Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

 Today we are going to learn how to make a Jacob's Ladder block. Originally, the block was made using two sharply contrasting colors: a dark and a light. The pieces are arranged in such a way as to create diagonal patterns of light and dark across the block.

When the blocks are joined together in an all-over manner (without sashing strips), the result is a series of ladders running up and down or diagonally across the entire quilt.

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

This block has many other names including: Road to California, Going to Chicago, Golden Stairs, Off to San Francisco, Railroad, Stepping Stones, Underground Railroad, Trail of the Covered Wagon, and Wagon Tracks. Notice that all of the names for this block have something in common: they all speak of going somewhere.

For this block, you will need the following pieces:

Light Color - Two 5" squares, One 2 1/2" strip x width of fabric
Dark Color - Two 5" squares, One 2 1/2" strip x width of fabric

With a mechanical pencil, mark the diagonal line on the back of two of the 5" x 5" light squares.

Place a 5" light square on a 5" dark square with right sides together. Stitch 1/4" from the marked line. You can chain stitch and repeat for the other 5" squares.

Turn the squares around and stitch 1/4" from the marked line on the opposite side. Repeat for both squares.

Cut on the marked line. Repeat for both square so make four half-square triangles.

Set seam with hot iron. Press half-square triangle seams toward the dark side.

Using a ruler with a diagonal line, place the diagonal line of the ruler on the seam, making sure that the block extends past the 4 1/2" mark on the ruler. Trim top and side.

Turn the block 180 degrees and line up the diagonal line of the ruler on the seam, also lining up the two trimmed sides on the 4 1/2" lines of the ruler. Trim the remaining two sides. Repeat for all four half-square triangles.

Now for the strip piecing. Stitch the light 2 1/2" strip and the dark 2 1/2" strip together with right sides together.

Set the seam with a hot iron. Press the strip set toward the dark fabric.

Align the ruler with the center seam and trim off the selvedge edges.

Turn the strip around and place the ruler so that it aligns with the center seam and the 2 1/2" mark of the ruler is on the edge of the strip set. Cut a 2 1/2" segment from the strip set.

Repeat to cut ten 2 1/2" segments.

Turn one segment upside-down to create four-patch.

Remember to butt-up or "nest" seams to create a perfect corner. *I used a pin here to show what the seams should look like, but you shouldn't have to use a pin if you can feel that those seams are next to each other as you sew.

Stitch two segments together. Repeat to make five 4-patches. You can chain stitch these through the sewing machine - no need to start and stop after each one.

Press the 4-patches.

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

Lay out the block segments to create the Jacob's Ladder block.

Stitch the block segments together, using a 1/4" seam allowance, to create three rows.

Press rows so that the seams go opposite from adjoining rows. The arrows show how I press the rows - I chose to press the seams to all of the 4-patches.

Butt up the seams and stitch the rows together using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

You now have a Jacob's Ladder Block!

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

If you made a whole bunch of blocks, your quilt might look something like this. This is a traditional layout.

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

I added a third color so you can see the difference.

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

And, of course, I have to add a scrappy version. I LOVE scrappy quilts!

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Tutorial

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  1. Very pretty! What is the size of the finished block? Thank you.

  2. Hey this was great! I've been making quilts for awhile and always struggled a little getting things perfect, but your explainanation of squaring the triangle pieces finally got through. My corners are perfect!

  3. I've made this block/quilt before. Yours as to be the clearest directions I've ever seen! Bravo