Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Cabin at the Cabin

A couple of weeks ago, I received a package in the mail from my friends with Creative Grids rulers. I was tempted to dig right in, but needed to stay on task with finishing up the book projects first. This past weekend I headed to my friend's cabin for an summer sewing extended weekend. I finished up on a few things I needed to do--samples for the book and a couple of upcoming patterns. Then I rolled out the 4" Log Cabin Trim Tool from Creative Grids.

Who doesn't love log cabin blocks, right? They are classic, they are flexible (lots of variations can be sewn with a center square and strips or logs sewn in rounds), and they are fun to make (that's essential!).

Like any other Creative Grids ruler, the grippy stuff on the bottom keeps the fabric steady while you rotary cut. And with tiny logs (the block finishes to 4" and has three rounds of logs!) the grippy stuff is essential. The 4" trimming tool is the newest in a series of these log cabin tools, and the only one I've actually tried, although I've heard about the others.

The logs are super-skinny--they finish to 1/2" wide. So that means 1" wide strips. But the instructions that come with the tool suggest to cut strips at least 1-1/4" wide, then trim them down after sewing. So-o-oo, I gabbed my scrap bins and made a test block. Looks nice, right?

 . . . but when you turn it over, I'm not so keen on the little bits of bulk and the wonky-curvy seams that show up at the end of each seam. That's because you don't trim those extra-wide strips until you've completed a full round around the center square. . . .

. . . Here's how it works. You start with a 1-1/2" center square (orange), and a log that's a little wider and a little longer than necessary. Add sew it to one side of the square.

Press, then rotate the block counter clockwise. The problem (in my mind) arises when you lay the next strip on the unit. That bit of overlap at the top doesn't allow you to line up the raw edges all the way along the seam. And that extra stuff sticking out won't ever get trimmed, so it adds a bit of bulk to the back of the block. No big deal, right? It's the back. Who cares? (You don't know me very well, do you?)

To solve this potential issue, using the edge of the trimming tool, I trimmed the top strip so the edge is even with the center square. . . .

. . . Now I can align the entire raw edge of the strip with the log cabin unit. . .

 . . . and sew along the edge.

Rotate, trim, sew, repeat, until you have one round. Now - this is the really cool part of the ruler. They markings on the tool align with the center square, . . .

. . . so you can trim all four sides of the block before proceeding to the next round of logs and sewing.

BUT, that's not how I made my blocks. Seemed like I was adding a lot of extra steps with all the trimming before sewing stuff. Instead, I cut my strips 1" wide, then in 1/2" increments in length. And sewed them like a regular log cabin.

One might think: Then you don't need the trimming tool. However. . .

Log Cabin blocks, even when they are sewn and pressed carefully, can get a little bit of stretch involved. It has to do with the stretchy-ness of the width-of-grain, and length-of-grain fabrics and their interaction with each other while the logs are sewn. Therefore, the tool, aligned with the center after each complete round, allows the block to come back to perfectly square when trimmed. Just the tiniest little bit of fabric trim can make a big difference in a 4" block that incorporates 13 itty bitty pieces! At least, that's what made this tidy-butt quilter very happy!

24 blocks in about as many hours of sewing, plus a few neutral sashing strips and coordinating cornerstones and borders, and the ta-da moment arrives. Now, I only need to sandwich and quilt it and the project is ready to be a wall-hanging or table runner. Aren't the colors tropical-feeling? I used some fat quarters and yardage from the Ink & Arrow Pixies line for the blocks.

And a quick look at the back makes this tidy-butt quilter squeal with joy! No bulky spots, and I even furled the seams at the cornerstones!

Do you have any of the Creative Grids Log Cabin trimming tools? What do you think?

Happy Stitching!
Joan Ford


  1. I have the 8" and 6" log cabin trim tools. Creative Grids rulers are my absolute favorite. I made a quilt top using the 8" size with my scraps. I really liked the fact that I went through my stash and cut 2-1/2" strips and used up some of that old stuff! I have to admit that it took a few blocks before I really had the hang of it, but then it was like I was addicted and couldn't stop making them. I didn't precut the length, I just trimmed each round. I love your color placement. Beautiful job!

    1. I haven't tried the larger sizes, but I can see that it could plow through some strip scraps like crazy. Log Cabin is such a classic block anyway. Always good to find a tool that works for us, right?