How to Construct a Log Cabin Pullover

By Kay Gardiner
January 8, 2018

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56 Comments
  • Your post resonates with me. That is exactly what I am doing with my logcabin knitting. Initially I thought I’d make two big log cabin blocks for front and back of a pullover. Then I decided for a different approach: to sew together a number of smaller log cabin blocks. I did a swatch (actually more than one until I had the right size) and then on top of my old pullover “template” I figured out how many small log cabin blocks I will need. It turned out to be something between 32 and 40. Either 4 X 4 or 4 X 5 for front and back; It will depend on the length of the pullover. After that is made I will pick up stitches for shapping the top and very small sleeves.

  • Kay! This is so brilliant and inspiring. Thank you for going over each step of the process.
    I think, because of the fit, the underarm shaping angle is not going to be an issue. (My guess would be to do an inc at each end every other RS row)
    As for The Long Winter, I thought about rope lines as the snow whooshed and spiraled down here a few days ago. Also, the Christmas pecan tarts were a great little stash to have had…

  • I absolutely loved reading all of the Little House books growing up. I’m not sure which one is my favorite – perhaps On the Banks of Plum Creek? Can’t wait to see your log cabin sweater!

  • You are a knitting pioneer! I’m struck by your ability to create a knitting project idea, solve the construction details and then explain it to us step by step. It reminds me of when you saw a linoleum floor design and figured out how to replicate the image to make a pattern for a dishcloth square. So much problem-solving going on there. You’ve got me thinking with this idea of creating a design and then superimposing it on a favorite rectangular sweater pattern. Ma and Pa would be so proud of your problem-solving skills.

  • Just read Prairie Fires myself — highly recommended.

  • But have you had to eat your seed wheat yet? That was when Pa, and a few other brave men , rode off to the rich farmer and got him to give up his seed wheat so they didn’t starve. I read that book as a child, and then many times over to my two daughters. When we drove home through South Dakota last summer, i think i subjected my poor husband to a full retelling of the story from memory, poor man.

    I love the way that your sweater is progressing. Your own schematic doesn’t show the sloped shoulder lines which i think are essential to getting a dropped shoulder sweater to look modern, instead of something from the 90’s requiring giant shoulder pads. I love this idea of the stockinette top, just for contrast. And the sweater, without the sleeves, would be a great cap sleeved, summer top…food for thought.

    • I’m definitely doing the shoulder shaping but as it’s done with short rows, I can do it even if I stick to garter stitch. Although reverse stockinette is the direction I’m currently heading.

      • I’ve never understood the difference between reverse stockinette and plain ol’ stockinette knit on the wrong side. Is there a difference? If so, what is it? (Maybe the inspiration for another column?)

        • Yes, it’s the same stitch, just a question of which side is considered the right side.

  • why not skip the increases on the body and add them to the sleeves instead?

  • Kay, I love love love your approach! I so admire you and all of the others who are actually making garments with the log cabin approach. (My idea for my pattern project is not so tough as making a fitted garment.) I think that combining garter stitch and stockinette it’s a great idea.

    I think it will all work out for you so don’t buy those train tickets out of town just yet, Ma…

  • I’m an On the Banks of Plum Creek fan–I must have read that one ten times. And as far as this design: Wow. You have less feck than anyone I know! xoxox

  • Bonjour Madame … what if instead of working so much stockinette stitch contrast in the upper piece you made it reverse stockinette stitch … keeps the illusion of the texture … yet that … je ne sais quoi for the drape and yer increases can be worked as already known! Brilliant idea if I may say so! Kiss that little Olive on the nose for me!!!

    • No kidding I was thinking about this but now that it has the Ina seal of approval it has real potential!

      • Madame … I would be honored to have you implement the thought and suggestion! Kiss Olive once more!

        • Could the whole sweater be done in reverse garter stitch?

  • I am very curious to see the finished log cabin sweater!

    • Me, too!

  • Off the subject, your Relax is pretty. I am curious how you will handle the angled parts of the flippers. So far, all your pieces have 90 degree corners. I’m betting this will turn out great!

  • Wow! I’m just making basic log cabin squares for a blanket, but this post has really sparked my imagination! Very cool! And now I’m jonesin’ to reread the books!

  • This is looking really GOOD! Isn’t it one of the best things ever when a vision begins to take shape as – or even better than – hoped for? Looking forward to seeing how you handle the shaping.
    And when you are done with this, you are very welcome to come to my place and build an actual log cabin! Or you might want to start small. A log shed? Or a log dog house? (As if THAT would work! The hound would take one look at a dog house and say, “Hey, I think we’ve got badgers moving in!”)

    • Gotta say I’m really pleased so far.

      Olive needs a log house. One with many cushions inside.

  • This is just the idea I need. I have a boxy kimono type top that I bought in early 90s. Yah I’ve been wearing it that long. It has always fit thru all the weight up & downs. Been afraid to deconstruct it but this might be the ticket. Got to do something before my husband does something.

    • I’ve got a pullover like that, an old Eileen Fisher that has holes in it now. Need to reverse engineer it and let the original go!

      • Madame … remember that we already know who could be tapped on the shoulder (pas moi) for that … there’s a similar pullover on ravelry (of all places!!!) … it is simply a matter of pinning down the right yarn for it!

  • This is just what I needed! Way back when, Karen had a Cowichan knit-along. I had an idea for using all the colors of Lion Fisherman Wool held triple and grading from dark to light but never got to it. Yesterday I starting wondering if I couldn’t blend that idea with the log-along and here you are, talking about something very similar. Now all I have to do is finish the shrug/cardi I have OTN before casting on but the finishing time (bottom ribbing, neck ribbing, and two sleeve-lets) can also include cogitating, planning, and sketching time. Ooh, miters… vest or cardi? Thank you, Kay!

  • Love it! Only one feck on the two different stitch structures – how will the log cabin block and wear? More vertical stretch than stockinette? Perhaps an interim steam block would be as delicious as making maple sugar candy on a fresh snow bank!

    • I’m hoping that the fact that log cabin goes both vertically and horizontally will help it not stretch too much in length! We shall see!

      • I think that you are right to be optimistic about that. After all, log cabin construction felts evenly, so why shouldn’t it hang beautifully, too? I like the idea of a stockinette top, but think reverse stockinette would also be an interesting choice. And I don’t think I ever stopped re-reading the Little House books. The Long Winter is definitely compelling for the drama, but Big Woods, These Happy, Golden Years and Farmer Boy are my other favorites. My sister used to re-read the whole series every January for an after-Christmas pick-me-up. I am 11th on the hold list at my local library for Prairie Fires. It could definitely be a long winter and maybe spring before I get my turn!

      • I would think that all those bind-off rows that are inherent to log-cabin construction will give each rectangle a nice structure that will keep the stretching in check. Also, Ina’s reverse-stockinette idea is genius!

  • I just finished reading the book “Caroline” which is a telling of Little House on the Prairie from Caroline’s (Ma) perspective. It was really great and made the story so much more treacherous!!

  • I probably read that series a dozen times, at least. Now you have me wanting to read it again. I am loving the pullover, and the colour! Carry on. It’s looking good.

  • This looks promising, Kay. Can’t wait to see it finished. As for your Relax, one of mine is red(ish) too. Twinsies!

  • Oh, I LOVE Laura Ingalls Wilder! I can’t believe I missed the existence of Prarie Fires, thanks for the heads up! I loved her books so much that she was “my favorite author” for a college application. My parents were mortified! They forced me to add others. Not having kids, I didn’t reread the books til my late 40s, and I stand by my decision, I could have just had Laura and I still would have gotten in. I had a pretty bad public education (with the exception of college), and in rereading those books I realized how incredibly much they taught me.

    Your log cabin sweater will be fabulous, Kay! But I think I may just finish a log cabin baby blanket I started a whole back. Yeah, the baby is now old, but there are always more babies…..

  • I received Prairie Fires for Christmas and it’s next on my reading list! I smiled through this entire post because it ALL sings to me… Ma & Pa & Laura & snowbanks & log cabins & EVERYTHING!! 😉

    • The badger-den foreshadowing was for you, Vicki. 🙂

  • I am afear’d of badgers, so I will not be attempting this. However, I think stockinette for the yoke would look great!

    • I should really read the comments before I comment myself. Anyway- although I still think stockinette would be great for the yoke, I really like the idea of reverse stockinette – still textured but less so than the garter. I like contrasting textures, so I’m sure either will be great. (Also, I’m sorry to admit that I have only read a couple of the Little House books. I’ll be adding them to my reading list, so don’t kick me out of the MDK!)

      • Your membership is in good standing!

        My controversial opinion: the Little House books are not as good once you have adult insight/perspective. Maybe that’s just me. I have great love for these books because they were such a big part of my childhood imagination, but when I read them to my kids my response was really different.

        • Interesting. I find that I still get something out of the original stories, just from a changed perspective. Also, I like the background reading about the Ingalls and Wilder families like the William Anderson and Pamela Smith Hill biographies that fill in the gaps and un-sweeten some of the stories. (Say, I may have to break down and purchase Prairie Fires, at this rate!)

        • I agree with your comment about the books. I loved them as a child and my daughter loved them, but when I reread them as an adult a different side of them came out to me. I still think they’re good books but as an adult I saw more of the attitudes of the time than was evident when I read them as a child. I wonder if Ingalls herself realized how much more than just her and her family’s experiences she was capturing. (My daughter love them so much that we once plan to summer vacation around many of the Laura Ingalls Wilder locations around the country. We went to the reconstructed Little House in the Big Woods. We went to Plum Creek. We also went to a spot in Idaho, Name Escapes Me Now, where the Ingalls family lived for 2 years and a baby boy was born but died. Manage the hotel and the rest of the family stayed in a section of the hotel and we’re really not allowed to go into the rest of it because it was very rough. We went to Silver Creek and again name is casing the place where they homesteaded and they lived in the town in South Dakota. We didn’t get to all the Ingles places but it was really a great trip.

  • The pullover looks fab! Reverse stockinette sounds like an interesting option. Really sorry to hear about Vamp–that was a great Red.

  • Kay – how about joining your front log cabin block and your back log cabin block with stockinette stitch side panels. Your garter stitch log cabin blocks would stand out and you can maintain the shoulder and underarm shaping that you like and fits you so well. Just a thought. My project has been started, changed, tinked, re-knit, frogged and re-started. Hopefully it will turn out to be a courthouse steps shawl but I guess we’ll see. (I think better with yarn and needles in my hands than with a pen and paper. I tend to write it down after it works.)

  • You are a brave woman! Or, possibly, in one of your conversations with Ann, you said something like “here, hold my beer!”

  • You are progressing quite nicely on your log cabin! No creek bank dugout for you!

    I read Prairie Fires over vacation last week; it was a good read. I couldn’t put it down. When I read the Little House books as a kid, I never realized how little feck Pa had. You can see how much Laura loved him to write him as such a hero. The one thing that made me uncomfortable about Prairie Fires is that the author really had it in for Rose Wilder Lane. Or at least it felt that way.

    Carry on, and I’m looking forward to seeing your reverse stockinette yoke!

  • I’ll be waiting for your next sweater post as though a new installment of Little House had been found in ye olde trunk and readied for publication!

  • Oh, dearie, yes, sweater design can be that straight-forward! Thank you so for the explication and pics. You are a wonder.

  • Another thought on the top: regular stockinette up to the shoulder shaping, then reverse stockinette. I like the idea of carrying the horizontal striping through the top somehow – either with above suggestion for stockinette + reverse and/or row of Purl on the stockinette or yarnover picot row or…the linear interruption is so lovely on the monochrome log cabin, but not sure you want all the visual interest in the abdomen. Maybe I’m thinking of it backwards, though. Maybe I am stuck on design dilemmas on every WIP I’ve got. Looking forward too seeing the top.

  • I was just thinking about how one would knit a log cabin sweater. Excellent timing. And I still have my copies of the Little House books I got when I was about 9 years old. You are right that The Long Winter is the best one. And Pa was holed up in the snow bank eating the Christmas candy in On the Banks of Plum Creek. 🙂

    • I got my set for my 8th birthday!

  • I’d to the top in reverse stockinette if you don’t want to log cabin garter!

  • I have to go start rereading the books after writing this… My best friend and I were obsessed with her and the books. I had an “official” (certified by whom I don’t recall) rag doll (Charlotte?). I begged my father to drive hours out of the way on a trip Up North in Wisconsin (I grew up in Milwaukee) to visit one of the homestead historic sites – Pepin? Prairie du Chien? Bless him, he did, though it turned out to be just a cabin. In a weird twist, my first “grown up” apartment in San Francisco was on the same block as Rose Wilder Lane’s apartment that Laura visited!!! I don’t have the new book yet, but soon.

  • When I first moved to Minnesota I had to drive across the southern part of the state. There I was, gawping at the Prairieness of it all, when I saw Walnut Grove! I was driving across Plum Creek!! Then, in my rear view mirror, was a giant motorcycle gang and I had to speed up and stop gawking. There is a message there, not sure what! Log cabin on! I’m doing a get started with Log Cabin class in early Feb. I’ll be sure to watch for badgers.

    • I’m doing a log cabin class in February, too! Haven’t taught it in a while, but I may re-visit my pick up and knit technique, The expanded info in the field guide makes me want to play with it more. There’s always more than one way to git ‘er done!

  • Could you log cabin an underarm gusset?