My leaders & enders project for 2023
Like most quilters who have been at it for a while, I have acquired lots of scraps. Some might call it “too many”, but I think of it as a fabric library of my past quilt projects. The objective, though, is to use those scraps, and an easy way to do that is with leaders & enders. So, last week I started a leaders & enders project for 2023 and I want to share it with you – maybe we can play at this together!
What are leaders & enders?
Let’s back up a bit. Exactly what are leaders and enders? They are scraps of fabric that are used at the beginning and ending of sewing. You basically sew off a leader, onto whatever you’re sewing (such as chain piecing), and then onto an ender. Also known as thread savers, these bits of scrap fabric keep your thread from creating a thread nest on the back of your fabric, and they alleviate all those thread tails. Check out my blog post, efficient quilting with leaders and enders, for lots more information.
My leaders & enders project for 2023
It makes so much sense (in my practical mind) to use predetermined sizes and cuts of fabric for leaders and enders. So, instead of using the same bit of fabric to sew onto, you use two squares or rectangles of fabric (right sides together) and sew onto that with 1/4″ seam. This way you’re piecing together a scrap quilt with your leaders and enders at the same time you’re sewing or piecing together other projects. That, my friend, is a win/win situation!
For my leaders & enders project for 2023, I wanted something simple, something that didn’t require much thought or math. I also wanted it to add up quickly into a quilt, so larger pieces made more sense (but not too large). And those scraps I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post are sorted into a lovely rainbow of fabric bins. So, I’ve decided a rainbow of 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles are going to be my leaders and enders for the year.
I’ve started by cutting my yellow scraps and some orange ones into rectangles for leaders and enders. These will become 4 1/2″ squares that will be sewn together into rows that will become a quilt. I created a layout and blank coloring page in EQ8 so that I could plan my rainbow. I’m not sure how big this quilt will actually be, but this seemed like a good place to start. I’ve called it my 2023 Scrap Quilt Challenge.
I started using my rectangles last week, and I already have a stack of 4 1/2″ squares! I’m off to a great start; let’s see how diligent I am throughout the year. Actually, to hold myself accountable, I’ve challenged my BOM group that I co-teach to make a leader/ender project to work on throughout the year. So, I’m on the hook!
Planning is key
Having a roadmap for most things in life is better than none at all. I’ve experienced failure at making a scrappy “bonus” quilt using leaders and enders in the past. I still have a container of 2.5″ squares that I started to make into 4-patch units. Because I didn’t have a plan for what to do with them, I now have a lovely pile of 4-patch squares that have been sitting in a drawer for over five years.
Have a plan in mind when you start a leader and ender project. Search the web, check out Pinterest or play with graph paper. Lori Holt of Bee in My Bonnet is full of scrappy ideas. I especially love her blog post all about how she sorts her scraps and how she uses them for “bonus quilts”. Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville is another great source of leader and ender projects. She has even written several books on the subject, the most recent one being More Adventures with Leaders & Enders.
Maybe you would like to join me in creating a scrap quilt made from leaders and enders. Feel free to follow my lead, or make up something of your own! I’ve provided a diagram/coloring page, below, of my 2023 Scrap Quilt that you can download and print.
Color it in to get an idea of the colors you want to use and where. When playing with this layout, you might consider an organized scrappy plan like the ones below.
I hope you’ll join me! No rules, no stress and no worries! I’ll keep updating you on my progress every so often.
Happy scrappy quilting!
Absolutely love this idea! What a motivator! I just went through my scraps yesterday with my grandchildren and actually packaged up a bunch to give to my daughter for a student in her classroom who loves to design clothing (she’s a 5th grade teacher). She had said if he had real fabric to work with he would be ecstatic. I think he has enough now, so from this point forward I’ll be, once again, saving all my scraps and keeping them for me to use. I’m so happy I’ve been saving my scraps through these recent years.
HI – I read this post and the one that you wrote a few years ago. I have a question tho. When I am piecing, I use one piece over and over as my “leader” – like you, I toss it when it is filled. The reason I like this is I start sewing on the leader piece in the center of the piece, not at the very edge – starting at the uppermost edge means the fabric gets sucked down into the feed dogs every now and then. This is what I use the leader piece to avoid. So I don’t know how using actual pieces for a leader would work – don’t they get sucked down or get that hairy nest of thread on the back?
Not sure if this makes sense?? But maybe you have a tip on this? Thank you Julie.
Great question, Bernie! When I’m finished with a session of piecing, I sew onto another scrap of fabric (called an “ender”). I turn off my sewing machine with the “ender” underneath my presser foot. This “ender” becomes my “leader” the next time I turn on my sewing machine and begin piecing. In this scenario, I never have to start stitching at the beginning edge of a leader; I always have a leader (or ender) under my presser foot.
There are times when I use my sewing machine for other projects that don’t require leaders and enders. When I start piecing again, I’m careful about the first few stitches. Sometimes I hold onto the thread tails as I take the first stitch, and this prevents the nest from forming. I also make sure that my first stitch is well onto the fabric, so it doesn’t get drawn into the hole in the stitch plate.
I hope that makes sense!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! My leaders enders were always throw away, but not anymore!
I found a cute pattern for a rail fence block using 2.5 x 4.5 inch blocks. I am randomly sewing my leaders and Enders right now. I like your idea of a rainbow quilt. Thanks for sharing!
I started a leaders and enders project by Wendy Sheppard but it somehow fell to the wayside. You have inspired me to pick it up again.
Thanks for the tips! I just recently started using leaders and enders, but really had no plan.But, I’m about to make one. I would probably have Thanks again done the same as you and ended up sticking them in a drawer. My plan is now to cut a bunch of rectangles to sew to those pairs of 2 1/2 squares that I’ve already sewn. At least that would make that bonus quilt come along a little faster. Thanks again for the tips.
OMG what a fantastic idea. Love it
I love scrappy quilts Julie. Great idea, I’m starting as well
Great idea Julie. I always try and have scraps by my machine to sew into something, a HST, a 4 patch, 9 patch, etc. Right now I am sewing 4 patches into a 9 in finished 9 patch block; and 9 patches ( 3.5 in)into a 16 patch block . They will get sewn into charity quilts for my Guild. Gets rid of all the little pieces and I find it very rewarding to use up everything and to make a quilt for someone in need. Your plan looks great, can’t wait to see the finished quilt. Are your squares all 2 colors or are some 2 pieces of the same color?
My squares are mostly in the same color family, but I’ll make some that have two colors that are next to each other in the color wheel for transition pieces.
I am new to your blog
I have a question about a blog you sent out the end of February. You had pictures of your quilting room and on one of the walls there was a small quilt with hearts. Do you have the pattern name? I did not find it with your patterns. Thanks for any info you can provide.
Everything you said about leader/ender projects is so right. You have hooked me with this one and using a little more planning!
What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing this
I really like this idea and in-line the colour way and controlled scrappy look. I will do this but it will likely take me more than 2023 to complete!
What a great idea
Thank you for this tip.
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