In October, Allie asked us to make ladders for her Quilts Unscripted Bee. She asked that we make blocks that are at least 8" on each side with a ladder going all the way across the block, edge to edge. "The ladder can be curved, straight, leaning, have mismatched rungs, be missing rungs, anything. It can go halfway up the block and make a sharp 90 degree turn. It can be wide at the base and narrow at the top or vice versa." Allie provided the white background fabric and asked us to use choose from a palette of bright, candy colors... mustard and pickle also welcome.
I always start by building a pile of potential fabrics for my bee blocks. I had yardage of pickle so I pulled some of that as well. The white background fabric here isn't shown, but wouldn't a rainbow ladder on a pickle background have been amazing!? I pulled scraps that were maybe big enough to be the rungs of my ladder. That's how I narrowed down my palette for this one.
This is what the messy middle looked like. I freehand cut non-rectangular white quadrilaterals for the space between my rungs. Then I chain pieced them onto strips of pickle that would be the vertical sections of the ladder between the rungs. This was the order I worked in since I wanted my rungs to stick out of my rickety ladder. Note that due to the varying widths and angles, none of this lays flat at this point. I trimmed the pickle between each white section after this photo.
Then I added on the expansive white background to the right and left of each section. At this point I trimmed the top and bottom of each section in a straight line. Note that nothing is a rectangle here. Just embracing the chaos.
Auditioning the colors I realized I should have had one more section of vertical ladder pieces so I opted to edit out one of the purples.
Measuring for width so that I would mostly have the ladder rungs overhang the pickle, I recut some of the pieces. At this point I added white to the sides of each colored run (not shown).
Here's what it looked like before I trimmed up the left edge of the block. I trimmed down a couple pickle sections before piecing in the rungs to increase the wonk and keep the ladder mostly moving straight up my block.
Tada! The finished block is 13" x 17"
For my second ladder I took inspiration from a spiral staircase. This is the sketch I drew from a reference photo.
I decided each of my steps, or ladder rungs, would be turquoise so I pieced oversized pieces of white and turquoise.
I used my drawing as my guide to trim my pieces at the same angles (adding seam allowance).
You can see the creases in my paper because I folded the portion I wasn't working on out of the way when I compared the paper to the fabric. This is the lower section all pieced before trimming.
And both finished sections, untrimmed. This was the easy part... because now I had to make it all go together and add in the curved "vertical" parts of my ladder.
I created a freezer paper template for myself from my paper drawing (a technique I learned in Carolina Oneta's class), marked some reference points and labeled the top edge of each piece with an arrow. (I noticed after this photo that my two white pieces were switched.) Then I pieced each have by sewing the orange onto the turquoise and white sections and then added the large white background section. Once each side was together, I pieced each side onto the yellow.
I am so proud of this block. It finished at 12" x 13". There were so many make it work and trial and error moments that went into it. Is it perfect? No. But I won't point out the little mistakes I made and instead choose to revel in the engineering marvel of a spiral staircase turned into a ladder quilt block that lays flat. :-)
I'm looking forward to seeing how Allie intertwines all the ladders she has received!
I do enjoy your engineering and artistic mind! Both creations shown here are fascinating.
Thank you, Nancy! I see more ladders in my future.
How fun! I just love the idea of those all together in one quilt. Please keep us posted.
Thank you, Elana. I'll certainly do another wrap up post with a batch of finished quilts. Have you seen this previous post of finished quilts?
Thank you so much for the lessons! I am an impulse sewer and being able to see the steps to accomplish the end results helps me understand and maybe even apply the proper way to implement my ideas. Thank you for taking the time to post.
Thank you, Sharon. It's really important to me to share process information and not just the "tada!" :-) I'm glad you find it helpful.
Cheryl M Strong
I love your skinny ladder and that twisty one is AMAZING!
Thank you, Cheryl! Both were uniquely fun challenges. I see more ladders in my future. :-)
Both of the blocks are so much fun! Love your interpretation of a the ladder!
Thank you, Kathleen!
Especially the second block probably made your brain "hurt". I feel tired just looking at it ;) But my favorite is the skinny rainbow ladder. xo
Definitely some moments of "what was I thinking!?" The skinny one is my favorite, too. Thanks, Melanie!