Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How to Quilt a Vintage Log Cabin

How do I quilt a vintage log cabin pattern while 
staying true to the era?

How do I give the borders each a unique pattern from the central part of the the quilt, but still be able to quilt them as I work?


Those were my questions last week when this vintage quilt arrived in the studio. It was a traditional log cabin pieced partially by hand, yet the three borders were very true. The maker had recently passed away, and her daughter wanted the quilt finished. 

It had been in a frame in the quilter's home for many years, and had only had a few squares quilted. The daughter removed the hand-stitching, and brought it to me for longarming.

30 Second Longarming Explanation

For those of you who don't know how longarming works, I'll give you a brief intro. The quilt backing gets pinned onto a top and bottom leader (canvas that is velcroed to a pole) with heavy duty, sharp pins. That gets rolled up. The batting is laid on top of that, and basted down at the top. It hangs down freely, and is smoothed and eased in as you go. The quilt top is pinned to another leader at its lower edge, and the upper edge is basted down on top of the batting and backing. This is what you see in the picture above. I've just pinned it down before basting. 

The actual quilting machine rolls on wheels front to back and left to right on a track system attached to the frame. The machine reaches anywhere within those two rails. When you start quilting a quilt with a long arm, you start at the end you see shown. You roll the quilt up as it's completed onto the top bar (inside the throat of the machine), and move all the way to the lower edge of the quilt. 

If the backing has a seam, it is lined up parallel with the bars. (It's much easier to keep it straight when lining it up this way!) So, like this case, the seam in the backing was vertical in the quilt, therefore the quilt was put in 'sideways'. The borders you see would be the side borders, and hang down on the sides of the bed. 

It all sounds more confusing than it is, but there is a lot to consider when determining the best way to quilt a quilt. One of the classes I bought last week at the Craftsy sale was Angela Walter's "Machine Quilting Borders and Backgrounds." It was very informative as to how to think about these elements, and the layout before getting started. I'm only a few lessons into it, but it was exactly the information I needed, but couldn't find anywhere else. You can check it out through my sidebar link at the top, and I'll keep you up to date as I finish the class.

First up on this quilt was a side border, and I doodled until I came up with this flower cluster. The remaining portion was of loops, ribbons and leaf clusters. This kept the outermost border soft. The next two were simple, but somehow reminded me of the era. My criteria for all three was the ability to do the borders as I rolled the quilt. They were all patterns that I could start and stop without a great deal of difficulty, and work vertically as well as horizontally.

I used freemotion scrolling for the actual blocks, starting with a corner and doing all left diagonals. Then I turned and worked right to left. 

I 'signed' her name, and believe in my heart the maker will be happy we've helped her finish her quilt. To Mary's memory, a beautiful quilt that future generations will remember her by, and enjoy. 

Quilt Stats
 Approximately 82"x91"
Made sometime around 1978-1981
All cotton materials
Warm & Natural batting
Omni thread by Superior Threads

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.

Linking up with~
Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Free Motion Mavericks
Crazy Mom Quilts
My Quilt Infatuation
Freshly Pieced
Sew Fresh Quilts


  1. A lovely finish! How generous to quilt her name into it. Nice quilting choices--turned out great!

  2. An awesome job. I'm sure your customer will be pleased.

  3. Wow a great finish! The quilting looks great.

  4. What a beautiful quilt and your quilting is really wonderful Julie! I think you did a fanstastic job picking the right design and putting the makers name...very touhing!

  5. What a great finish. I think signing the maker's names was a sweet touch to the quilt.

  6. You did a wonderful job on the quilting. I'm positive the maker would have loved it.

  7. What a great post, I love when families finish up the quilts of their loved ones. I think the quilting you did is perfect for this quilt.

  8. What a lovely quilt to have finally finished off for Mary's daughter. You have certainly done it justice. I may just pop over to Craftsy for Angela's class myself!

  9. What great choices!

    I have to confess that my mouth dropped open when I saw the pictures. How on earth did you get MY quilt? I made that *exact* quilt in 1978 .. one of the first ones I made. It was kit from Woman's Day magazine and was advertised as being able to be made in a single weekend. Well, being completely ignorant, I believed them. And proceeded to do exactly that. The instructions called for quilt-as-you-go construction ... a new technique for me .. and that is how my quilt is done. Not the lovely quilting you put on your client's quilt.

    You made that vintage quilt so special. Congratulations!

  10. Love to read this post. Great job!

  11. Wow, Julie, this is a terrific finish! Now I know why you have been so quiet this week! Love the signature--I do that all the time on my quilts, my name or initials, recipient's name. Yay for taking an Angela class! :-)

  12. What a sweet finish for this daughter. :) It's a nice feeling to quilt up somebody's work who has passed away.

  13. Hello Julie,

    What a great finish! I particularly like the scrolling pattern, and the fact that you have put on Mary's name makes it a real treasure for her daughter.

    Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!

    Love, Muv


Thoughtful comments are Honey to My Heart! Thank you for taking time to leave such words. Feel free to email me directly with any specific questions at
Pink Doxie Mama