The Log Cabin quilt originated in Europe in the early 19th century or maybe a little earlier. On the Island of Mann, red and white wool was torn into strips and sewn in this pattern called ” The Roof Pattern.” None of those quilts survive today but descriptions of this quilt is found in diaries. Scissors were rare and expensive among the peasants, so a pattern like this could created from torn pieces. They would use the length of their fingers and hands to measure with to make the strips. Most women did not have any education plus there was probably no rulers around for them to use.
Some quilt historians contribute it to the Egyptian artifacts that was brought to Europe in the early part of the 19th century. Nineteen tons of mummified cats were brought to Europe to use as fertilizer in the 19th century. The way they were wrapped could of inspired the patch work in quilts.
As you can see the pattern of the weave looks just like the log cabin quilt. Anything Egyptian was in high style in the first half of the 19th century and lower class women would copy the fashion of the wealthy. One of the ways they would have copied fashionable homes was with home made bedding and rugs from scraps of fabric and worn clothing.
The earliest known log cabin quilt in this country was just after the Civil War in 1869. Historians have found that the pattern was used in raffles to raise money for the war and the name may have been associated with Lincoln. The style lent it’s self to the settling of the West as Pioneers set up homesteads. The red centers was a symbol of the hearth and warmth of the cabin. The yellow centers was the symbol of the light in the windows of the cabin. The light fabric side was the symbol of the sunny side of the cabin and the dark fabric side was the shadow of the cabin. The pattern was ideal for heavy assorted fabrics that could be sewn on to a foundation piece of cotton fabric. This would stabilize the pattern and then the top would be hand tied to a backing with out batting in the center. The fabric sewn on cotton scrap fabric was to bulky to finely hand stitch. This created a heavy quilt for winter use. This would utilize the heavy fabrics that was not suitable for most pieced quilts.
In the link below, you will see various lay outs of the the blocks and the common name of these quilts.
This link shows some wonderful close ups of log cabin quilts. One of the ways they would make them was to fold the fabric in half and sew them to a foundation piece. This would add extra thickness to the quilt. You will see an example of that in this link.
There are many other examples of block lay outs that I have not covered.
To make this 12 1/2 inches block of “Lights and Shadows” you will need:
Four red 2 1/2 inches squares for the centers. Also and assortment of 1 1/2 strips of fabrics in lights and darks.
This block is based on 4 by 4 grid. Each unfinished section is 6 1/2 inches. The seam allowance is 1/4 inch. There is no need for a foundation piece to sew these strips on.
Just follow the picture above sewing the strips around the center. Check your quarter inch seam allowance after each seam and also square up to the correct size. Press each seam after sewing. After the strip is sewed on it should be 1 1/4 inch and then when the second row is sewed the same strip should be 1 inch wide. The finished center block is going to be 2 inches square after all four sides are sewed on. When the last row is attached, the block will measure 6 1/2 inches with the last row strips measuring 1 1/4 inches.
Sew the block as you would a four square.
Make sure you line up your seams so that your intersections come together in the same place.
Well this makes the 21 blocks now finished for this 19th century sampler quilt.