Melissa’s Ladder of Success

The QM Scrap Squad is a select group of seven QM readers. They take one pattern from each regular issue of Quiltmaker and make their own scrappy versions to inspire you.

QM scrap squadB3 Melissas Ladder of SuccessThe featured quilt from the May/June issue is Ladder of Success, designed by quilting legend and early QM editor Judy Martin. We’re so pleased to feature Judy’s design as part of our 30th anniversary celebration.


ladder1 Melissas Ladder of Success

Ladder of Success, designed by Judy Martin, made by Donna Smith. Fabric: Andover Fabrics.

Today’s featured quilt is by Melissa Radtke from Dubuque, Iowa. This happy gal blogs at Melzee’s Meanderings. You’ll hear from Mel in her own words below.

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Melissaradtke1 211x300 Melissas Ladder of Success

Melissa Radtke from Dubuque, Iowa


Hi! My name is Melissa and I’m an HGTV addict. When I was deciding on my colors for Ladder of Success, I figured why not look at some of the color trends from my buddies at HGTV. Keeping my stash in mind, I searched their color trends and there were two that caught my eye.

Colors for ladders 300x274 Melissas Ladder of Success

Color Choice #1


Color Choice 2 300x266 Melissas Ladder of Success
Color Choice #2

After digging through my stash, I still couldn’t make up my mind, so the next step was to do some test blocks—maybe that would help with the decision.

test fabrics brights 001 300x200 Melissas Ladder of Success

Fabric Choices for #1

test fabrics teal orange 001 300x200 Melissas Ladder of Success

Fabric Choices for #2

I finally decided on #2. I really liked the teal and orange combination.  But I felt that it really needed one more color. What to do, what to do…I’ll add some GOLD!!!!

So after the big decision on colors was made, it was time to get to work. I love the look of blocks on point and thought this quilt would lend itself to that setting. The original Ladder of Success has a lovely secondary design. I was afraid that setting the blocks on point might erase that secondary design.

I have EQ7, but am a rookie at using it. So it was time to play with the program and see how the quilt would look when completed. (How great is it to see how your quilt will look without the commitment! If all potential relationships were that easy, right?)

ladder jpeg 253x300 Melissas Ladder of Success

EQ7 rendering

It didn’t seem to lose the secondary design that I really liked in the original.  So on point it is!

Now some helpful hints for making Ladder of Success. As if you can’t tell by the pictures, there are A LOT of blocks in this quilt. Since this is a scrappy version, it prevents us from sewing strips together and cutting 2 patch blocks.

In my quilt, I have 7 different white fabrics, 8 oranges, 5 golds, 9 aquas, 3 teals and 1 light aqua. (I bought the aqua for another quilt and decided I really didn’t like it. I’m sure no one else has ever done that!)

If you read my blog, you know that I snow dyed some fabric this past winter and it was perfect in this quilt. I did have some pieces that were big enough for strip piecing. I cut some white strips 3 inches wide by WOF (width of fabric), and made sure my colored pieces were 3 inches wide with the length in increments of 3 (3, 6, 9, etc). Here’s what the strip piecing looked like:

Ladder of success in progress 002 300x172 Melissas Ladder of Success

Sometimes I would have 4 or 5 colored pieces on my white strip. It saves time from cutting 3 inch blocks and chain piecing them.

Ladder of success in progress 007 300x200 Melissas Ladder of Success

Then I just trimmed the end and cut into 3 inch segments. VOILA!!

Ladder of success in progress 008 300x200 Melissas Ladder of Success

Since I put Ladder of Success on point, there was the question of the setting triangles. Again the internet comes to the rescue. (What did we ever do before computers and the internet??) Yes, there is a formula for setting triangles, but why do the math when someone else has done it for you? (Does that make me a lazy quilter or a smart quilter?  I prefer smart, thank you very much!)

The side triangles were 11 7/8 inch squares and cut diagonally twice. My sashing strips needed to be treated as a block also, so its side triangles were 4 7/8 squares cut diagonally twice. And my corner triangles were 6 1/4 inch squares cut once diagonally.

Here’s another little trick I’ve learned for centering corner triangles on blocks when sewing them together. Fold both the block and the corner triangle in half and finger press a crease in them. Match the creases, pin and sew.

Ladder of success in progress 012 300x200 Melissas Ladder of Success

Creasing the corner triangle

Ladder of success in progress 014 300x200 Melissas Ladder of Success

Creasing your corner block

When the top was finished, it was time to decide how to quilt it. My test blocks sure came in handy for these auditions. Here’s my audition of the quilting design.

test quilting 001 300x200 Melissas Ladder of Success

I really liked the orange peel design and again you get that lovely secondary design.  Ladder of Success has so many places to do some very fun quilt designs. Let your imagination go free with this one. Here’s what the back of my quilt looks like.

ladder final 003 300x200 Melissas Ladder of SuccessOne more thing before I show you the final quilt. BINDING! I do all my binding by machine. That’s right. Other than the corners and where I begin and end, I don’t hand sew my binding any longer. Bonnie McCaffery had a great podcast on machine binding and that’s where I learned to do my binding by machine. She can explain it better than I—check it out and give it a try. You may find out that you don’t dread binding after all!

So are you ready to see if my Ladder of Success looks anything like I envisioned it in EQ7?  I think it’s pretty close.  It has a kind of tropical feel.

ladder final 001 300x242 Melissas Ladder of SuccessThis quilt is easy enough for a beginner with outstanding results, but can be made more challenging for quilters with experience. It’s all up to you. I hope you enjoyed the climb up the Ladder of Success!!

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9 Responses to Melissa’s Ladder of Success

  1. Kim says:

    I never saw a Judy Martin pattern that I didn’t want to make.
    I have made so many of them and still there are more to love like this one. Your colors are terrific. Nicely done……..Judy would be so proud.

    Happy Sewing

  2. Cathy Buel says:

    Melzee it turned out so beautiful. Love your description of your process. I’ve got mine pinned and ready to start quilting. Hope mine turns out as wonderful as yours.

  3. Carol Romberg says:

    another great idea and quilt ! I just got my first magazine, I got the subscription for a gift! can’t wait to see more of your quilts!

  4. rntravelerpat says:

    Another beautiful quilt! Thanks for the tut on machine binding. I am learning to machine bind as well. Great job,MEL!

  5. Nancy Myers says:

    Thank you for your description of the steps you took to make such a lovely quilt. There are many tips I would like to try in my next quilt.

  6. Carol Vickers says:

    Melzee, another winner!!!!
    You have such a vision for making alterations to a pattern.
    Yours does look tropical; I really like it!

  7. Karlene says:

    Your quilt turned out very pretty. Love the original but also love your changes. Good job!

  8. Ivani Vieira says:

    Beautiful quilt. EQ7 shows it very similar to the real one. Great quilting.

  9. Cathie Foard says:

    This turned out really neat. I love seeing alternative colors and settings for quilts.

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