JACOB'S LADDER is a very well known quilt design and appears (in various incarnations) in all the compendiums. Other names for the pattern include (The) RAILROAD (LAC, 1897), ROAD TO CALIFORNIA and STEPPING STONES, according to Barbara Brackman's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PIECED QUILT PATTERNS (#1153) and Jinny Beyer's QUILTER'S ALBUM (p. 147). See 9-patch ANIMATION. Compare at this site with ATTIC STAIRS and GOLDEN STAIRS. An interesting note (because we read from left to right), if the top of the ladder slants right it is seen as ascending, if the top slants left then we are descendng. |
Ruby McKim, in 101 PATCHWORK PATTERNS (pub. 1931), alternates this pattern with plain blocks, and appends her own brilliant insight, she suggests — "an anchor design, slanted all one direction, would be lovely quilted on the large plain squares between 'ladders.'"
The coverlet, illustrated upper right, derives from QUILTS: THEIR STORY AND HOW TO MAKE THEM by Marie D. Webster, published 1915 (more at FEATHER STAR and ROMAN STRIPE). It departs from Nancy Cabot's version left (Chicago Tribune, 1933), only because Cabot distinguishes the triangles from the squares by way of a different fabric or color. Webster's collection is unique as regards her inclusion of quilt-related folklore. The JACOB'S LADDER design is preceded not by the Genesis story (there's no quilt in it), but by another fable from the land of Turkey — rather delightfully, in fact, because the old man and his wife might just as well be Jacob and Rachel:
"One winter’s night, when the Hodja and his wife were snugly asleep, two men began to quarrel and fight under the window. Both drew knives and the dispute threatened to become serious. Hearing the noise, the Hodja’s wife got up, looked out of the window and, seeing the state of affairs, woke her husband, saying: ‘Great heavens, get up and separate them or they will kill each other.’
"But the Hodja only answered sleepily: 'Wife, dear, come to bed again; on my faith there are no men in the world; I wish to be quiet; it is a winter’s night. I am an old man, and perhaps if I went out they might beat me.’ The Hodja’s wife was a wise woman. She kissed his hands and his feet.
"The Hodja was cross and scolded her, but he threw the quilt about him, went downstairs and out to where the disputants were, and said to them: ‘For the sake of my white beard cease, my sons, your strife.’ The men, in reply, pulled the quilt from the Hodja’s shoulders and made off with it. ‘Very well,’ observed the old man. He reëntered, locked the door, and went upstairs. Said his wife: ‘You did very well to go out to those men. Have they left off quarrelling?’ ‘They have,’ replied the Hodja. ‘What were they quarrelling about, Hodja?’ ‘Fool,’ replied the Hodja, ‘they were quarrelling for my quilt. Henceforward my motto shall be, 'Beware of serpents.'"