Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block Pattern

From our Free Quilt Block Patterns Library

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Skill Level: Beginner

The Jacob's Ladder quilt block is characterized by strong diagonal lines running in both directions through the block.

Four patches fill the corners and center of this variation on a nine-patch pattern, with half square triangles completing the design.

Jacob's Ladder quilt block tutorial

This block goes by a number of other names including:

  • Going to Chicago, Nancy Page
  • Golden Stairs, Nancy Cabot
  • Off to San Francisco
  • Railroad
  • Road to California
  • Susie's Fancy

Further below you'll find cutting instructions for 5 block sizes, 8 variations based on this patchwork design, and finally a look at a few other blocks that carry the 'Jacob's Ladder' moniker.

Visit our page Jacob's Ladder Quilt Design and scroll down to the 3x3 Grid section to jump start your idea factory on what to do with all the blocks you'll make.

Let's get to our Jacob's Ladder!

General Instructions

Several abbreviations are used in this tutorial:

  • SA - seam allowance
  • RST - right sides together
  • HST - half square triangle

All seam allowances (SA) are 1/4".

When you are instructed to press, first press the pieced unit flat to set the seam. Then open the patch, pressing from the front. Seam allowances are pressed to the dark fabric unless otherwise noted.

The newest quilt fabrics to tickle your fancy...

Click the images below to see the full collection. We share any commercial and/or free patterns that showcase them, too. (For inspiration, of course!)

Step 1: Cutting patches for a Jacob's Ladder block

Jacob's Ladder quilt block designJacob's Ladder design

Sample Block Size: 6"(6-1/2" unfinished)

Grid: 6x6

Grid Size: 1"

Design Type: Even 9-patch

Watch for the half square triangles are marked with '**'.

I prefer to make my HSTs larger and trim them down to the actual size after stitching.

The Quick Piecing method is used to make them.

There is a chart further down in these instructions where you need it for trimming them to size.

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Cutting Chart for a
Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block

~Traditional Piecing ~

PatchFabricQtyFinished Block Size
4½" 6" 7½" 9" 12"
1** L 2 2⅜" x 2⅜" 2⅞" x 2⅞" 3⅜" x 3⅜" 3⅞" x 3⅞" 4⅞" x 4⅞"
2** D 2 2⅜" x 2⅜" 2⅞" x 2⅞" 3⅜" x 3⅜" 3⅞" x 3⅞" 4⅞" x 4⅞"
3 L 1 1¼" x 13½" 1½" x 16" 1¾" x 18½" 2" x 21" 2½" x 26"
4 D 1 1¼" x 13½" 1½" x 16" 1¾" x 18½" 2" x 21" 2½" x 26"
Unfinished Block Size 5" 6½" 8" 9½" 12½"
Grid Size ¾" 1" 1¼" 1½" 2"

And these are the cut patches...

Cut your patches for the Jacob's Ladder quilt block

Step 2: Piecing the units

Half Square Triangles

HSTsMake 4

Our Jacob's Ladder needs four HSTs.

With a pencil, draw a diagonal line on the back side of the two #1 squares.

With RST, layer one marked light square with one dark #2 square. Stitch a quarter inch away from the drawn line on both sides. Repeat for the second pair of squares.

Stitch on both sides of the drawn line to make HSTsArrow points to anchor cloth.

Cut on the drawn line to create two units from each pair of squares.


Find your finished block size in  the chart below. Check your accuracy. Trim if needed (if you cut oversized patches you will need to trim.)

HST Dimensions

Block Size
Trim HST to…
4½" 2"
6" 2½"
7½" 3"
9" 3½"
12" 4½"

These are your trimmed units.

Trimmed HST units

For more detailed information on this HST-technique, click here.

Four Patches

4-patch unitsMake 5

Jacob's Ladder quilt block needs a total of five 4 patch units.

With RST, align the edges of the light and dark strips. Stitch the long edge with a quarter inch seam.


With your rotary cutter, straighten one short edge of this strip set. Now cut it into ten 1-1/2" segments that look like this.

Lay out the segments for the four patch unitsFor this 6" finished sample each segment measures 1-1/2" x 2-1/2"

Alternating light and dark fabrics, stitch pairs of these segments together to create five 4-patches that measure 2-1/2" square.


To reduce bulk at the center of a four patch, I like to twirl or pinwheel the seam allowance. It looks like this (below, right).

Twirl the seam allowances to reduce bulk in the centerTwirl or fan the seam allowances to reduce bulk in the center of the block

Step 3: Assemble the Jacob's Ladder block

Lay out your sewn units in rows.

It is REALLY easy to get the patches discombobulated! (Ask me how I know!) Just remember that the triangle squares border the light diagonal chain of squares.

Lay out the sewn units in rows

Stitch the patches into rows.

Stitch the units into rows

You can press in either direction—towards the 4-patches or towards the HSTs—just be consistent. That way your seams will nest which makes matching them so much easier.

Nest seam allowances for easier matching

Stitch the rows together. After a final press your Jacob's Ladder quilt block looks like this.

Your finished Jacob's Ladder quilt block

Now what?

What's the next step?

You've learned just how simple this design is to make.

Your blocks are finished.

What to do?

How to arrange them?

Click here to find layout ideas for the Jacob's Ladder block to spur your creativity!

8 Variations on the Jacob's Ladder design

Play with the number of fabrics and the units and you've got a multitude of Jacob's Ladder quilt block based patterns at your fingertips.

Blue Chains quilt block design

Blue Chains

A third fabric is added that changes the color placement.

Road to the White House quilt block design

Road to the White House

Two of the corner 4-patches are replaced with squares.

The second diagonal disappears when the block is set edge to edge.

Tail of Benjamin's Kite quilt block design

Tail of Benjamin's Kite

The center four patch is replaced with a solid square.

Rocky Road to California

Rocky Road to California

Back to the two fabric block, four patches are changed or removed.

Click here for instructions to make this variation.

Wagon Tracks

The second diagonal is completely gone.

Also known as Pacific Rail Road or Road to Arkansas.

Click here for instructions to make this block.

In these next variations, the half square triangles are inline with the dark diagonal chain and form, well, 'bats' for lack of a better word.

Road to Arkansas

Still the exact same units as the original Jacob's Ladder, just rotated for a totally different looking block.

Broken Sugar Bowl

Corner 4-patches are gone. Three fabrics.

This block is also called Road to the White House.

Click here for instructions.

And last, but not least...

Buckeye Beauty

The block drawn on a 2x2 grid instead of our 3x3. Great for scrap quilts!

Also know as: Double Four Patch, Gay Scrap Quilt, Going to Chicago, New Four Patch, Railroad, Railroad Crossing and World's Fair.

Click here for instructions to make this block.

Same name, different block...

I've found three 3x3 grid blocks that are also named 'Jacob's Ladder quilt block'. The first two look like variations of the same idea--more like a 'Wild Goose Chase' in my humble opinion.

Jacob's Ladder quilt block variation
Jacob's Ladder quilt block variation 3
Another Jacob's Ladder, variation 2

This third one mimics the feel of the original Jacob's Ladder with the same strong diagonal line, but it is accomplished with smaller triangle squares.

A wee bit more scrap friendly because the patches are smaller.

Ready for More Blocks?

Climb the ladder to quilting success

Climb the ladder to quilting success!

Just check out our Free Quilt Block Pattern Library to find more blocks for your next quilt project!

Step by step and you'll be finished in no time!

This article was printed from Generations-Quilt-Patterns.com

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