Scrappy Log Cabin Wall Hanging – Part 1


I spent part of the weekend cutting out hundreds of little pieces to make a wall hanging for an office we converted into a bedroom for a foreign exchange student. The pattern is Shoreline Log Cabin, designed by Judy Martin from her book Judy Martin’s Log Cabin Quilt Book. Before I discuss my wall hanging in progress, let me tell you about the book.

This classic book from 2007, in its fourth printing, covers the traditional Log Cabin block, but by page 20 the author is off and running with fascinating variations of block and setting formations. The quilts on the front of the book illustrate the degree of creativity, complexity, and breadth of exploration of this beloved quilt block.

In addition to the fascinating Log Cabin block and setting variations, my favorite aspect of the book is the numerous ways Judy Martin uses permutations of the Log Cabin block in borders to mimic or compliment the design in the center. You can see her innovative borders in the curved design on the book’s cover and in the images below.

Instead of the usual Log Cabin half-dark & half-light coloration, the Greek Key blocks in the quilt are Log Cabin blocks with a non-traditional color placement.

While some of the quilts in Judy Martin’s Log Cabin Quilt Book appear intricate, the two quilts below are simple Log Cabin variations with a contemporary feel.

Okay, back to the project I chose. One of Judy Martin’s designs, Shoreline Log Cabin, was inspired by Double Wedding Ring and Log Cabin quilts. I was particularly drawn to the sample sewn in Japanese taupes. I wanted the color scheme of the new bedroom to be neutral since we may have either male or female exchange students. Also, this very scrappy design is well-suited to my large collection of neutral fabrics.


The design in this quilt relies heavily on the contrast between light and dark color values. I wanted a very scrappy but homogenous look; no one fabric should stand out from the rest to draw the eye away from the overall effect. I started auditioning fabrics from my stash. Many brown and gray fabrics in the photo below were eliminated because they read more medium than dark in value. I wanted the off-white and light greys to also be similar in value and without high contrast designs. I deleted stark white fabrics but kept a few fabrics with white in them to add some sparkle.


Next, I went through scraps from various past projects. Having just cut all the blocks for a neutral Apple Core quilt (seen in the back), I had lots of odd-shaped scraps to cut into small 1-1/2″ strips.


I must admit, I LOVE doing this step! I listen to a book on tape and cut for hours in a wonderful zone where I lose track of time! Here is the first round of cutting – a bit of each fabric is cut into 1-1/2″ strips. I try not to get carried away but I always cut too much. In fact, some of the strips were cut from 2-1/2″ strips leftover from another project.

Note: If you don’t have a stash of fabrics to select from, Judy Martin’s Log Cabin Quilt Book  provides the exact number of light and dark fat quarters needed for the different sizes of each quilt. There are also cutting directions telling the number of each piece size needed – so there is no guesswork really. I am just making an odd size and doing it the way I like to do scrappy quilts.

I use lids from storage bins to lay out the fabrics so I can see them all at once.


The next round of cutting produced three different sizes of pieces from a strip or small scraps of each fabric – 1-1/2″ square, 1-1/2″ x 2-1/2″, and 1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″. I cut 4-6 layers at a time and made 2-3 of each size. There are actually seven sizes of pieces in each block, but I figured I could subcut them when I decided on the placement of each piece. A few fabrics were fussy cut – but not many since most were tone-on-tone blenders.


As you can see, I have more than twice as many lights than darks. I plan to even out the ratio by purchasing a roll of 2-1/2″ strips of dark Japanese taupes (2 each of 20 fabrics). Since I prefer some planned randomness to my scrappy quilts, I move the fabrics I have used to another tray until they are all used – then I start all over again.


A long time ago I covered 12-1/2″ square cardboard pieces with thin design wall fabric. I use them often for intricate and/or scrappy blocks because I can arrange the pieces for each block as desired and take a stack to the sewing machine – like a portable design wall. Since I now have a strong ceiling fan over my workspace, the pieces stick to the design wall fabric and don’t get blown all over the room! The boards and trays also allow me to plan blocks at the kitchen table so I can be around my family. They are easy to take to a class or stack and store for future use.


Judy Martin provides detailed drawings of the size of each piece, pressing directions, and the order of assembly of the pieces. They were very helpful and I found I needed them right in front of me. I kept my iron and portable ironing board to the right of my sewing machine and sewing table so I could easily press after each seam. I could have used my Clover Mini Iron and Wooden Stand instead.


I used four design boards to lay out the four quadrants of each block. They assemble Log Cabin-style, starting in each outer corner. I trimmed the pieces if needed to fit in the layout of the block. I was able to decide on color placement at this time – scattering the light gray fabrics among the off-white for a balanced look.


The four quadrants are sewn together to make one larger block. The blocks do follow basic Log Cabin construction but many of the “logs” are pieced. I tried to chain-piece the separate units – not a viable option for me with this block at this time. The fabrics and pieces are so similar in color and size, I simply could not remember where they went a few minutes later. There is very little matching of seams within and between blocks. If seams do join, they will nest easily if you follow the author’s pressing directions. I used a 10-1/2″ square ruler to square-up the block.

Here is my first block! I need fifteen more for my small wall hanging.


The blocks finish at 10″ square, so a 4×4 layout would be 40-1/2″ – perfect for my wall space.  The placement of blocks determines how many of each light versus dark background block I will need. Below are some choices I drafted. I am leaning toward the lower right version, especially since I have more light than dark fabrics. The block I finished would go in the border.

Ann-Dwg1      Ann-Dwg2

I will post again as I make more blocks.

We also currently carry two other books by Judy Martin – she is amazing!


I would love to hear from you about your Log Cabin and/or scrappy experiences!


  1. Diane - August 14, 2014

    I love Judy Martin. The incredibly precise, from-the-mind-of-an-engineer directions appeal to my likewise detail focused accountant’s brain. I used one of her star blocks for an exchange years ago – twenty rather intricate star blocks with multiple odd angles, and each one came out perfectly. Did you know she is selling some of her unquilted tops?

    Your wallhanging is going to be gorgeous! Love the attention you’re putting into getting the placement right, even in a scrappy type layout. Too often I’ll be almost done, and find *one* scrap that just looks out of place. Looking forward to watching your progress!

  2. Ann - August 14, 2014

    Thanks for your comment Diane. I did not know Judy Martin was an engineer but I am not surprised. I have a few of her books from over the years and have long been amazed at her creativity. I hope to keep working on this wall hanging at a steady pace so I can finish it for the new bedroom. I enjoy working with the alternating color values and the scrappy challenge it presents.

  3. Lynn - August 18, 2014

    I also love Judy Martin. I’ve made three quilts from her patterns, including the Snake River Quilt on the front of that book. Her patterns are easy to follow and appeal to my type A personality. I have found her method of using silverware sorters very helpful and it’s the method I used.

    Looking forward to seeing your finished wall hanging, should be just gorgeous.

    • Ann - August 18, 2014

      Lynn – Your Snake River quilt must be amazing! I bought some more dark browns and grays this weekend including a roll of 2-1/2″ strips of dark Japanese taupes, so I was able to even out my lights and darks a bit. I made four more blocks this weekend. Even though the pieces are lettered A-h, only six sizes are used. I chose to cut A-B-C, and trim the other three sizes from them as needed so I would have more flexibility. I do like her idea of a silverware tray to hold all the different sizes. I may try it sometime.
      Thanks for your reply.

  4. Jenna - August 19, 2014

    Ann, this looks so tricky. Any tips for a beginner?

    • Ann - August 20, 2014

      The most important thing is to learn a consistent scant 1/2″ seam allowance… and it is a great way to practice this skill! Each “log” of the Log Cabin block needs to precisely fit the pieces already joined. If not, the seam allowances are off. Since there are so many seams, any small errors add up quickly. Also, I cut each piece a thread-width or so larger than the ruler to allow for the fabric folding over the thread at each seam. Even being careful, the first four blocks were 10-1/2″ and the fifth was 10-1/4″ square. I am not sure if I will be able to use it because there are so many seams that meet.
      The good news for a beginner is that there are few seams that have to match and those that do will nest easily for accurate seam alignment if you follow the pressing directions in the pattern.

  5. Teri - August 25, 2014

    This is going to be gorgeous when you are done!

    • Ann - August 25, 2014

      Thanks Teri! I got 7 blocks done this weekend for a total of 12 of the 16 blocks. I really enjoyed placing the scrappy fabrics and sewing it. I started laying out the last four blocks on the design boards. It helps to do multiple blocks because I can spread out the fabrics with some “planned randomness” and the piecing seems to go much faster.