I designed and teach the Self-Mitered Log Cabin quilt.
I think a reason for its popularity is its focus on selecting fabrics. Much of a workshop morning is devoted to examining fabric for blocks. Each person brings fewer than 20 strips of fabric, a near impromptu mix of light to dark. A workshop objective is to see fabric with new eyes.
As a group, the class considers each person’s fabric selection. We move along to each station to analyze the fabrics. As we move from person-to-person the group gains momentum as they get the hang of it. By the time we reach the last person, everyone knows exactly what they would or would not change in anyone’s strips.
I once taught this class in a fire hall on the eastern shore of Maryland. As we were about to begin, a person came up to me and pointed out a stylish woman. She said this person was a teacher as well, a member of the guild and a very accomplished quilter.
It turned out this person was one of the last students whose arrangement we got to. I looked at what she set before us. Everyone looked to me, waiting for my opinion. I grinned from ear to ear and said that there wasn’t a thing I’d consider changing. Her sequence looked wonderful and I congratulated her. She looked at me and said “Anita, every time you spoke about someone’s work, I went back to my station and changed something. I’ve reworked this several times based on what I learned this morning.” I was touched that she let us in on the secret to her success.
Choosing fabric for self-mitered log cabin blocks
This grouping is the beginning of a Self-Mitered Log Cabin block. Fabric strips deliberately transition from light to dark, but that’s not all. The imagery appears to run from one strip to the next, moving the eye across the group, blurring the lines between strips. I’ve highlighted areas in aqua as “moving” examples.
I bring a “magic box” to workshops with fabric strips to interject examples. On the flight home I spend a few minutes straightening up the box for the next class.
As to the fluorescent orange painter’s tape — I put it on everything I travel with. I can spot a ruler that I’ve left on a classroom table. I’ll notice a charger in my hotel room outlet. Orange is my signal to not leave something behind. It’s my girlfriend Jan Krentz‘s brilliance. Her go-to color is neon green. When we share a room, we can tell our chargers apart.
Laying out the self-mitered log cabin
During the afternoon, we sew to learn techniques and lay out the blocks to get the hang of a barn-raising set. This is a teaching layout of group blocks in Austin. We were delighted to watch scrappy blocks fall into place.
Adding the border
For my quilt I auditioned two border stripes from my stash.
I was crazy for the paisley fabric itself, but decided no. It seemed to overpower the blocks with its prettiness and disproportionate large scale.
The scale of the printed stripe below suited the blocks. I don’t remember attaching the border, but I do remember the conversation I had about it with Janice E. Petre, who machine quilts my work. She called me to say one of the blocks was upside down and ask what I’d like to do about it. What the heck? How could that be? I’d left those blocks on the living room floor for weeks. My husband didn’t even spot it.
Janice agreed to operate on the top rather than ship it back and forth. Secondly, she told me her husband asked her what was she doing to my quilt. She had taken off the entire ripply border only to be sew it back on. Apparently, the old adage I’d heard – “it will quilt out” — wasn’t true.
The Self-Mitered Log Cabin is in the paperback “Rotary Cutting Revolution”. The book is out o print, but it happens to be is included as a bonus PDF in my class.