How to crochet Log Cabin

How to crochet Log Cabin

There have been a couple of questions about how to apply log cabin to crochet, which I honestly hadn’t anticipated! I think that’s because, to me, log cabin seems like knitting emulating crochet. I grew up making granny squares, where you pick up stitches in your previous work, work your way around and around, change colors, add on as much as you like, until it’s however big you want it to be! So crochet feels inherently modular and freeform and adaptive to me, and log cabin seems like you’d just be filling in the strips/shapes with crochet stitches instead of knit stitches. But since I am not a seasoned crocheter (much less log cabin-er), and the questions got me wondering whether there’s more to consider than I realize, I put it to the official crocheter on our Log Cabin Make-along panel, Cal Patch:

. . .

Log Cabin — in its strictest form — is about creating strips of color one after another. You knit a square, then knit another square, then knit a strip alongside them the same length and width as the two squares together. Then continue adding strips (laying logs) around and around and around, each one the width of the edge you’re working off of and always the same height. In knitting, it’s typically done in garter stitch because (as Ann pointed out to me the other day) stitch and row gauge even out in garter — 10 stitches wide will equal 10 ridges tall, or 7×7 or 30×30 or whatever scale you want to work with. So you can make a square 10 sts by 10 ridges, for instance, then another 10×10, then each strip is a multiple of 10 sts wide and always 10 ridges tall. How does that correspond in crochet as far as how to calculate how many stitches and rows to work along each edge. Is it important to stick with single crochet?

Well, my immediate thought is that I never assumed the height of the logs needed to be consistent! I should note that I’ve never read or learned any actual official guidelines of Log Cabin-ing; my main influences would be the Gee’s Bend school of improv quilting (example here or here) and Denyse Schmidt (example), who is also an improv quilter. That said, whether one wants their logs to be of consistent height is a separate decision from the stitch to be used, and its dimensions. I’m actually using Half Double Crochet for my project, which isn’t square at all, but it’s true that Single Crochet would be closer to square, though not exact. I tend to not concern myself with the actual number of stitches or rows, but rather work to a measurement. My rectangles will need to finish at certain dimensions to fit together properly.

Of course, there’s no reason you have to stick to those 1×1 dimensions, either — you can make narrower or wider strips or blocks, get all creative or improvisational with it, which starts to make sense once you’re doing it. True for knitting and quilting alike — and for crochet, yeah?

YES!!! That’s what I’m talkin’ about! I have always seen log cabin as a very loose, scrappy, improvisational technique. Clearly I’m not an architect! Did I mention that Wonky is my middle name?

Is there anything else you think people need to know before they try their hand at a crochet log cabin block? Or any particular resources you would recommend?

I would just dive in and play, at least to make a swatch, and then it will make much more sense (if it’s not already). The basic principles of log cabin knitting will apply to crochet as well, with the exception of actual stitch counts. Many knit patterns could probably be translated stitch for stitch into single crochet. One can definitely sketch and plan in advance, and map it all out, if that’s what makes one’s heart sing. But having taken a class with Denyse Schmidt in which you have to blindly grab your next strip out of a bag and use it whether you love or hate it, I prefer a more serendipitous approach (aka “winging it”).

One idea for actually fitting your crocheted squares/rectangles into something like a sweater, vest, hat or other type of project is to look at patterns designed for granny squares, since they are also blocks! That might get those wheels turning. (Examples here and here)

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Thanks, Cal! I’m sure there will be others with additional or differing opinions, so please do leave your thoughts below!

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11 thoughts on “How to crochet Log Cabin

  1. Love this piece, thank you to Cal!

    I’m a longtime bistitchual. I learned to crochet before I learned to knit. And though I prefer knitting for garments, I almost always crochet blankets. And I make a LOT of them. Crochet is great for blankets for a number of reasons, but maybe the best one is that you never get the awkwardness of a million stitches hanging off of a needle.

    I think one of the questions someone might have about crocheting log cabin, is how many stitches to pick up on the side….in the rows of the last block made. Like knitting, this will have a lot to do with your own personal tension and hook size. And, like knitting, if you don’t work it out, you will have a piece that will not lie flat and will have different dimensions on each side.

    And again, like knitting, much depends on the stitch. For example, I find that a double crochet stitch perfectly accommodates two dcs to every row. On the other hand, my single crochet stitch often needs something less than a single crochet for every row. Like a buttonband on a knitting project, I will need to skip a stitch every three, or so forth. It really takes doing a few swatches to figure it out for yourself.

    That said, crochet is SO FUN, and mistakes are a cinch to fix, and it goes fast. (Not that I’m in a hurry, but yeah, this is a plus when you like to make blankets.) And it is sturdy as all get-out. And a log cabin blanket would be a great beginner project for a crocheter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Clare! The side pick-up ratio is the part I got started wondering about, but don’t think there’s any easy formula other than give it a go and see what you get! The thing I love about crochet, like you said, is it’s so easy to undo/redo and you only ever have the 1 live stitch. Crochet is so much more agile and playful than knitting in many ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yes, i agree that there’s no easy formula for working into the sides of different stitches, because there are several variables, including: personal tension (are you a loose or tight crocheter?), yarn size (i’m using all assorted scrap yarns, so what works in a thicker yarn may not for a thinner one), and stitch technique (i’m working BLO — back loop only — which creates a more rib-like effect, and condenses the rows more than working flat). hence my “wing it” approach, which really means swatch, test, and rip out if it doesn’t look good!

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  2. the hardest part of crochet for me is keeping track of my stitches. I find it hard to “read” the work whereas knitting is just a grid of stitches, you know where you are in that grid.

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  3. For the last 30 years I have been making crocheted afghans like a trip around the world quilt. I use the tunesian stitch and crochet it together as I go. You can vary the size of squares. I am definitely going to try this.

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  4. Just recently read an article about converting knitting patterns to crochet patterns. The author said it takes 2 rows of knit stitches to equal one row of single crochet. Hope this helps.

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