QM Scrap Squad: Bonnie’s Ladder of Success; Giveaway!

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.

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The featured quilt from the May/June issue is Ladder of Success, designed by quilting legend and early QM editor Judy Martin. We’re 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

Today’s featured quilt is by Bonnie Stapleton from Powhatan, Virginia. She blogs at institcheswithbonnie. You’ll hear from Bonnie in her own words below.


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Bonnie Stapleton, Powhatan, Virginia

Ok, I’ll admit it—it took me a long time to warm up to Ladder of Success. When I first received the instructions I printed it out in black and white. I loved how the Four Patches ran diagonally through the quilt.

But, really, all those squares? All that piecing?  Me? I told myself I would just make a smaller version than the original twin.


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I found a group of bright stash fabrics that spoke to me and played nicely with each other. I grabbed pieces of different bright whites for the background.

Then I decided to draw it in EQ7. I tried, and tried. I am definitely not that good with EQ but eventually I succeeded. It was time well spent because I really understood the units and their placement. And as a bonus I am a bit more competent in EQ.

I was sure I wanted to make a baby quilt or at most a lap quilt. Ha! In the end I made a twin—nearly as large as the original.

On the Four Patches I decided to “swirl” the seam so there would be fewer layers of fabric in the centers. This involves taking out a couple of stitches so that each of the four seam allowances points in a different direction.

twirled center 300x132 QM Scrap Squad: Bonnies Ladder of Success; Giveaway!Here’s a regular seam on the left. To the right is the swirled seam. It lies much flatter.

Once I got the first group of units and blocks together I realized I needed to keep the rows organized.  I really didn’t want to mess up the colored blocks I had spent quite a bit of time arranging.

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I pulled out these great little safety pins with letters on them. They stayed on until I got the center completely finished.

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When the magazine arrived I realized there was a colored print border that I hadn’t noticed on my black and white copy. Back to the stash.

I found one fabric that really made the quilt shine. I cut borders #1 and #3 from this print. I auditioned a variety of colors and sizes of Four Patches for border #2. I tried using the various fabric from the quilt center but—oops—it didn’t hang together.

I tried purple 2.5″ Four Patches and I didn’t like them either. Like Goldilocks, I felt the 1.25″ purple Four Patches were just right.

auditioningborders 300x272 QM Scrap Squad: Bonnies Ladder of Success; Giveaway!Next I auditioned the width of the printed borders. I decided on 2″ for border #1 and 4.75″ for border #2.

I took the top on a field trip to my friend Sharon’s house, where she was binding a quilt. Sharon uses up her odd-ball bobbin bits while she attaches the binding to the quilt. Really? Don’t the odd ball colors show through?

Not really. I decided to try it on this quilt, and I used most of these bobbins up. The only drawback was changing bobbins often, but I was happy to free some up for other threads.

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I had to wait out a couple of rainy days before I could take a picture. How do you get good pictures of big quilts? My back fence works well but I still didn’t get the whole thing.

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So, on to the lawn with a  black watch dog.


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Bonnie's finished Ladder of Success


I went from being lukewarm about this quilt to loving it. Funny thing is, I don’t even own a twin-size bed!

Another great job by this Scrap Squad member! I think we should celebrate with a giveaway.

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I have a copy of the May/June issue (includes the Ladder of Success pattern) and some Dritz Quilting Row Marking Safety Pins. Leave a comment below by midnight Sunday, May 27, explaining how you keep your rows organized. We’ll announce a winner here next week. The winners are Sheila and Sandy! They have been contacted by email. It was fun hearing about everyone’s systems—or lack thereof! This Dritz Quilting product is widely available. Please check your local quilt shop or craft store. The official name is “Row Marking Safety Pins.”

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email: editor@quiltmaker.com.
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134 Responses to QM Scrap Squad: Bonnie’s Ladder of Success; Giveaway!

  1. Claudia says:

    I love my digital camera, and it is in use constantly when I sew. How else would I keep myself straight? Has been a road map of good intentions more than once.

  2. Lisa Bird says:

    This quilt is a “happy quilt”–my kind of quilt. I use a combination of things to keep my quilt blocks organized–from my design wall I remove one row at a time and stack from left to right with each new block going on the top. At the top of each row I mark the row and how I want to iron the seams for ease in constructing on a sticky note and pins. It usually works. Although some days I believe my sewing room is invaded by little imps who move everything around, “lose” some blocks behind my sewing cabinet and undo all the pins. Oh well…

  3. Marilyn Snow says:

    I usually pin a small piece of paper with the column number written on it to mark the tops block. These pins look like they would be great!!

  4. jean says:

    These pins look great. I use bits of masking tape with numbers on them. Not the prettiest, but it works! Love what you did with the quilt.

  5. Diane says:

    I have written numbers on flat flower head pins but I love the idea of these row marker pins! I would like to know where to find them!???!

  6. Leslie says:

    I’ve only kept rows organized by moving them, block by block, from the wall to sewing area then back again. Now that doesn’t sound very organized!
    I would love to try the pins with letters.

  7. Dorothy Schreyer says:

    I love your Ladder of Success Bonnie..the colors are great, as for keeping my rows organized…I have tried masking tape, falls off, post a notes-they fall off too, so end up pinning slips of paper with numbers on them, not great but it works.

  8. Linda says:


  9. A.J. Dub says:

    I use either post-it notes or printed cards pinned on to the rows to keep them organized.

    Beautiful job on the quilt!

  10. Sheila Mary says:

    Bonnie…… Terrific job on the quilt. It’s beautiful ! Love these little pins. I’m a small piece of paper gal with a-1, b-1 etc system. On occasion with a really dark fabric I’ll use chalk markings.

  11. Carmen says:

    I’m a beginner so the only way I know is to make piles

  12. Cher Hutchinson says:

    I like the idea of pins . I usebits of paper and postits , starting at left and stack to right also. I try not to confuse myself but that usually hapens This quilt is on my todo list after a few UFO.

  13. Barbara Young says:

    Awesome quilt, I would love to make this. After I lay the blocks out and have found the perfect layout, I pick up the blocks from left to right with the far left block on top. I place the bottom row of the quilt on the table and then place the blocks from the next row diagonally to it. (So you have one set of blocks set straight and the next row of blocks like they were on point.) I continue placing the blocks like this with the top row on the top of the pile.

  14. Jamie Martin says:

    I use sticky notes. -blushes-

  15. Sandi1100 says:

    Beautiful quilt!!! I would love to win the pins as I rip up paper , put alphabet letter and number them and pin them to the beginning of each row. However, sometimes I still mess up!

  16. Donna DuMouchel says:

    Love the quilt pattern AND the pins! I use little scrap pieces of paper and pin them to the top block in a row but those row markers sure are nifty. :)

  17. Lorri says:

    I use a design wall or bed top and sew one row at a time. Using these pins would make it easier to stack a whole row and make more time to sew than retrieving the blocks. Love your Quilt

  18. Gwen Lassitter Windham says:

    I do the numbered pieces of paper and safety pin thing too… Those pin markers are great! If I am not the lucky winner, I will put them on my “Wish List” for sure! :-)

  19. I have several scraps of paper with numbers on them that I pin to the rows to keep them in order. I always pin in the top left corner of the first block of the row. And, being a scrap saver, you might guess that I save those little scraps of paper too and use them again and again until they are worn to shreds!

    I really like the looks of those pin markers.

  20. Brenda McWhirter says:

    What a gorgeous quilt and one I would like to make some day. To mark my rows I use paper tags and pin on the left side on each row, easy peasy. Those pins look wonderful so I will have to keep an eye out for them.

  21. Laura Nolte-Salter says:

    The quilt is beautiful – I have a ton of scraps that would probably make up well in this pattern. I have always had trouble keeping rows organized until I got a design wall, where I keep everything up until I am ready to put it together. I love those safety pins with the letter beads and will be on the look out for them.

  22. Jane Modjeski says:

    two methods.
    flower head pins. One pin for row 1, two pins for row 2 and so on.

    sticky notes. I own them alraady and can find them and a permanent marking pen. Write row 1 and pin on row and so on.

    Love all 112 other ideas ahead of mine. will “file” for future reference.

    Jane M

  23. Barbara Poe says:

    I use only straight pins to mark my rows, in the upper right hand corner of the first block, aiming them North, East, South and West for 1, 2, 3, and 4. Next four rows get two parallel pins in the same order. Seldom have more than 8 rows, but then I’d go to triple pins. Quick, easy, no waste.

  24. Donna Keating says:

    Love Bonnie’s version of this quilt. I’m a regular reader of her blog!!! Very talented lady.

  25. VickiT says:

    Bonnie ~ That is an amazing quilt and the colors are exactly what I would love if I were looking at a quilt. Beautiful job!

    I’ve not done any larger quilts but usually on any that I have made which I really need to keep track of the rows really well, I have always used a piece of paper and marked it then used a large pin to keep them all together. Not very pretty but, it’s worked so far. I’ve seen some of the different row marking tools before but, these I think look much better for what I’d like to buy since they are a safety pin you can close so the pin/s won’t slide out.

  26. I usually use pieces of paper saying top middle etc pined to the first block in each row because I don’t have room for a design row. I would love to try a smaller version of the quilt.

  27. Carolyn Bradshaw says:

    I use the small stick-on circles to mark the rows and write the row number on the dot. There’s always the chance that they will fall off or leave sticky residue on the fabric, so I think I like your way better.

  28. Darlene says:

    That is a very eye-catching quilt! Love it! I pin a scrap of paper labeled-top left, row one- then continue on always marking the left side block of the row. No problems so far.

  29. Becky G says:

    This quilt is lovely & the post is educational. Thanks much! I must be high maintenance as i use several methods to keep track of rows. I take photographs of layout. I’ll use basting safety pins to attach numbered paper scraps to the upper left hand corner of the 1st block of each row. A couple of tomes when i made large blocked tops, i used heavy thread & quickly hand embroidered roman numeral hatch marks (I, II..V, VI, etc) in upper left corner. I knew i wouldn’t be getting back to it for a bit. No paper to accidentally tear off, no pointy pins to get stuck on & easily removed. Thanks for the chance to win! B

  30. Liz says:

    My design wall is my living room floor….and sometimes my husband gets a little tired of walking around my quilts! I like to think the exercise going back and forth from the living room to the sewing room keeps me healthy. I like Bonnie’s idea and will give it a try.

  31. Tiff says:

    to keep my rows in order i pin A, B, C, etc to the center of each…it always works for me =)

  32. Vickie S says:

    Love the quilt. I use masking tape and use letters and numbers for the columns and rows. Those pins look like a great idea.

  33. Rhonda H. says:

    I’ll take digital photos for reference in case I get mixed up and then just do some careful stacking, stacks lined up as necessary. Thanks for chance to win!

  34. Edna Kidd says:

    Beautiful quilt, love it….would love to make it…don’t have a system, just lay them out and sew a row at a time…thanks for the giveaway!

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