Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday School: Jacob's Ladder Mini-Album tutorial

Good morning CraftyStealers!

Did you have a Jacob's ladder toy when you were a kid? If you are unfamiliar, it's a toy that when held up, makes it seem as if one block is "falling" down the other blocks.  It is simple - made with wood and ribbon, and looks like this (photo from

Apparently it is one of the oldest "folk" toys around - and I mean old. It was rumored to be found in King Tut's tomb!  My sister and I each had one when we were kids.   It was made from colorful wooden blocks, and it would keep us busy for a good twenty minutes at a time as we watched the "falling" block. (What precious time that must have been for my mom!)

Quite a long time ago, I saw a tutorial for making a Jacob's ladder mini-album. Thinking that I would remember where I had seen it, failed to save the link (I give my memory WAY too much credit sometimes!).  Google, though helpful, has never been able to help me find that elusive tutorial - so I had to tweak a couple of other tutorials - one specifically for crafters from the Splitcoast Stampers forum, and this one from Woodcraft Arts, designed to make the actual toy.  Though you do have to pay attention to the directions, it is fairly easy to make.  I thought it would make a great Mother's Day gift for Grandma, AND is a great way to use those random photos I have laying around.

Here's what you'll need to make one like mine:
  • 10 pieces of wood (you can use less or a few more if you'd like - however you don't want it to be too long!).  My original plan was to get the hardware store to cut me some, but I ended up finding some thin pieces of pre-cut wood at the craft store - mine are sized 3.5" X 2.5".  (Again, these toys are fairly forgiving - you can do squares and have them a little larger if you'd like).
  • 3 pieces of ribbon (white organza is probably the best, as you can see through it) approximately 70" long.  If you are using less blocks you would need less ribbon and more if you are making more blocks, more ribbon.
  • Sandpaper
  • Craft paint (optional)
  • Mod Podge (optional)
  • Glue and permanent adhesive (I used Martha Stewart gel glue and Glue Dots permanent mini dots)
  • Patterned paper (I used today's CraftySteal, the KI Memoris Heirloom kit - the paper is not only pretty, but it's a great quality and thickness for this kind of project)
  • Embellishments for the cover (The KI kit has some fun stickers and alpha letters)
  • Photos that you'd like to include
Whew! Now let's get started!

Sand the edges of the wood and cover the wood with paint.  (You are also welcome to leave them a natural wood color as well and just cover the whole piece of wood with patterned paper). Make sure to get the edges.  I forgot and had to go back over them with a paint marker.
Cover each side with patterned paper. (You can't tell in the photo, but some of these papers have just a touch of glitter - you know, for those of us who like a little sparkle ;) ).
Now's the time when you can put your photos on the blocks.  Make sure they are all in the same orientation (either landscape or portrait).  You can also embellish, but everything has to be FLAT or it won't fold correctly.  You can choose to put photos on one side or both. I just put photos on one side and embellished with punched papers on the other.  Make sure to leave one side of one block without a photo for your cover. Here is where you could also ModPodge every block, just to seal things up and make the album a little more durable.  Since my mom isn't super rough, I decided to forgo the ModPodge.
Now stack up your pieces of wood and holding the pile in your hand, take a pencil and make three marks on each edge.  The first right down the middle.  The second and third should be half way between the middle mark and the edge on each side. (You could do this with a ruler, but if I can get away with it, rulers aren't usually how I roll ;) ). 
Next, comes the fun part. Putting the whole thing together.  Take the wood piece that you want on the bottom, and put one glue dot on the middle mark.  Now on the opposite edge, put two glue dots on the outside marks.  Attach the ends of each of the three ribbons onto each of the glue dots.
Pull the ribbon across so that it goes in the opposite direction.
Pick up the block you'd like to be next, making sure that the pictures are oriented the same way as the block previously.  Lay it on top of the bottom piece.  MAKE SURE that your ribbons don't twist underneath and are pulled tightly.  
Notice where the ribbons are now? Put glue dots on the middle mark on the right side and the outer marks on the left side and pull the ribbons tightly across the top again (making sure the ribbon is firmly stuck to the glue dots).
Continue stacking, adding glue dots in alternating patterns on each side, making sure the ribbons don't get twisted, and that the photos are all being placed in the same orientation.

When you get to your final wooden piece, trim off any excess ribbon and then you can embellish the cover to your heart's content.  Here's my final mini-album:
This is how it looks open - notice the pattern of one ribbon running down one block, two ribbons on the next.
Now you can "play" with your new mini-album. I can't wait for Mother's Day to show my mom.  I was thinking this would also make a fun word "book" for little ones or an end of the year teacher gift.  

Don't forget to head over to to pick up your KI Heirloom kit!  Oddly enough, it's very versatile paper that works great for fall photos and this album for springtime.  There are brads, flower stickers, rubber stickers and two kinds of alpha stickers, along with the great patterned paper.

Have a wonderful Sunday, and Happy Crafting!


  1. My children have been wanting to make one of these, they play with the one I have from my childhood. thanks for the Mother's day idea

  2. i can hardly wait to do these for my sisters (70 and 74 years young) I had these when I was kid just plain of course and with a disappearing penny with it. so cool first time ever looking at this sight