Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Jacob's Ladder update

Ooooh, I LOVE my hour on my own when both girls are at nursery - it is blissful. I have quickly learnt to ignore absolutely everything that screams for my attention as soon as I walk into the house, from washing up the breakfast things to baskets of laundry waiting to go upstairs or come down. Milly's only in for two mornings a week at the moment, which is a pain as I have to do the journey there and back three times, which divides the whole day into hours between driving.

However, as a result of that little bit of time to myself, I have made good progress on the patchwork:

although I am a bit cross with myself for duplicating a print already by accident: a really silly niggle, as it will hardly show in the end! It was intended to be a different way round but I didn't notice until it was beyond rectifying - I really dislike going backwards. I may have to add some stitching to it at a later date....   English paper piecing is really growing on me, simply because once the hassle of putting the tacked shapes together is done, it can all be bundled up and worked on anywhere, without having to be constantly ironing seams: a winner for juggling handsewing & children!

Some other people's ladders:

Jacob's Ladder traditionally should be a more simple palette of plain white/unbleached cotton with just two shades, usually dark brown triangles and red squares, but I wanted it to look as scrappy as possible, whilst still having some order to it. I didn't quite get this one as balanced as I'd like, I didn't think it all through properly, but again, that's just my perfectionism interfering as usual. It's easy to get tied up in knots over fabric choices: I spend a lot of time squinting to see which are really light enough/dark enough to fit in. The name Jacob's Ladder comes from Genesis 28: 11-22, but it has also been called Stepping Stones, Road to California, Gone to Chicago, Trail of the Covered Wagon and Underground Railroad, all of which obviously refer to journeys with the latter in particular most probably referring to slaves escaping from Kentucky to Canada via Ohio's underground railroad. It's not recorded prior to the American Civil War.

Whilst I'm really enjoying using all these lovely checks and florals, I'm still hankering to release a wilder side of myself and do something a lot more free-form and random: I've yet to work out exactly what this will entail, but it will definitely involve lots of colour and movement and texture. I feel I have to get this old-fashioned stuff out of the way before I can really let myself go off exploring new territory: kind of like learning the fundamentals of drawing and then flying off into abstractism.

Jude rarely thinks of anything to say about my projects apart from well-meant niceties, but he said about this piece that it looked like it had been 'stitched by little elves', which I think is the nicest thing he's ever said.

Twelve more 9-patches to go and then I have to work out how I'm going to do the spaces inbetween...


  1. Paper piecing is really great for portable pick-it-up-and-put-it-down work, and you're right - no need to press seams. I love that line 'stitched by little elves'.

  2. It really is growing on me: the tacking is pretty tedious, but then I find the cutting in general (along with most quilters probably) the most boring part of the process, and from then on it's great: I even like the sound of the papers crinkling as I stitch! Jude couldn't understand why the papers were there at all: "won't it rustle a lot when it's made?" :D

  3. Oh Ive been loving the little scrap of time i have with James at nursey too, although its only been 3 times, he keeps getting ill! I cant wait to get into some crafting in the scrap of time! That jacobs ladder quilt looks so trippy, it makes my eyes go all googley!! you are a crafting Queen! Amazing work indeed! x

  4. Thanks lovely!! Keep an eye out for fabric for me xx I'm trying to persuade Jude to let me send Mil for a full day, even tho we're skint I am so desperate for a bit of time to myself - especially as I only have a few weeks left now :) xxx

  5. kudos on grabbing that hour for yourself - it is so little an amount of time, and you NEED it to stay sane the other 23... from one mother to another (though now, with teenagers, the challenges are different!). I love the history of Jacob's Ladder, thanks for including that. I am reading a book called "Signs and Symbols" (I think it's pluralized) about the African influences on quilts, with some mention of the Underground Railroad - it is all incredibly fascinating.

    I have to differ with you on one point - you absolutely don't need to accomplish X, Y, or Z to go wild with fabric. It can happen alongside raising children and learning the basics of quilting. I encourage you to find another little corner of time and space where you can let loose a little. (One tip - buy scrapbooking pages and use them to lay out fabrics that seem to want to be together... you can pin to paper, and stack multiples on top of each other, and put them away for another time).

    and by the way, your piecing is beautiful!!!

  6. Thanks Dee, very kind :) Brilliant idea about scrapbooking material - I'll definitely start doing that. And that sounds like a really interesting book too, I'll have to search it out. I find the history of quilt-making fascinating too, and it's own journey from one of necessity to an individual art form. I think for me it's partly about confidence and not feeling a strong enough direction yet to branch out into freestyle... I really love your bird (woman?) though, with all her sparkle! She is very inspiring! I do have a crazy quilt sort of hibernating which is slightly wild, but still not where I want to go.... we'll see what happens in my next few hours to myself before number 3 arrives!


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