Log Cabin: Ideas and considerations

Log Cabin: Ideas and considerations

The thing about this whole upcoming Log Cabin Make-along is it’s kind of a lot to think about! Am I right? If you’re anything like me, you might be combatting too-many-ideas-itis — debating yarns, color, pattern, what it will turn into. Of course, you can totally 100% keep it simple and knit something beautiful from one of the many great log cabin-inspired patterns in the world. But even then, there are most of these considerations, all of which are fun to ponder—

What yarn you use and how tightly you knit it will determine the character of the finished fabric — this is no less true for log cabin than any other form of knitting. Traditionally, log cabin patterns call for good ol’ garter stitch knitted at a gauge that’s the norm for the weight of the yarn. If you’re working with bulky yarn, that would mean a dense, gooshy fabric, whereas fingering-weight yarn would net a light and drapey fabric. But there’s no reason you can’t play around with gauge! For instance, the Sommerfeld Shawl (included in the Log Cabin Field Guide) calls for lace-weight mohair knitted at a very loose gauge, which takes a traditionally squishy fabric and makes it gossamer instead.

If your goal is to knit from stash and scraps, you may wind up with a charming crazy-quilt sort of color scheme. Or if you have a palette you naturally tend toward, your leftovers may be inherently cohesive! On the other hand, you may be planning to bust open some fresh skeins for this and exercise complete control over the palette. Will it be bold and graphic, soft and subtle, monochrome, shades of sheep, black and white? Will it involve speckles or stripes? The possibilities are literally endless, and which way you decide to go may depend a lot on the other considerations here. For instance, are you making something to go with your couch or your wardrobe?

This whole form of knitting derives from quilting, and quilters are mind-blowing individuals. The myriad ways that simple blocks of color can be lined up with each other to form larger motifs and patterns is its own special rabbithole. With log cabin knitting, there are actually a few different basic blocks to start with — from original log cabin to courthouse steps, ninepatch, etc. Many of these are detailed in the Log Cabin Field Guide, but I recommend googling quilting patterns for inspiration about ways to use color and combine blocks. For example, check out this blog post and scroll down to Log Cabin Variations. The assorted motifs under the Chevron Blocks subhead alone have got my mind racing.

In addition to gauge, think about how large or small your strips and blocks might be — again, how subtle or graphic. For example, look at the diminutive mitered squares of Marianne Isager’s sweater, Winter, versus the oversized blocks of Mason-Dixon’s Moderne Log Cabin Baby Blanket or Purl Soho’s Half Log Cabin Ombré Blanket. Scale alone can have an enormous effect on the look of your project. (And look what happens when you break up large blocks with stripes, as Terhi did!)

And then there’s the question of what it is you’re making! Is it a blanket or wrap, or will you turn your squares/rectangles into something 3-dimensional? Whether that’s a hat, a cowl or a sweater.

I’m working on a post about just that — patterns composed of squares or rectangles that could be filled with log cabin patterning. So look for that soon! And I’ve also started a Pinterest board for Log Cabin ideas, which I’ll continue to add to — although the latest changes to Pinterest mean my notes on the pins are mostly buried. (Why are they so hellbent on making it unusable?!)

Meanwhile, what are you thoughts and ideas so far — do you already know what you’re making? Will it be carefully planned or made up on the fly? Remember, cast on is January 1st! Share your plans below or on Instagram with hashtag #fringeandfriendslogalong.


PREVIOUSLY in Log Cabin Make-along: Striped cabin

Top photo © Terhi Montonen, used with permission; pinboard here



28 thoughts on “Log Cabin: Ideas and considerations

  1. Your encouragement is so well put, and even though the holiday knitted items list is swirling in my head, I can think of a dozen patterns to make. (Such as the piecemealquilts.com chevron block log cabin idea!)

  2. I’m considering an Albers cowl to match my MDK mitts I made from their stripe book. But the picture of that top blanket is so beautiful, I may have to knit more than one project.

  3. I’m fairly certain that I’m going to knit Norah Gaughan’s Log Cabin Shawl. I would like to use several different colors of yarn, but would love to have a schematic of the shawl to see how and if that would work for this pattern. I loved MDK’s little Log Cabin book: so fun!

  4. Okay I’m super psyched about this KAL but I’m mostly commenting because of one of your last thoughts – why is Pinterest continually making their interface worse?! It was perfect like 6 years ago.

  5. An Albers Cowl for me with many colors of sport weight yarn to explore color and pattern within a manageable size.

  6. Definitely in too-many-ideas-itis but that’s a fun place to be! I’m leaning towards a smaller project (wrap/scarf) though a lap blanket has a huge appeal. Colors – colorful is the draw. Especially since this project starts in January – a pretty gray, misty time in the Pacific NW.

  7. Having just spent some time trolling through my bin of leftovers looking for a particular scrap of pink to repair a granddaughter’s hat (and not finding it) I am intrigued by your idea of using whatever yarn is in there for the Log Cabin KAL. Now I just need to figure out a shape to make it into…

  8. I’ve never found log cabin appealing…until that black and white striped blanket grabbed me! Another vision stuck in my head, add it to the list!

  9. Hello Karen
    Seeing Marianne Isager’s mitered squares sweater reminded me of these beautiful cushions by woolythistle on Ravelry which I bookmarked only this week: https://www.ravelry.com/projects/woollythistle/mitered-squares-pillow and https://www.ravelry.com/projects/woollythistle/another-mitered-squares-pillow-pattern-is-coming. I think the subtle colours are so gorgeous! But I’m a bit confused about log cabin/mitred squares. Is the mitred squares pattern a variant of log cabin or are they just related? Thanks for the ongoing inspiration you provide. I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but I love reading your blog. I really enjoyed yesterday’s Slow Fashion Citizen story on Jerome Sevilla.
    Fiona (from Australia)

    • For me, the mitered squares examples are mostly just inspiration for things you could do with log cabin techniques. Although the ninepatch variation covered in the MDK book is something of a blend of the two.

  10. I love the gray,white and red quilt pattern in this post. Do you have any information on where I might find the pattern? Thanks

  11. This knitalong has such a deliciously luxurious planning period that I have dreamed up any number of possible projects. It is going to be ROUGH to pick one to start on January 1 and by rough I mean not rough at all! Such fun!

  12. Every time I see Terhi’s blanket my heart goes pitter pat. I can’t stop thinking about the logalong! I’m worried that my idea of a log cabin top in Sylph will knit up too quickly so maybe I also need a blanket. That’s reasonable and judicious, right?

  13. I just finished my second Fussy Cuts blanket – first one took parts of 3 years and immediately on finishing I did the second in 9 months – working solid……and yet the talk of this challenge makes me want to start again – but maybe a sweater – thanks for the extra ideas. Lucyf on Ravelry

  14. This post is a good reminder, but to be honest, I have not even started to think about it yet. I have a couple of projects to complete first, choose a sweater or cardigan pattern in DK weight for a gorgeous yarn in my stash and then, I can start making plans for my log cabin blanket. I did rummage through my stash though and found I have a lovely collection of aran to chunky yarns in neutral shades as well as indigo, so that might make a nice starting point – with a few spots of bright colors on small squares here and there. Looking forward to your patterns post for more ideas and inspiration.

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  16. I’ve been thinking about this sweater pattern for a while. Cropped Colorblock Topper, VOGUE*knitting PATTERN #9 | ISSUE Spring/Summer. Maybe the squares could be log cabins, attached after knitting. What to do with the neckline, though? Photo:

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