Is Starshower the new Honey Cowl? Only time will tell (but it looks good).

This Old Log Cabin

hammock.jpg
Dear Ann,
Much as I would hate to inhibit anybody’s journey of log cabin discovery with a tedious how-to lecture, I have spent too much time scanning swatches NOT to post a tedious how-to lecture. The subtitle to this letter should be “Another Long-Ass Post By Kay”. But like many long-ass things one has to endure in life, this one is Educational.
The basic Log Cabin method is to start with a central patch, and attach strips around it in concentric layers. After you’ve done a few layers, a pattern emerges that resembles the construction of a log cabin, in which the logs are notched so that they interlock at the corners. Once you get the hang of it, you can vary the order in which you attach the strips. Some traditional variations are called Courthouse Steps or Housetop. (Important note: I know next to nothing about traditional quilt patterns, so let’s just save this discussion for an upcoming MDK Design Workshop.)
The short-cut way to learn how to log cabin (I hereby declare that on this blog, ‘to log cabin’ is an intransitive verb) is to look at this picture:
logcabin2.jpg
See the taupe/brown patch in the middle? That’s the center patch. After casting off that patch, I picked up stitches in the row ends along its right side and knit the turquoise strip. After I cast off the turquoise strip, I turned the work again, and picked up stitches along the row ends of the turquoise strip and the cast-on edge of the taupe patch, and knit the slate blue strip. Then I cast off, turned the work, and in the same manner picked up row ends and stitches for the burgundy strip. And so forth, until the strips got too darn long and I decided I was done. For this basic pattern, the thing to remember is to keep turning in the same direction. Each strip is a bit longer than the previous strip, and no two strips are the same length.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown in case the short-cut leaves too much out. (Click on the images to make them bigger.) Needless to say, all of the measurements could be varied to get the effect you’re looking for. In addition, here, I do all of my picking-up on the right side, which leaves a smooth seam. If you pick up on the wrong side, you get a cool, ticking-like effect where you see a dotted line of the new color. This is why it’s fun. Once you know how to do it, you can do it your way.
Make the center patch.
logcabstart.jpg
In the example, I made a 4 x 6 inch rectangle (I cast on 20 stitches and knit 29 garter ridges).
One rule throughout: Always cast off on a right side row, leaving one stitch in the upper left corner of your patch, as shown.
Pick up for the first strip.
logcabpickup1.jpg
With the right side of your center patch facing you, turn the patch to the right, so that the top of the piece has the single stitch on the far right, and the row ends along the top. Pick up one stitch in each horizontal loop between the garter ridges. (You will have 29 or 30 stitches, but the beauty of log cabinning is that you don’t have to count stitches.)
Now make the first strip. Knit 9 garter ridges, and then cast off on a right side row and turn the work to the right.
Pick up for the second strip.
logcabpickup2.jpg
The interesting thing here is that you first pick up stitches between the 9 garter ridges (the row ends) of the first strip, and then you continue picking up across the cast-on edge of your center patch.
Now knit the second strip. 9 garter ridges, cast off on a right side row.
Here’s the second strip:
logcabstrip2.jpg
The third strip.
logcab3.jpg
If you were going to continue with this blanket, your next step would be to complete the enclosure of the center patch. You would turn the pink strip to the right, pick up between the garter ridges of the pink strip, pick up along the cast-off edge of the center patch, and pick up between the garter ridges of the slate blue strip. (I didn’t continue because this patch is 8 x 8 inches, and I am making a bunch of these for afghan squares. Note: If you want to do a four-sided log cabin patch, start with a 4 x 4 inch center patch and do strips on all four sides; it should work out to 8 x 8 if your strips are 2 inches thick.)
Now it’s clear sailing, nothing but zen, zen, zen. Every time you finish a strip, you do the same things:
1. Turn the work to the right.
2. Pick up between the garter ridges.
3. Pick up along the cast-off edge of the adjoining strip.
4. Pick up between the garter ridges of the adjoining strip.
5. Knit a new strip.
6. Do this until you run out of colors, or yarn, or energy, or surfaces to cover with glorious log cabin textiles.
Have fun! Love, Kay

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37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Kay, beautiful!! Wow! For myself, picking up stitches ranks even further down the knitting food chain than blocking, so I don’t think I’ll be knitting a log cabin anytime soon (although it would be one way to get over that whole picking-up-stitches thing, I guess). All the more reason to admire yours.
    Oh, and I got a square done! Second one is cast on but I am limiting myself to one per month in an attempt to avoid my usual obsessive knitting behavior. (Plus, I know full well the family would be outraged to see all their projects shuffled aside for the next six months while I churned out squares.) Are you going to make me block it first? (I do block when I really can’t justify skipping it. There is actually a sweater blocking in full pins and rods glory over the master bathtub glory right now.) Where to send the square?

  2. Just had to comment because log cabin is my favorite quilt pattern and I have made several. I really enjoyed the lesson–the instructions were great. Thank you.

  3. Cool… Is that sugar ‘n cream, that you’re using?

  4. Kay–I love this. Sister Kay Explains It All for You. If you would only provide such a guide to rearing children! (“When the child throws a domino at you and cracks a window [click here] because he is four and has bad aim, smile lovingly and say, “Wow, we’ll be working on those gross-motor skills this week!” and not “That’s going to cost 86 bucks to fix, buddy! WhatwereyouTHINKin?”)
    [Warning: Extreme detail. Non-knitters go grab another biscuit from the kitchen.]
    I did pretty much what you describe with my Lenten Square of Discipline, but I started with three strips one after the other, no castoff, to make a square. Next time I’ll just make a solid square, because it will make a pattern (a pattern? what pattern?) easier to follow.
    I think I should have picked up an extra stitch or two along the garter stitch-pick ups, because one corner of my square looks sort of distorted.
    I could easily imagine doing a blanket using your pattern. Evelyn, the picking up of stitches is a piece of cake, rilly. The whole thing is totally addicting.
    Love, Ann

  5. Thanks for the detailed instructions, Kay! Ann, your square is a thing of beauty. Also of purple. You now have a bunch of mini-long cabins coming to you, you realize. Not that that’s a bad thing. ;)

  6. Hey y’all! Thanks! Evelyn, I double-dog dare you to try log cabin just once. I, too, normally hate to pick up stitches, but I think the reason I hate to is because Rowan is always telling me, ‘Pick up 13 stitches around the left side of the neck, 12 and a half stitches along that little doo-hickey over there….’ which just drives me nuts because there is no clear-cut, no-math, no-judgment way to do it. With log cabinning, it’s easy. You see a cast-off stitch, you pick it up. Same with the loops between garter ridges. NO THINKING=SECRET TO KAY HAPPINESS.
    To all who have read this post and thought, neat technique but I don’t want to make a wonky u-shaped log cabin square, you can make an 8 x 8 square that has four sides by starting with a 4 x4 inch center patch and then log cabinning all the way around. (I’m adding that to the post for those who haven’t read it yet.) It took me a lot of subconscious work for that realization to dawn. I do think the crazy u-shaped ones have serious ‘Design Possibilities’ but there is something more satisfying about a 4-sided block if you’re just knitting a couple of ‘em. Also, I’ve found that the 4 x 6 square starts to feel like too much of that color; I’m impatient to start the strips.
    Woo-hoo. Log Cabin: If you build it, they will come. Hope so. It really is fun to start messing with them once you’ve got it down. Love, Kay

  7. This is actually my idea of happy knitting.My comfort blanket is a lot of log-cabin squares, each made of a single ball of Noro Silk Garden – that lurid orange-pink-turquoisey one – which I am going to start work on again this very evening, thank you Kay. I had put it away because I’m going to run out of yarn soon and want to make it last.But I have to finish it some time.
    and what a good idea to use it for the afghan squares too – sorry I am not generous enough to donate my Noro to that excellent cause, but I will make some nice ones anyway.love, Tessa

  8. Fantastic! Thanks for those directions! I was utterly clueless before about the log cabin. Must give that a try! You ladies amaze me! Thanks for the inspiration, Kay & Ann!

  9. O.k. Two squares for February. Not entirely pretty (because I ran out of the remnants being used on the 4×4 center square before it was quite 4×4), and I am a little concerned about how I will ever teach my kids to resist peer pressure when “double-dog dare” seems to be enough to send me off doing exactly what I said I wouldn’t, but you’ll have your “log shanty” square from Evelyn…

  10. Thanks, Kay! I’m going to print out this post so I can make a log cabin afghan in the future. So easy! I like it because you could do a bit and then put it down for a while, and it would be so easy to pick up and continue later. Plus, despite all the lovely stitches out there to choose from, I really love the idea of wrapping myself in a thick and squishy garter knit. :)

  11. Kay your instructions are fab! Thanks so much – I actually printed off a picture of the blanket ages ago coz I love it and am planning to make one and now I know exactly how – cool!

  12. Is there any hope of a long ass post on traveling ribs (to traveling rib)? I’ve exhausted the web on this topic although I may not be calling it the right thing; ribs-that-slant-intead-of-going-straight-up-and-down only gave me links to barbecue by mail order.
    Lots of garter stitch bordered practice squares could be in the making if I get a little guidance.
    Many thanks, Cristina

  13. Kay
    I have to confess that my log-cabin quilt blankie thing didn’t ocem too much – I was unhappy with my colourwork so frogged it. Now I’m knitting squares from Debbie Abraham’s throws books & I’m sure there’ll be enough remaining from the babe’s blankie to send some your way (or towards the Liberty sewing bee).
    My colourwork needs some effort, I feel. Kaffe I am not. But then, Paton’s cotton does not come in a zillion subtly gorgeous shades – it’s bright & unashamedly brash – somehow I suspect this thumping babe is not going to be a pastel-lover anyway…
    Jo
    xxx
    Jo
    xxx

  14. I am thrilled to get these fabulously detailed instructions on log cabin. After several attempts at picking up my second color, I gave up and switched to painting project. Seeing yours again is inspiring and, hopefully, your instructions will get me through. Loving this blog. I have been a lurker until now. I am coming out! I am Pam Hubbard and I am a beginning knitter with the knitting bug. Yee haw!

  15. This couldn’t have come at a better time, as I’m currently contemplating different yarns in order to make a log cabin quilt (after seeing yours a while back, I knew I HAD to make one at some point!). Any suggestions for figuring out the amount of yarn to purchase?
    Nancy

  16. Y’all–Kay is off having a deeply meaningful Presidents’ Day holiday with her fambly. She makes them recite all 43 presidents in chronological order, then alphabetical, then by birthdate, then by how long they served, then by height, weight, astrological sign. It’s brutal. Her kids dread the fourth of July, when they have to recite the Declaration of Independence, then the signers, then . . .
    Evelyn–Kay double-dog dared me to write Al Franken to ask if he would call our site “Knitting Knitters and the Knitting They Knit.” So I know what you mean about taking a dare from Kay. Still haven’t heard back from Mr. Franken, but that doesn’t mean I won’t!
    Tessa–Noro squares are a fab idea: the colorwork is all built in!
    Cristina–Traveling ribs = pork in a cooler. Traveling cables? You mean like cables that slant across a piece of knitting? As in Pearl from Rowan 32? I’ve started this and really ought to return to it. My only advice for this sort of knitting (my first attempt at something so cabley) is to blow up that chart and cross off each row as you go. I’m so literal about stuff like this: the pattern will make sense to me once I get to that second sleeve.
    Jo–I share your humility about color sense. Kaffe would say there’s no wrong way, but I know better . . .
    And hi Pam! Come on in! We love seeing what people are up to, so send along pix of your log cabin bwankie. I think it’s a great project for getting the feel of knitting.
    Nancy–I’ll let Kay advise you on how much yarn you need. But I do recall her saying that no strip required more than one ball of Rowan Handknit DK yarn which has 85 meters per 50 gram ball. (Yeah, I keep that kind of stuff in my head.)

  17. Thanks for the tutorial, I love the way log cabin fabric patchwork quilts look – maybe its time to try the knitted version…

  18. Thanks Ann! I’m afraid to know what other kinds of stuff you keep in your head. :-)

  19. The comments are almost as funny as the blog itself. You guys crack me up. And I love, love, love the log cabin. I’m totally taking all of my dishcloth cotton tonight and making a square. Or a trapezoid. Whatever evolves…
    Thanks for the tutorial!

  20. I am still relatively new..so I am trying to get up the nerve to try this (picking up stitches–ouch!). But what kind of yarn should I use? What works best?

  21. Hi Sandra! I think the simplest way to go is to follow Kay’s instructions, using any DK weight yarn that knits to a gauge 20 stitches = 4 inches/10 cm.
    It’s fine to use other weight yarns, but you’d have to recalculate how many stitches to cast on.
    Dive in! It’s funtastic!

  22. This is very inspirational and has now been added to the (getting longer all the time) list of these I have to do before . . . I can’t do them. thx for your long-ass explanation. Very helpful.
    Jen

  23. Wonderful! But can someone tell us what the yarn is in the picture. It’s so beautiful. Thank you…

  24. Hi Larissa!
    Knowing Kay, it’s almost certainly Rowan Handknit DK, the Official Yarn of Kay. It’s a cotton yarn that knits like a dream.
    Failing that, it might be Elmore Pisgah’s Peaches n Creme, available at any Wal-Mart for one dollar per ton. It’s the Official Dishcloth Yarn of Mason-Dixon Knitting.
    Kay will be back soon, and she can post a long-ass yarn description for you.

  25. Thanks, Ann. I should have known Kim Hargreaves would be the source of enlightenment and a great pattern. Everyone makes such a big deal about the guy who writes those crazy patterns with eleven color changes per row, but I know Kim Hargreaves is the real genius at Rowan. Anyone want to swap issue 32 for a first edition, hardcover, barely-cracked copy of Family Album?
    I’m at your service,
    Cristina

  26. I’m BAAAAAACK. I am thrilled for many reasons. One is, my kids did MUCH better on the Presidents Day Challenge this year. (Joseph is more interested in Presidential Assassins….should I be worried about that? It does bode well for College Bowl Jeopardy, though: ‘I’ll take Assassins for $500, Alex!’). (Note to anybody who thinks I might really have grilled my poor 7 and 5 year old on Presidential History: The only thing I asked my kids this weekend was to please turn down “Fairly Odd Parents”.)
    Yet another cause for thrill is, my dear pal Pam, aka Monkeyarms, aka Bikini-Wearing 40-Something Freak of Nature, has finally, after all these months, posted a comment!!! Pam, I’ll call tonight and talk you through picking up stitches.
    And then there’s all this excitement about Log Cabin knitting. So gratifying to me after all these months of log cabinning in meditative solitude.
    Ann was right. My yarn of choice is Rowan Handknit DK Cotton. That was the yarn in the completed multi-color blanket. No strip was more than one ball, so if you don’t repeat colors, you don’t need more than a ball of each color, for a large crib-sized blanket, and plenty of leftovers from the early colors. Once you get to a larger throw, though, you will have to figure out which colors are going to be used for the later, larger strips, because you will start to need more than a ball. Also, for my blanket, I used 16 colors, but used each of them twice. For some of the early colors, one ball was enough for both strips, but obviously the later colors needed more like a ball and a half. The easiest way to avoid all of this annoying math is just to use what you’ve got, and when you truly can’t do another strip, go buy more. By then you’ll have an idea of how much you are using per strip. If you are using a yarn like Rowan Handknit DK Cotton, or BETTER YET, Tahki Cotton Classic, both of which come in lots of colors (Tahki Cotton Classic is mercerized, the same DK weight and similar yardage, but comes in many times the number of colors that Rowan has out at any one time; on the other hand, often you can get discontinued Rowan colors at a LYS for a long time after they are no longer on the shade cards) (Or, here’s an idea, and I’m not advocating it, just living it: STASH ALL THE HANDKNIT DK YOU CAN GET YOUR MITTS ON, FROM NOW UNTIL THE END OF YOUR NATURAL LIFE.)
    The colors used for the show-and-tell pictures of the mini-log-cabin were Peaches & Creme. It’s cheap and it comes in lots of colors, some shades just as groovy as Rowan’s. Here’s the catch, though, and it grieves me, just KILLS ME to admit it: Sheila is right. The stuff fades. It fades pretty extremely on the firsr wash. You notice that sort of thing on a dishcloth. The darker Rowan colors bleed a bit too, but it doesn’t seem to be as bad. I only noticed it on a red & white striped pullover, when the white got slightly pink, even in a cold wash. Sigh. So Pam, remember that your Log Cabin blankie is going to be a fun experience and a nice blanket, but perhaps not an heirloom. I still think it’s a great yarn for our Afghanistan project. Rugged, soft, durable, and cheap enough to make tons of squares out of. Also it comes in many, many shades of green.
    Since I love Rowan Denim precisely BECAUSE it fades, I am devoting some prayerful thought to this fading problem with P & C, and I expect I will come to think of it as a virtue, something to be designed right into whatever I’m knitting with it. But since I have been passing the stuff out like Tic-Tacs, it is only fair to warn you that it fades. LOVE, Kay

  27. See, Larissa? I toldja Kay would be back with a long-ass yarn sourcing.
    Welcome back, Kay! Virtually missed ya!

  28. Thank you for posting the tutorial; I’d actually been looking around for a log cabin pattern the day before you posted this, and I hadn’t found anything half so clear as this.
    Do you have any secrets for that beautiful Courthouse Steps that you finished in December? Looking at it, I guessed that it would just be picking up the stitches on alternate sides instead of in the spiral, and so not keeping that stitch live to use to turn the corner. Is this right? What will not having that stitch do?
    -Lydia

  29. I *will* be using this pattern. This is my favorite quilt pattern, but since I can’t sew in a straight line but can knit until my fingers fall off…I’m so excited!!
    The only catches seem to be that those last strips are going to awfully long, and I foresee lots of end-weaving, which I hate, hate, hate. Still, what a fun pattern for the baby blankets I know I’m about to need to make (it’s just that time for everyone, it seems).

  30. Oh how gorgeous! This is just the thing I’ve been looking for. Who wants to do a big plain baby blanket when you could make this? Lovely. Just wonderful. And now I can use all that scrap yarn in the same gauge I have lying around.

  31. Lydia–You are exactly right about the difference in the Courthouse Steps design. You knit the north and south strips, which are identical, then you knit the East and West strips, which are identical–instead of going around in a circular pattern. In my version, I started with three identical strips in the middle.
    The result of not having that one live stitch left after casting off is that you sometimes get a little hole in that spot. Eventually that problem disappeared, but I couldn’t really say how I solved it. I think I just got neater with my stitch pick-ups around that spot. When I was weaving in ends I stitched those early little holes shut.
    One word of advice. For Courthouse Steps, for the first two rounds of strips, I would count stitches to make sure that the mirror-image strips really are mirror-image. Discrepancies in the longer strips do not matter, but in the central, short strips, the discrepancies get magnified. This is why there are some curves in the middle of my Courthouse Steps–a couple more stitches on one side than the other. Adds to the charm, is what I tell myself. Have fun! Love, Kay

  32. I’m another lurker. But I’m coming out and letting you know how much I LOVE reading this blog.
    You got me inspired to start a log cabin — and I did so last night. I’m going a little wonky on it tho and just knitting with one color until it looks good to me (not consistent with 9 ridges.) I think it will work out. I am keeping all hot colors on one side and all cool colors on another. Just like you.
    I’m also a quilter and thought I’d post this little bit of quilting trivia — typically in antique log cabin quilts the center square is red — this is symbolic of the hearth fire as the center of the home. So, my center is red.
    Noticed that your quilt/blanket has a red border all around it. Care to tell us what you did to finish it off?
    Thanks for the entertainment and inspiration.
    Laura

  33. Laura–Without knowing that about traditional Log Cabin quilts, I regretted not having made my center red, for some reason. It felt like it should be red, and that’s why I edged it in red. I finished it by picking up along each edge, separately, knitting a row, knitting another row with an increase in the first and last stitches, knitting another row with an increase in the first and last stitches, and then casting off. The increases made it very easy to sew the edging together at the 4 corners. Wa-la: edging.
    My current Log Cabin dream is to do one in which the strips contain several close shades of the same color. I’m going to stock up on Tahki Cotton Classic for that one. This is a shameless imitation of Kaffe Fassett’s signature wonky striping in the middle of already-difficult-enough intarsia. But to me, imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery, it is the One True Form of flattery.
    Lurk no more, Laura!! love, Kay

  34. Kay,
    Love that log cabin blanket, thanks for posting the “how to”. I got the pattern from Jill R in London, but haven’t gotten around to starting it yet. I will now! I even have the yarn. Two big bags full of 4-ply Norwegian wool in lots of different colours that my “bonus” aunt gave me last time I was home. It should be OK to double it up to get DK don’t you think??
    I will make the centre red…
    I’m enticing my mum back to knitting this weekend. She used to knit wonderful Norwegian fair isles but haven’t done any knitting in years. She will be allowed to roam free in my ever increasing stash. First challenge: a M&D afghan square for delivery in March!!!
    Have a great weekend!

  35. Kay,
    I am amazed. This Log Cabin knitted quilt idea is the neatest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I’m inspired! Haven’t tried it yet, but I definitely intend to. Thanks so much for the detailed instructions. Wow, I’m really really admiring it. Thanks, and I’m so happy to have stumbled onto your weblog. Chelle

  36. Wow, this is a way for me to work up some of my massive quantities of cotton yarn. I have loads of Sugar and Cream and Peaches and Cream.
    I’m also interested in doing some squares for March. Where do I send them? Thanks.

  37. I loved the log cabin squares. However, is there a good way of hiding all the ends of yarn in back of the work? Also, I’m not happy with the way sewing the squares together looks. The vertical joining is fine, but horizontally not up to my usual results. Would it be better to crochet the strips together? Thanks for any suggestions.
    Ruth