Friday, February 17, 2017

What I Did on Retreat, and Why I Love Love Love The Jacobs Ladder Block

This is a project I have been very excited about for a very long time. 

Many years ago. I saw this photo in a book titled Quilts, by Ljiljana Baird.

It is an antique quilt created by an unnamed maker dated to 1870. I really love this quilt, but anyone who knows me at all know that the chances of me voluntarily limiting myself to 2 fabrics, let alone 2 solid fabrics are slim indeed. 

But, this quilt was always in the back of my mind as an idea I wanted to do something with.

A couple of years ago I wanted to make a special wedding gift for a young women who is very dear to me. I thought it would be a good opportunity to play with this block. The colors of her future bedroom were to be turquoise and brown, so I got right to work on the computer to begin playing with color placement. Long story short, I came up with an idea for Kimberly's wedding quilt, plus about 200 other drawings!

Obviously, not all of them are keepers, and some of them are so similar to each other that they aren't worth bothering with. But it made a real impression on me with regards to how versatile this block can be. I had some many ideas that I really loved! Here is a photo of Kimberly's wedding quilt.

I have really wanted to submit this as an idea for a book, but I knew it was going to take years to make 12 or 13 quilts, since these quilts, though easy to make, are pretty time consuming, and I had none of them made. I have been trying to think of another way to share that information. 

I thought it might be fun to post one drawing a week, just as a drawing, then maybe self publish them as a book sometime in the future. Before I did that, I thought it would be a good idea to make at least a couple of them to see what they look like translated into fabric. Maybe I should call this "My Jacob's Ladder Project". 

There are so many things I really love about making these quilts. I love the almost infinite number of different designs you can get, once you start playing around with color placement, and rotating the blocks. Then, you can add another set of variations by either using all the same block, or alternating with a "B" block. The difference between the A block and B block is the position of the lights and darks. The antique quilt in the book, and Kimberly's wedding quilt both have an A block alternating with a B block. I am not sure if one of these options is a true Jacob's Ladder block, and the other isn't, but I have spent a good deal of time playing around with both options. 

Since these quilts are made entirely from half square triangles, and four patches. These are simple, basic units that are easy to make, and have many "portable" steps. By portable steps, I am referring to steps you can do even if you do not have a sewing machine handy. For example, cutting units from strips, pairing, marking, pressing, and trimming. When you DO use a sewing machine to do the sewing required on the units, you can just run them through the sewing machine, quickly and easily, instead of spending time to figure out where you left off. You can make these units even when your brain is tired, or you don't have very much time to work, or when part of your brain is doing something else, like visiting with friends, watching TV, or keeping an eye on the stove. If you are a fan of Bonnie Hunter, you can use them as "leaders and enders" while you are making other quilts. 

Eventually, of course, you will have to put your thinking cap on to make the units into blocks and layout the quilt, but until then, it is just a matter of making the right number of units in the color combinations that you need. 

I have started a couple of these quilts, but set them aside because this one was really pulling on my imagination. I just couldn't wait to see what it was going to look like, and if the colors were going to work like I hoped. Another reason is because I had to do some traveling, and the way this quilt is laid out really lends itself to working on these "portable" units.

I have written some about getting the units  ready to take to retreat in this post.
Unfortunately, I didn't get all of the units done, so I was still making 4 patch units while I was laying out the sections at retreat, which really slowed me down. That said, I am so excited with the way my colors are working! Since I am dealing with 4 values, pink, coral, red, and maroon, I wanted to be sure that the pattern was showing up clearly. 

So here is a reminder of what my drawing looks like.

I have this drawing divided into 9 sections, 5 of which are centered around the 5 diamonds, and the 4 corners.

Here are 2 sections I made while I was on retreat. 

I started with the center section, and the center-right section.

That is what I worked on at retreat. 

Next week I will visit The Staying in Stitches Quilt Guild in Springfield GA, and teach a Sonja's Windows class at the Quarterdeck Quilt Shop in Springfield GA. Stop by and see my quilts in person if you are in the area!

I hope all of your winter projects are going smoothly.

Thanks for stopping by!

1 comment:

  1. Jacob's Ladder looks more versatile than I realized. Your red quilt is gorgeous. I love the layout.