I was asked last week via email by the Online Media Coordinator for Fons and Porter if I might be interested in reviewing a free downloadable booklet their company has recently put out entitled "Build Your Best Log Cabin." Email being as hard to interpret sometimes as it is, I actually had to have my husband read the request as well to make sure this wasn't a joke, because really, why would Fons and Porter care about my opinion, of all bloggers everywhere? I still don't know why they asked, but I'm flattered and honored and here we go!
I'm not a traditional quilter per se, but I've made my share of log cabins. That is if you can call two quilts in 17 years "my share". Both have been the result of group log cabin projects with my guild, so really, while I ended up with two quilts I've actually worked on about a dozen others along the way. I'm no Abe Lincoln, but I've stacked my share of logs, if you will.
I can honestly say that had I had this little book in hand before working on those projects, things might have gone a lot more smoothly. I might have been able to eek out several more inches from some fabrics that I didn't QUITE have enough of if I had known how long to cut the logs for each round rather than just chain piecing strips and praying I would have enough. I might have considered some more scrappy looks for my own blocks, because some of the photos are just so mouthwatering in this book. And I most definitely would not have been so terrified of such a seemingly simple block the first time out, because right there on page three the entire log cabin process is broken down into six easy steps, which really are all any quilter should need to feel confident going in. If building a traditional, fairly basic log cabin quilt is what you are after, you can't go wrong with the charts and simple instructions contained on the first few pages.
As many of you regular readers know, I am a bit of history geek, and I have to say the addition to this little book of sidebar trivia snippets and photos of several actual historical log cabin quilts owned by Sara Miller, with whom I need to go antiquing someday, was a great treat. I did know that the centers of the block represented a hearth or a window depending on the color of the fabric used, but I did not previously know that in the 19th century, these blocks were foundation pieced, and therefore many of them ended up tied due to the extra thickness. It's history geeky fascinating.
Despite the historical and traditional nature of the log cabin, "Build Your Best Log Cabin" snazzies up the basic block and modernizes a few of the derivations (Traditional, Courthouse Steps, and Chevron) with some really gorgeous interpretations complete with directions for making all of them. Ricky Tims has an offering combining a bear paw with traditional log cabin in colors that will just make you smile. Shon McMain offers up an electric rainbow of happy with a really cool interpretation of the courthouse steps block, while Lori Christianson modernizes the courthouse and sends it to the islands with some amazing batiks. Finally, Marti Mitchell's "Linked Chevrons" in a crib quilt size is a really cool way to make the simple block look much more complicated with fabric placement.
My favorite part of the book, though, has to be the bonuses. I mean really, who doesn't love bonus material, whether it's outtakes on the DVD of a movie you just watched or your favorite LQS getting generous with their cutting? Included in "Build Your Best Log Cabin" are instructions for plenty of life skills quilters should check out, like bobbin quilting and using piping on a binding. There's even a tutorial on lump-free binding that I tried out. My review-within-a-review of that - if you have no continuous binding technique that you are currently using, it is well worth learning. As many of you who have heard my tale of woe regarding what the judges said about my really cool scrap quilt that everyone else who ever sees it completely loves but they thought the binding sucked knows, a good continuous binding technique that works for you is a must, and this one may work for you.
Perhaps you are now intrigued and cannot wait to download your copy of this cool free book. Perhaps you too are trying to determine why F&P cared what I thought. Either way, you can get your copy easily enough. So go forth and hew some logs!