Quilt no 007: Low Contrast Log Cabin

Part of the process of learning how to do something new is accepting the fact that sometimes what you make sucks. This especially important in the creative process, I think, because it is a push forward towards being better at the work you’re trying to make. As Ira Glass has said, this is because of the gap between our skills and our taste.

I began to quilt because I needed to learn how to do something new that inspired me towards making stuff. Photography, while it is fundamentally important to my creative process, stopped feeling like a challenge. Right now, it feels like I know how to make the images I want to make. It feels like second nature. I was also tired of working in pixels, my final product a digital file on someone’s screen. It felt really disposable. Without the time I was putting into the process and final product, it felt just too easy.

Corner Detailing

I had so much trouble with this quilt and I fucked up in all the ways one could fuck up. Let me tell you, dear reader, about them. The initial measurements from my vector files were wrong when I planned the quilt. Because of this, I didn’t order enough fabric. Piecing took twice as long as I wanted it to. I didn’t order enough of the backing fabric and so I had to (again!) add more fabric to the backing after it was basted. The back was puckered when it was basted together. Putting the binding on was time consuming and I had to do three times before I got the damn thing right. I washed it and wasn’t happy with the way it looked when it first dried.

Corner Fold

Despite all this, making this quilt made the transition between my life in Pennsylvania to my life as it has been in Missouri much easier. It’s been a thing of consistency, comfort and escape. Quilting it let me relive the day I had a few of my favorite people over from my job at the farm. We laughed and ate together, something that we had did a lot of over the 9 months we knew one another on a day to day basis. It was a really great way to say good bye to some of the people that, despite the short time span of our community, are some of the best people I’ve worked and hung out with. Reliving that time in my life and remembering those people helped ease the general malaise and depression of living in the aftermath of a decision of questionable merit. It helped remind me that everything is temporary, even bitter cold winters, disagreements, disappointments and broken hearts.

Stitching Details

I made this quilt for Aubrey and I, as a housewarming and wedding gift for us. The pattern is a traditional log cabin (variation called rooftop, I believe) and like Quilt #006, I kept with the centered piecing and heavy sashing that I like so much from old Amish quilts. The center of the log cabin pattern is said to represent the hearth of the home and red felt like a good accent to the charcoal and not-quite-black-not-quite-blue of the color scheme. We’ve been married just over a year at this point (May 1st) and I finished it before the month was over. I put it on our bed the same week that he accepted a new job in Boulder, Colorado.

On The Bed

These events are largely serendipitous of one another. But having such a creative and meditative outlet kept me sane during months of my life that have been fraught with conflict, fear, sadness, anxiety, doubt and stagnancy. It let the bad stuff recede into the background for a little while. It’s not perfect but it’s imperfection allows it be useful. I’m less concerned about it being clean and free of dog hair and more interested in how wonderful it is to sleep under and how it will age.

Small Dog Approves.


  1. BEAUTIFUL words, sentiment and pictures. And that quilt . . . The story making adds crazy depth and beauty. Lucky to “meet” you. Look forward to more


    • Shelby Marie

      Thank you so much, Hillary! Again, I am so flattered that you like my work. I’ve been following your blog and instagram for a while and I love your quilts. They’re so bold and playful.

  2. Pamela

    Hello, I love your quilts and particularly this one (007). I am new to quilting, so please forgive the questions, but I am really interested in how you accomplished the look of the sashiko-style of stitching – and that it looks independent of the other side’s design. It appears that the stitching on the back is different from that of the front of the quilt. Are you making sashiko-type stitches to the fabrics/quilt sides prior to sandwiching the whole thing together – and then quilting it after the fact? Was the overall quilting done as stitch-in-the-ditch? Anyway, I keep looking and have been trying to figure it out. Thank you if you happen to see this at such a late date and have time to answer. -Pam.

    • Shelby Marie

      Hi Pam,

      Thank you for the compliments on my work. The quilting is done like regular hand or machine quilting. The three layers are sandwiched and basted together and then I quilt the pattern I’ve marked on the top. The sashiko stitching is the quilting; I don’t do any hand work prior to quilting. The pattern of the stitches on the back look slightly different than the ones on the front in most hand quilting. Hand quilting in an western style has the same differences but is probably less noticeable due to the fact that western quilting uses finer thread and needles.

      • Pamela

        Thanks for the reply, Shelby Marie. It really is such a cool quilt. I’m impressed with your hand-stitching and the overall design of the stitching pattern(s). I think perhaps what I was seeing was an area of stitching (the close-up of a grid of squares) that was not visible in the frontal photos – that’s what made me think the quilt sides were stitched independently w/distinct patterns. Beautiful quilt – great design.

        BTW, I saw a thumbnail of your work in an email from MQG, which is what led me to investigate your work. I’m glad I did – I’m impressed and inspired. -Pam.

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