Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Half a Log History and Free Pattern

Housetops by Deb Rowden
Deb's wall quilt is one of my favorite quilts.

Vintage quilt top---1950s
Her inspiration was a four-block quilt based on the half-a-log cabin
much like the one above.

Wool Half-a-Log, about 1910
Now a Half-a-Log is actually a quarter of a log cabin block.

The pattern doesn't have a BlockBase number because I indexed
published patterns and nobody published a name until after 1970
after I stopped indexing.

But the pattern did exist back into the 1880s or so.
Here's a top I own from the 1940s or '50s

And a similar shading arrangement from perhaps the late 19th-century.
It's one of the vernacular patterns or folk patterns
that was passed around outside the commercial pattern network.

You don't see many vintage half-a-log-cabin quilts
although it's an easier pattern than the traditional full log-cabin block.
No set-in seams.

This one looks to be about 1890

Here's a fabulous example from around the same time.

A great asymmetrical composition from the 1940s or '50s with extra-
wide sashing strips.

Chrome orange and white, 
a tied version from about 1900 in which she
actually used a ruler.

The pattern is very popular today because we've all been inspired by the Quilts of Gee's Bend,
Which is why we call them Half-A-Log. 
That's what they call them in Gee's Bend, Alabama.

The pattern seems to have been a favorite of the Pettway family.
The quilt above was made by Lillie Mae Pettway.

Here's one by Rita Mae Pettway,
about 1975

And a full-size quilt made of one block by
Lucy Pettway in 1945

I have a lot of 2-1/2" strips so I am thinking of making one using my
Civil War Jubilee repros for the darks...

 and adding lights from the Moda line Mill Book Series Circa 1835,
plus a Turkey red repro from Moda's Bella Solids line
(Christmas Red #9900-16).
My inspiration is Becky Brown's log cabin below.

Courthouse Steps by
Becky Brown

Each month Becky comes up with a block for her quilt group to stitch. She made up 30 kits (2" cut strips) so her friends could make 4 blocks each for their quilts for vets project. Yay, Becky! Yay, Friends!

14" Finished Block
Add the logs in the order shown beginning with the square 1

Here's the cutting information---if you wanted to use a ruler.
You cut the strips one width (2-1/2") or use a Moda Jellyroll precut pack.
There's a formula here. You add to the length of the strips in 2" increments (6, 8, 10 etc)

1 - Cut 1 square 6-1/2"
2 - Cut 1 strip 2-1/2" x 6-1/2"
3 & 4 - Cut 2 strips 2-1/2" x 8-1/2"
5 & 6 - Cut 2 strips 2-1/2" x 10-1/2"
7&8 - Cut 2 strips 2-1/2" x 12-1/2"
9 - Cut 1 strip 2-1/2" x 14-1/2"

Rather than measuring you could just add the 2-1/2" strips and trim.
And keep going the way Lucy Pettway did for her one-block bed quilt above.

A mid-20th-century version from the Quilt Complex

See a contemporary version by Linda Nussbaum here:

And for a whole different direction see this collage by Sandy Donabed:

Here's another post I wrote about the Half-a-Log here:


  1. I think that would drive me nuts, would want to finish it all around, lol. I am trying to decide what to do with my jean pile, like the idea of doing mixed sized strips and then a sailboat on some, since it is for my husband.


  2. Oh! These are all so inspiring. I especially love your 40's to 50's one with the red centers scattered throughout. May have to make one of those!

  3. I don't believe traditional log cabins, courthouse steps or otherwise, have set-in seams. Possibly you were thinking of the wonderful 5-sided log cabin pattern you gave us about 2 years ago, which was a bit (!) more difficult and required the use of partial seam technique. Those were great, but these are going to be so much easier!

  4. How inspiring, makes me want to go make some of these blocks right away!

  5. Would love to win the hand dyed fabric pack... I can use them to finish my blocks!