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Patchwork, Log cabin quilts

The log cabin pattern was popular both in Ulster and North America. It was sometimes called the folded quilt in Ireland but earned the name log cabin because it resembled the style of house built in America using logs. When fabric was scarce, as it would have been for early emigrants, the log cabin design was a good way of using up small pieces of different fabric to create a pleasing pattern in one quilt. Colour is important in log cabin patchwork, as one side of each square block of patchwork must be dark and the other side light. Some patchwork makers used red in the centre of this square as a symbol of the fire glowing in the cabin hearth (get closer to the quilts by clicking the images below).

This log cabin patchwork quilt was made in America around 1870. Over two thousand pieces of plain and patterned silk and satin fabric were used in its making. The Log Cabin quilt offers many design possibilities, depending on the arrangement of the square blocks. The pattern shown here is called the 'Straight Furrow'. The diagonal stripes of dark and light resemble the furrows made by a plough.

All kinds of fabric were used in the making of patchwork quilts. Even clothes from a relative or child who had died were pieced together as an act of remembrance and healing.  A visitor to the museum brought a log cabin quilt belonging to her father-in-law. This quilt from Drumquin, County Tyrone is made up of fabric from clothes belonging to three children who died during the influenza pandemic of 1918.

This log cabin patchwork quilt from County Tyrone is made from velvet and silk fabrics. It has a heavy purple fabric backing.


This log cabin patchwork quilt, also from County Tyrone, is made from black and purple satin with dark brown backing fabric. The small central squares are a contrasting bright yellow and deep purple.


This log cabin quilt is from Irvinestown, County Fermanagh. It is made from wool, silk and cotton. Several blocks are missing, as is most of the pieced floral cotton backing.