Log Cabin Quilting with Susan Beal: What You Need to Know

susan beal class supplies

If you’re planning to take Log Cabin Quilting with Susan Beal, we’ve assembled a list of some of the most frequently-asked questions about the class as well as recommended class supplies so you can hit the ground running (just not with scissors, okay?).

Have another question for Susan? Ask it in the comments or in our Log Cabin Quilting Facebook group.

I’m going to miss the live chats. Will I get a recording?

Yes. We will make recordings of the live chats available to everyone shortly following the discussion.

susan beal with pillow

Is the class going to fill up?

No. Since the class is online, anyone and everyone who wants to take it is welcome. Class capacity = infinity.

And remember: All you need to do to get access to the classes is sign up for $9.95/month Creativebug subscription. This is a screaming deal, folks. Not only do you get access to four weeks of amazing instruction and live chats with Susan, but you can also check out all of the other video workshops on the Creativebug site. And trust us — there are some good ones.

I have a spotty internet connection. Is there another way I can watch the classes?

We’ll be adding the long form class to app soon! At that point, you will also be able to watch Susan’s classes via the Creativebug app on your smartphone or tablet. We will let you know as soon as the long form classes are available on the app.

I’ve never tried quilting before. Do I need a 1/4-inch foot for my sewing machine?

No, you can definitely get started with a standard presser foot – I sewed my first patchwork projects with one! You will use a 1/4-inch seam allowance for each of the log cabin quilting projects in the workshop series, so if your sewing machine doesn’t show a 1/4-inch mark from your needle in the centered position, you can mark your machine with washi tape (or the method you prefer) at that spot, or just eye your fabric edge for reference and sew it consistently. It will look very narrow if you’re used to garment sewing and the 5/8-inch seam allowance, but the quarter-inch will make neat, compact seams that can be pressed easily and yield your right-size finished block or project.

sewing machine foot

What about a walking foot? What is a walking foot, anyway?

A walking foot moves your quilt sandwich (the three layers of patchwork top, batting, and back) smoothly through your machine, much like the feed dogs do below your fabric for garment and craft sewing. You can make and quilt these projects without a walking foot – I recommend quilting a scrap quilt sandwich rather than your project first, to get used to the thicker materials you’ll be working with. It is nice to invest in if you begin to do more patchwork and quilting. If a local sewing studio offers open hours, or a friend can let you use a machine with one, that’s a nice way to try one out before buying it. And the fourth project, the tote bag, doesn’t use one at all – it’s just top-stitching to canvas instead of batting.

Do you press your seams open or to one side?

For log cabin, I generally press my seams to one side, away from the center, for a stronger finished seam and an un-fussy process. Pressing seams open for more elaborate patchwork can make a big difference in your finished block, but for the simple straight lines of the log cabin, I like the security of the seams nested together to one side. It’s also ideal for top-stitching to catch both layers of the seam in one line of stitching.

Does it matter which direction I piece my log cabin blocks?

I recommend clockwise piecing for these projects – you’ll see me sewing in that direction throughout the classes. When you piece clockwise, you can press your seams away from the center, and you’ll notice that whether you piece one log at a time or chain-piece, you’ll sew in the direction that smoothes the earlier seam into place. One note: the fourth (final) log and any subsequent logs will always have a oppositional seam you’ll sew over more carefully first, then a seam that will press smoothly outward, in the direction of your stitching.

pieced blocks

What kind of fabrics can I use?

I generally recommend 100% quilting cotton for these log cabin projects (except the wool tote bag variation, of course!) – it’s wonderful to work with and presses and pieces beautifully. Knits and other apparel fabrics can be more challenging for patchwork projects.

Quilting cottons from your local fabric store usually measure about 42’’-44’’ across the width of the fabric off the bolt. So  for example, 1/4 yard of a fabric = 9’’ x 44’’ in measurement, while a fat quarter is 18’’ x 22’’ – half of a half-yard cut the opposite way, the same amount of fabric but a bigger rectangle instead of a long, skinny strip. Unlike garment sewing, you do not have to prewash your fabrics for patchwork. You certainly can, but it’s not as essential as it would be for a fitted piece of clothing.

Fabric color and print choices are totally up to you! Use your favorite colors for your projects, whether they’re solids or patterns – one way I like to test out combinations is holding bolts or fabric folds or swatches next to each other, seeing how the fabrics relate. If you don’t like how a block is coming together, just use your seam ripper to carefully take the logs off one by one and start over with another fabric. Log cabin cutting and piecing is so easy that you can make these kinds of switches in just a minute or two, and add the discarded fabrics to your scrap box for another project.

quilting cotton

Tools & Materials

Week 1:

– 3″ x 3″ square of favorite print for the center (Susan uses Ribbon Flowers in blue from Denyse Schmidt’s Katie Jump Rope line)
– 1/8 yard of four different prints in the same color family for logs (Susan uses three Denyse Schmidt prints and one from Riley Blake)
– 1/6 yard of contrast solid (Susan uses one of Denyse Schmidt’s Free Spirit Modern Solids in white)
– 17″ x 17″ square piece of batting
– 17″ x 17″ square muslin for backing
– 1/2 yard fabric for pillow back (Susan uses one of Denyse Schmidt’s Free Spirit Modern Solids in blue)
– 16” pillow form
– Pattern paper or 3″ square quilt ruler (optional for fussy-cutting center design)
– 1″ binding tape maker
– Basic Sewing Supplies: Rotary cutter, quilt ruler, and mat; steam iron and ironing board; pins; sewing machine with 1/4″ foot and walking foot; thread; seam ripper

Week 2:

– 1 1/4 yards total of your dominant color fabrics, in prints and/or solids (Susan uses Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Canary as her main fabric, plus three other prints in pinks and yellows)
– 3/4 yard of your secondary/recessive color fabrics, in prints and/or solids (Susan uses Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Fog plus one complementary print)
– 1 1/4 yards of assorted fabrics for backing (Susan uses Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Canary and two of the pink and yellow prints from the front)
– 1 1/4 yards batting
– 1/4 yard fabric of your choice for binding
– Fabric marker, chalk, or tape
– Pencil and paper
– Digital camera
– 1″ binding tape maker
– Basic Sewing Supplies (see Week 1)

Week 3:

– Four Jelly Roll or Roll Up (2 1/2″ x width of fabric) strips of fabric from a favorite collection (Susan uses Botanics by Carolyn Friedlander)
– Four 2 1/2″‘ x 7” scraps for pieced trivet (can be new fabrics, or those left over from table runner project)
– 1/3 yard background and binding fabric
– 1/3 yard backing fabric
– 1/3 yard batting
– 1″ binding tape maker
– Basic Sewing Supplies (see Week 1)

Week 4:

– 1/2 yard solid fabric (Susan uses Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Fog and Luna)
– 1 1/4 yards assorted prints for patchwork and lining for A, B, & C (Susan uses three Michael Miller mid-century-inspired prints from the Jug or Not collection)
– 1/2 yard light to mid-weight canvas
– 1 1/2 yards 1” cotton webbing for straps
– Fabric marker, chalk, or tape
– Basic Sewing Supplies (see Week 1)

Happy quilting!