Why blog about Jacob’s Ladder?

Jacob’s Ladder, in the book of Genesis, is the ladder to heaven that Jacob dreams about when fleeing from his brother Esau.

The Jacob’s Ladder quilt pattern is known by several names, including the Underground Railroad.

Some quilting historians discuss the idea of the pattern representing women’s dreams of journeying or of their husbands’ journeys during both World Wars.

Others suggest that it could be a commemorative pattern to celebrate the people who escaped slavery in the 19th Century via the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses, to free American states and to Canada.

It is traditionally made in only two colours: one of a light value and one of dark. The dark ‘ladders’ run diagonally across the quilt, and could represent the difficulties faced during the ‘journey’ for whoever the person on the journey is.

My quilt is far more scrappy and colourful than those of the 1930s (a decade in which the pattern was enormously popular).

It is made of around twenty different fabrics. They are of different patterns: some tiny florals, larger florals, hearts, dots and stars; and more colours than the traditional two-tone Jacob’s Ladder quilt, although all include my chosen colour scheme of red, blue, pink or green.

I have also played with the central idea of dark versus light, by including some fabrics that should really be classed as being of ‘medium’ value. This allowed me to experiment with juxtaposition of fabrics to see how a medium fabric could become a ‘dark’ or a ‘light’ according to the fabric it was placed next to.

Without dipping unnecessarily far into metaphor-soaked waters (oops), I am thoroughly enjoying the journey that creating a quilt based on dreams of journeys is taking me on. As far as I can see, the ladders in this pattern have no end – they certainly don’t go to heaven, as in the Genesis story, unless heaven is found at the edge of a quilt just before the binding.

Ladders that could be infinite please me greatly.

I am learning more and more about my own levels of skill, patience, concentration, perfectionism, desire and frustration as I increase the size of my quilted ladders. This blog tries to chart some of my findings, and as quilts can be historical objects with their own stories to tell of the people who quilted them, it seems to me that telling the story of the making of the quilt has a particular relevance too.

My take on the Jacob's Ladder quilt

My scrappy take on the Jacob’s Ladder quilt

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  1. Yes! I like the idea of your blog as a metanarrative which attempts to convert the quilt-making story (made up of your movements through space, sensations of fabric, learning of skills etc.) into a story of words.

    The quilt looks really good, too!

  2. Thanks. And thanks. Blogging, I have discovered, can be about the minutiae of life or about one topic in great depth. It takes tenacity. Just like quilting. Just like striving for anything. Just like trying to learn anything.

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