Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Leaders? Enders? Am I Always the Last Quilter to Hear About This Stuff?

Warning: Tip to make piecing better that, while I hadn't heard of it, you probably already know all about it and have made your last 20 quilts this way!

When I was teaching at Calla Lily Quilts in Greensboro NC, I was happy to be able to stay with my friends Karen & Graham in Reidsville. Karen is an avid quilter, owned a quilt shop at one time, and knows just about everybody! So as I was leafing through some of her back issues of Quilt Moderne (yes, of course I subscribed -- those quilts are killer!!!), Karen asked me if I used the leaders-enders technique, to which I intelligently responded, "The What??"

Well, she explained, we've all been using leaders for the whole time we've been piecing our quilts -- those little scraps of fabric that we fold in half, feeding the creased edge into the presser foot to prevent thread barf at the very beginning of sewing. Straight edge = possible thread barf; folded edge = much less chance of said TB. I knew about the leader method and have been doing it practically forever. But now there seems to be a variation on that theme that results in a more productively piecing you -- and still no barf!

Goes like this: Basically you cut the pieces for two quilts, the one you are actually working on and another one that is fairly mindless, like sewing a bunch of squares together for something that turns out like this:

This is from a book called "Moda All-Stars - Lucky Charm Quilts". All of the quilts in the book are based on charm squares and the quilts are arranged by how many charm packs it takes to make them -- one, two or three. This was a three charm pack design, so I purchased three Kaffe Fassett charm packs and a coordinating solid from Calla Lily Quilts when I was there. It's just a bunch of little squares, so I should be able to get a good start on it using the leader-ender method, right? This is kind of a long name and spellcheck keeps trying to correct it, so I'm calling it the L-E method from now on!

So I started by cutting a charm pack into fourths, yielding 168 2-1/2" squares. Stacked them into piles on a cutting mat and took them to the machine.

First a pair of squares from my L-E quilt...

..then as many pieces of the "real" quilt, the one that I'm actually doing on purpose, as I need to run through before taking them out and going to the iron. In this case, 4. So I sewed the four, and then...

...another pair of squares from the L-E quilt. (Actually, I should call this the Dividend Quilt because you get a second finished quilt as a extra added bonus from working on the first!) Then I cut the others off, go to the ironing board, come back to the machine and that sewn square is just waiting patiently for me to start on my next group of pieces for the primary quilt.

The way I see it, I'm doing pretty much what I've always done, while getting another project done at the same time. If you used small projects for the L-E quilt, like table runners and baby quilts, I think you could get a bunch of bonus projects done.

Do you use this method? If not, do you think it's worth trying? I'm going to keep track and see how long it takes me to get the bonus quilt done this way.


  1. I have heard of it but never understood the explanations given on line. For some reason I understood you. I probably won't try it, I don't see the difference in stitching the small pieces and the real project. Or maybe I still don't understand. ☺

    1. The way I'm thinking about it is that if you just use a leader, you are throwing the scrap away at the end. Using this method psyches me up to think that I'll see significant progress on a project. I have SO many piecing projects in the works that any little time chunk helps!


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