Our quiltalong has had a bit of discussion about leaders and enders, and I wanted to add some visuals. This is not an original ideas, I’m guessing it existed as long as sewing machines were invented. But Bonnie Hunter quiltville has written a book about it.
The problem that this solves
When starting a seam, especially little points like this, the machine will often eat the points and/or create a thread nest.
Cut lots of small squares(or any other shape!) From scrap, in general I try and do lights and darks. And have them within arm’s reach.
Put a light and dark together and sew them. Hold the threads back and to the left as you start to sew, keeping them taut. Sew this seam almost to the end. This is the leader, as it’s starting the chain.
At the very end of that seam, line up the pieces you want to join. I’m joining a few triangles here.
You might need to lift the presser foot slightly to get them positioned, don’t overlap the two sets, they just need to be adjacent, within a stitch or two.
Sew the seam, and again when you get to the very end, line up your next pieces this is chain piecing
Keep going until you have all the pieces sewn. Stop just at the end of the last piece and grab two more of your small squares (because this is ending the chain, it’s called an ender-but it’s the exact same as the leader) line these up and sew, but stop before you get to the end.
You will have enough room to snip off the chain of sewn pieces leave the ender on the machine
Now you have a chain of pieces, with a leader at the start, snip them apart
Press them open, I always press the leader along with the other pieces.
Add your leader, which is now just two little squares joined, to the growing pile.
When you run out of squares that you have precut, you can join them together into strips and larger sets
They can then be used, I used some in this wonky star, you can see that my seams were not regular in the leaders and enders, but it doesn’t really matter.
The ender that you have left in the machine, becomes the new leader.
-Few thread nests and eaten points.
-You use way way less thread when chain piecing
-Chain piecing is much faster than sewing and cutting off one seam at a time.
-you won’t have the machine pull the thread out of the needle if you cut it too short.
-Eventually if you create enough leaders and enders you could have a whole quilt made while you’re working on other projects (I think it’s more realistic to turn them into potholders, or pouches)
I followed Bonnie Hunters suggestion of cutting my leader and ender squares at 1.5" which means when all sewn together, they should be 1" so they will fit any block size. (They would make an awesome sashing strip) but you could use any size or shape leaders and enders. Small size charm packs would be great, because you’d get a secondary quilt really fast.