Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Leaders & enders

I am a complete miser when it comes to fabric, and I don't throw anything more than a 2" square away.   I have even been known to fish pieces of fabric others have thrown away out of the waste bin.  Mad?  Probably.  You can rest assured though, that what goes into my waste bin is definitely not useable!

As I am cutting fabric for projects, I cut the left over scrappy bits into whatever size fits the scrap - either as strips or squares.   Its quick and doesn't seem like a chore when I am cutting other things.   Sometimes I take my small cutting mat upstairs and sit in front of the TV at night chopping up scraps into useable pieces.   As a result I have bulging clip lock bags of every size square from 2" to 7" in half inch increments, and strips of every size from 2" to 3.5" in half inch increments.  

I use these as leader and ender projects, sewing the squares into pairs, then 4 patches, and when there is a whole bunch, I make up something, usually for Stitching Hearts.

So what is a leader & ender?  Most people use a scrap of fabric at the start and end of each seam when they are chain piecing to stabilise the seams, and they sew over and over this scrap until it is a mess.  Well instead of a scrap, I use 2 squares which I sew together.  Not much sewing at the time, and after only a very short while, you end up with a sizeable, useable stack of 4 patches.  You can do the same with triangles too.  The leader & ender queen is Bonnie Hunter.  She has done a magnificent tutorial here so I won't reinvent the wheel and put up a tutorial myself. 

Since I have read that tutorial, I do it to, and have put together several quilts for Stitching Hearts this way.  Layouts are endless.  Some examples are sashed 4-Patch; single or double row scrappy checkerboard borders; add a triangle to each side of the 4-Patch to make a square in a square; increase the size to a 16-Patch. 

For the larger squares you can simply sash them to make a very quick quilt (add the sashing on as a leader ender project as well).  Or you can use them for a scrappy border, or a disappearing 9-patch.  I like to use the 5.5" or 6" squares for that.

I have learnt that with scrappy quilts anything goes.  Just chuck it all in a pile and dip into it willy nilly.   I do try to pair a lighter value square with a darker value one though.  That gives the scrappy quilt depth and movement.   You just don't need to worry about matching the fabrics at all, it all seems to work out fine in the end.  And if you have an ugly fabric, just chop it up into small pieces and hide it in a scrap quilt.  As the saying goes "if you can still see the ugly fabric, you haven't chopped it up small enough".   So true.  LOL

Sometimes I will theme the scraps, so I will go through and pick out the florals for example, or the blues or purples or browns or greens.   Whatever I seem to have a lot of at the time.  I've done some scrappys for Aussie Heroes too, and then I pick out the more masculine fabrics out of the pile.  Doesn't do to send pretty florals to a big boofy 6 foot soldier!

My current leader ender project is to use up some of the 3.5" squares.  I am planning to put them together into square in a square blocks.  When I'm a bit further on with this, I'll post some pictures.

Hope this inspires you to try this.  It works a treat for me, is fun to do and it uses up those scraps!

Til next time ........ Keep on stitching

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