BLOCK Friday: Log Cabin Quilt Block – Barn Raising Setting – Fons & Porter

The Log Cabin quilt block is perhaps the most iconic block, and its endless piecing options and contrast play makes for a creative challenge any quilter is happy to take on. There are many variations of this block, some of which include: standard setting, Courthouse Steps, and Pineapple. Because there are so many varieties of this quilt block and differing Log Cabin quilt layouts, I’m going to break up this quilt block into a short series of settings and styles. The first of the series: the Barn Raising setting.

Take a look at the quilt below. Modern Barn Raising, by Lisa Swenson Ruble, is a contemporary twist on a traditional layout, using pre-cut strip sets. It’s very pretty! Let’s see how we got to this point in quilting history by traveling back a bit.

Modern Barn Raising - Log Cabin Quilt Layouts
Modern Barn Raising - Log Cabin Quilt Layouts
ISQC 2004.015.0001
Curtis, Fontier County, Nebraska, c 1910. Cottons, 81″ x 75″

Like other Log Cabin quilts, high contrast is the key to making this pattern pop. Construction of this quilt block consists of piecing fabric strips, or “logs,” of fabric around a square center, alternating light and dark fabrics from corner to corner. The Barn Raising layout was popular during the Civil War era. The quilt to the right, made by Abba Jane Blackstone Johnson circa 1910, is a beautiful example of this setting. I love the flipped block at the top center that gives the illusion of a spiral.

Log Cabin quilts from the late 1800s to ~1950 exhibit stark differences in the construction of the Barn Raising design, according to Marin Hanson of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and Patricia Crews of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. For example, the blocks are larger in later designs and a deep, traditional color scheme shifts to a more pastel palette.

This change might be a reflection of lifestyle changes for the makers of these quilts from domestic life to amusement found outside the home. Alternatively, it may be a preference for modern taste.¹

IQSC 1997.007.7082
IQSC 1997.007.0891


Many experienced quilters can take the Log Cabin quilt layout and adjust color placement and/or contrast, the sizes of the quilt blocks, etc. and create a quilt of their very own. This might be what makes this block so popular and timeless. Mary Fons took creative license and made a variation of this setting in her quilt Curved Log Cabin. It’s a visual wonder!

Curved Log Cabin

For many quilters, this is the first block they learn. However, if you’ve never created one and aren’t sure where to start, we have a couple of very helpful classes! Get started on the basics with Patrick Lose as he shows you how to Make a Traditional Log Cabin Quilt Block. For more information on creating full Log Cabin quilts, Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting has a course called Create Traditional Log Cabin Quilts. In this course, Liz and Marianne play with lots of setting options for this classic pattern.

Interested in reading about the other variations of the Log Cabin quilt block that I mentioned earlier? Take a look at the Pineapple Variation and Courthouse Steps Variation blogs.

What have you done to create a quilt of your very own using this traditional quilt block? Tell me about it in the comments.

Happy Quilting!

¹ p114, “American Quilts in the Modern Age, 1870-1940: The International Quilt Study Center Collections”, by Marin F. Hanson (Editor), Patricia Cox Crews

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