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Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block

Block Brand Ambassador Jacob's Ladder Learning to Quilt My Creative Quilts Quilt Block Quilting

Hello Spack Craft Fabric blog readers!

As some of you might know, while I sell quilting weight cottons, I am not a quilter!  I was so very excited last year when I was approached by Marijke from My Creative Quilts to become a Spack Craft Fabric Brand Ambassador as I am very motivated to learn more about the world of quilting!  

I have been avidly reading quilting magazines, blogs and social media posts soaking in as much information as possible when I realized that I had no idea where to start!  I ended up sending Marijke a couple of fat quarters in two basic prints with a very broad request of "can you make a block with these?" for me to share.

She chose to make a Jacob's Ladder block and sent me back the finished block photo.  

Jacob's Ladder quilt block in Dublin Basics

(Note: one of the 4-patches is reversed in error, however this block served its inspirational purpose all the same!)

I did a basic search and found two straightforward looking tutorial posts for how to make this block.  (Bonus points for the tutorial that gave instructions for making a blog post printer friendly!! Check out for that)

Jacob's Ladder quilt block pattern options

So from my research, I could tell that there were a few things in this block which were going to test my non-existent patchwork skills, starting with where to start, what size to make and what to cut! 

Things that I identified from my research:  4-patch blocks, half square triangles (HST's), pressing and nesting seams

I chose to use some scraps for my first real quilt block, so while cutting may not be optimized, I had lots of scraps laying around that should work from my recent batch of Zippy Clutches including one of my all time favourites, Swept Away by Northcott.  

I ended up choosing to go with the tutorial I found at Generations Quilt Patterns as it had options for multiple sizes, included optimized options for creating the 4-patch and half square triangles as well as tips for nesting the seams.  These were all things that I had come across in my reading and since I am so new at reading quilt patterns, I decided to go with the more detailed tutorial.  If you are looking for tons of free block patterns, check them out!  

I ended up with two strips for the 4-patch blocks due to the size of my scrap pieces.

Pieces cut and ready to start sewing!

First up was putting the half square triangles together!  I really liked the method used in this tutorial of two at a time blocks and decided to give myself a little extra wiggle room to trim them down. 

The pattern already suggested a little extra (4 7/8") to create 4.5" blocks so I decided to go hog-wild and cut them at 5", a whole 1/8" of an inch larger.. It turned out to be a good move as apparently my 1/4" seam left me with less wiggle room than expected - there was very little to trim down.

Half square triangles

Next up, the 5 4-patch squares.  The pattern suggested sewing together two strips then cutting them down to the correct width. 

4-patch square

Now, I cut the two strips at 2.5" (what the pattern calls for for my finished block size) and again ran into my heavy 1/4" seam issue.  I went back and checked, my 1/4" is accurate, however when pressed open, I lost ever so slightly a little bit of size.  My 4-patch squares ended up just a smidge under size by less than 1/16" of an inch.

While the pattern mentions "twirling" the seam allowances on the 4-patch blocks, I wasn't terribly sure what this meant.  I ended up figuring it out by trial and error, and they look very cute all twirled!

Twirled seams on the 4-patch blocks

After spending enough time to suitably admire my small blocks, it was time to start putting them all together!

Ready to sew the rows!

What to do now about my seam allowance issue?  Because I am an overthinker, I started to consider my options. 

I could trim down the HST blocks to the same size as my 4-patch blocks and be done with it, as this was a practice block, I have no real plans for it so finished block size isn't super important to me. 

The other option was to "fudge" the seam allowance a little.  After consulting my very obliging Quilting Ambassador, I decided to go with the "fudge factor" method.  I centered my 4 patch block on the HST and sewed together with a scant 1/4" seam (I TOTALLY get this term now, learning is fun right?).

 Rows sewn together

Awesome!  The rows are looking great all pressed and lined up!  Now, the oh so important part of lining up those points!  There wasn't much advice in the pattern for matching things up, but a few wonder clips to hold the rows together and a couple of pins to ensure the points were lined up and away I went!  

Sew close to the finish, I didn't end up taking any more progress pics and went straight to the finale!  Here she is, ta da!

Finished Jacob's Ladder quilt block

As you can see, there are a few things that I can improve upon for my next project, however I am quite pleased with this first try!  

While I trend towards perfectionism, I have been sewing long enough to realize that I usually need at least one practice sew with a pattern to figure things out.  I like to take a moment after finishing a project to reflect upon things I learned along the way.  Every bag, purse or wallet I sell for my handmade side of the business has at least one prototype (sometimes more!) to figure out what I liked about a pattern or new technique and to take note of things I would change for the next time.

Things I learned or would change for next time:

  • Use a scant 1/4" seam when piecing, even if its not mentioned, that thread and pressed seam take up a smidge of room!
  • Until I am more confident, add a little to my seam allowances.  Its super easy to trim a block down.. but it's impossible to will extra fabric into existence
  • Investigate the use of starch to help the pieces from being too wiggly (I have read some pros and cons to using starch so its on my list of things to try)
  • I enjoyed using a rotating cutting mat to trim my blocks (Thank you Dear Husband for this wonderful birthday present last year)
  • Use higher contrast prints for this pattern next time.  From a bagmaking stance, I usually use prints that are more "matchy matchy" so print choice will be something to work on in the future!
  • I have way too many scraps to play with and way too little time to experiment!

What do you think I should use this block for?

I already have plans for my first quilt project (this isn't it), but I can totally see this as a pillow front or a tote bag panel.  Feel free to leave a comment with your favourite go to project for a single quilt block!  

Happy sewing!

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  • Marijke on

    I only noticed after I sent you the photo that I made a mistake! The four patch in the lower corner is reversed. OOPS!

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