QM Scrap Squad: Donna’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 QM Scrap Squad: Donnas Ladder of Success

The 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.


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

Today’s featured quilt is from Donna Hanley in Cincinnatus, New York. You’ll hear from Donna in her own words below. Enjoy!

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Donna Hanley from Cincinnatus, New York

When I saw this pattern, I knew I wanted to use batiks and try to move color across the quilt. I pulled out my batiks and after  a little shopping (oh darn), I came up with warm and cool color palettes.

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My batik basket

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Warm palette


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Cool palette


In my stash, I found a leftover piece of extra wide backing in a multicolor batik that I knew would be perfect for the focal Nine Patches and the border squares.

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The first design decision I had to make was whether to run the color transition in a line across the quilt or in a cluster around the focus Nine Patches.

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I finally opted for the cluster effect and I concentrated on transitioning color around each Nine Patch. After placing the Nine Patch pieces, I put up all the background blue 3″ squares and started filling in with color. Using my camera really came in handy. If a transition piece was too drastic, it jumped right out in the photo.

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Unfortunately, keeping those pieces all organized was a migraine waiting to happen. Solution: having a paper plate for each color to hold the small squares and Four Patch units.

IMG 1615 1024x768 QM Scrap Squad: Donnas Ladder of SuccessOnce all the pieces were on my design wall, getting them to the sewing machine without getting mixed up was a challenge, but the top finally came together…Whew!

IMG 1639 225x300 QM Scrap Squad: Donnas Ladder of SuccessI do most of my own quilting on my Bernina. A few years ago, after developing arthritis in my base thumb joints, pin basting to layer my quilts was no longer an option. At about the same time, I saw a video on The Quilt Show by Patsy Thompson demonstrating her method of spray basting on her design wall.

Watch the video here.

This method was a lifesaver for me and now it’s the way I baste all of my quilts.

IMG 1640 220x300 QM Scrap Squad: Donnas Ladder of SuccessYou need to be sure to protect the area around your backing with newspaper on the walls and old towels on the floor. I use 505 basting spray. One note about using this method: I keep a separate set of pins for attaching the backing to the design wall since the basting spray causes the pins to become sticky.

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I quilted an overall pattern with a variegated thread.

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Here is the final result:


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Donna's Ladder of Success

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WOW! Can you say “gorgeous”? I just love it when the Scrap Squad gals rock our socks off! This is truly an amazing piece. More Ladder of Success quilts to come so stay tuned.

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14 Responses to QM Scrap Squad: Donna’s Ladder of Success

  1. Paula Palmer says:

    Donna, That is gorgeous….

  2. Donna H says:

    Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to comment on my quilt. This was such a fun quilt to make. Being part of the Scrap Squad has been so exciting. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the gals post!

  3. I also saw this quilt on QM’s Facebook page. I just love the way the colors came together. I really enjoyed seeing Donna’s design process as she made this quilt. It looks like a million!

  4. Absolutely gorgeous…love your colour work!

  5. Nancy Myers says:

    Very nice quilt and I like that you took photos of the progress at each step to document it. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Becky Weimer says:

    Fantastic! I like your version better than the one in the magazine and I loved that one!!

  7. Ronda Martin says:

    Absolutely beautiful!!! Great job!!!!

  8. Jackie Hughes says:

    I love your colors and how they gently change throughout the quilt. Great job!

  9. Cathy Buel says:

    Donna it is beautiful. Very nice job. Hugs

  10. Donna — you’ve made us all so proud. This is a stunning quilt! Love your hints about the paper plates… I use them for pieces of one block sometimes. And, it is hard to keep this all together.

  11. So awesome!! I just have one question…. want to trade? :-D

  12. Claudia says:

    Oh, I want to come play in your sewing room today! I could bring my batik stash and we could really have fun. Cool at the bottom and warm at the top makes me think of a summer morning when it is cool and the day gets hotter. Flipping it upside down will make a heated day cool into night.

    I too have arthritis and have used Sulky’s KK2000 basting spray. But no one carries it locally anymore and I was having a stomping hissy fit last week when I used my last pfffsttt in the can! Pin basting is a pain all the way around. The only substitute brand I could find required: good ventilation, soap and water clean up. I work in a place with little cross-ventilation and I certainly can’t put my carpet in the wash when I am done, so it is going back.

  13. Jennifer says:

    Donna, the quilt looks great!! Absolutely love your color scheme, reminds me of candy in an Easter basket, yummy! Great job :D

  14. Melissa says:

    Donna-I knew when I saw your work in progess that I would LOVE your quilt. The colors are awesome and love the way they move through the quilt. Definitely is eye candy! I’m going to watch the video on spray basting. Thanks for sharing it with those of us that Mr. Arthur Ritis is an unwelcomed visitor!

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