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!