until it is larger than 12" square. I encourage you to vary both the order of fabrics as you construct each block and the sizes of each piece as well. The only thing that should remain the same for this design is to use the same fabric for the last tier of each of your blocks. Then, we'll use the 12 1/2" gridded square ruler and a rotary cutter to trim each square down to size. 
Here's how I made my first block. 

Cut a square of your choice of fabric for the center of the block. I used a 4 1/2" square of Yellow Willow Main fabric. This will be the center of the first block.

Cut a strip of another fabric for the first tier of the log cabin block. I used a 2 1/2" strip of Pink Willow Leaves.

Cut two pieces of the Pink Willow Leaves just a bit longer than the length of the center square, and place them along the top and bottom of the square. 


Cut two more pieces of Pink Willow Leaves just a bit longer than the combined length of the center square and top and bottom pieces, and place them along the two sides of the square.

Begin to construct your block by sewing the top piece to the square, right sides together. 

I always begin to sew each tier by backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam to lock the stitches. Sew the bottom tier to the square in the same manner. 

This is what the square will look like with the top and bottom tiers sewn on.

Open up the seams...

press them with a hot iron. 

Use a rotary cutter and a straight edge to trim the edges off the top and bottom tier of the first two logs so that they line up with the center square.

Here's what they will look like after the top and bottom tiers have been trimmed.

Add the two side tiers in the same manner, by placing them over the constructed piece, right sides together..

and sew, backstitching to lock the seams.

Open the seams, and press with a hot iron.

Here's what the block will look like after the the two side tiers have been added.

Trim off the ends of the tier with a rotary cutter and straight edge so they are even with the other tiers.

Cut a strip of the third fabric for your block (I used a 1 1/2" strip of Green Willow Herringbone) and create your next tier as you did above, with two pieces for the top and bottom, and two pieces for the right and left sides.

Sew the next tier to the block as you did before. Here is what it will look like when the third tier has been sewn and trimmed.

Cut a strip of fabric of your fourth fabric (I used a 1" strip of Pink Willow Medallion) and place it around your pieced block as before.

Sew the strips on, and trim with a rotary cutter and straight edge.

To add a little bit of additional interest to your block, try trimming one or two sides at a slight angle, using a rotary cutter and straight edge. 

You can see here that I trimmed the right side of the block at a bit of an angle. Be careful--a little wonkiness goes a long way!

To finish the block, cut strips of the fifth fabric ( I used 2" strips of Slate Cotton Shade). Place them around the top, bottom, and sides as before, to estimate the length you'll need for each side.

Sew each strip on, as before. Then use the 12 1/2" square ruler and rotary cutter to trim the block down to size.

Feel free to shift the ruler so that the block is a little off center. This will add visual interest to your finished block.

Here's what the finished block looks like after it's been trimmed to size.

Repeat these steps to create eight more block. Again, feel free to change the order of your fabrics as you construct your blocks and to vary the sizes of the center blocks and tiers as well. Just be sure to use the same fabric for the last tier, as mentioned above. Once you have made a total of nine blocks, arrange them in three rows of three blocks, making sure to pay attention to the color and design of each block, to come up with an overall design that you like. 
To construct the front, sew the three blocks together to construct a row. Repeat with the other blocks to make a total of three rows. Then sew each row together.
For the back, cut a piece of fabric that measures 40" long. I used White Willow Herringbone. Place the quilt backing on the floor or a table, right side down. Smooth out any wrinkle with your hand and use pieces of painter's tape to hold it in place. Place the piece of batting on top of the backing, and smooth out any wrinkles with your hand. Place the quilt top on the batting, and again, smooth out any wrinkles.  
Baste the three layers (backing, batting, and top) together with pins.

And quilt as desired. I quilted mine with an allover meandering loopy stitch using white Coats & Clark quilting thread and my free motion foot. Trim off the excess batting and backing fabric using a rotary cutter and straight edge, and square up the sides of the quilt if needed.

To make the binding, cut four 2 1/2" strips of fabric (I used White WIllow Herringbone). Sew the four strips together and bind as desired.

I sew my binding on by machine. For more information on how I do it, please visit my tutorial on attaching quilt binding by machine at

And with that, you're finished! Here are a few more detail shots of the quilt.

I hope you enjoy this project and I'd love to see your versions if you decide to make one for yourself. This is a great pattern to adjust as well; just make more blocks for a larger quilt. It's a great scrapbuster, too!

Category: Project Design Team Wednesday


  1. Okay, I've been wanting to try some "real quilting" with piecing, and not just squares. I think this would be a good start. After the grand baby is born, of course, which should be "any second now". :) Thanks for the tutorial! Great, as usual!
    by Lynne Tilley
    July 18th, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.
  2. Your tutorial is great! I got in the quilting mood as I watched it and am going to make your lovely projet with some pastels that twere given to me. I will make the quilt and give it to the one who gave me the pastel fabrics.
    by Connie Douty
    July 18th, 2012 at 6:12 p.m.
  3. Thank you so very much, it's beautiful.
    by Jeny
    September 07th, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.
  4. Thank's very beautiful .very nice coulor .
    May 12th, 2013 at 11:12 p.m.
  5. Belo trabalho, parabéns.
    by Regina Lúcia Matos
    June 22nd, 2013 at 4:24 p.m.

toll free: 888.768.8454 phone: 801.816.0540 fax: 801.816.0542 address: 468 West Universal Cir. Sandy, UT 84070