For years, I’ve heard about leaders and enders (little scraps of fabric inserted at the beginning and ending of a seam to avoid tangled threads and to save thread), but my attempts to do this were always distracting and I’d give up on it. Lately, though, eye problems have made it difficult to thread the needle and I re-evaluated the leader and ender pieces of fabric. I know a lot of quilters keep a box of scraps near the sewing machine to use in this manner and eventually have enough scraps sewn together to make a quilt. Anything that will use up small scraps appeals to me and I got out my jars of scraps which are sorted by color and cut several colors into 2-inch squares. This size accommodates a lot of my fabric pieces and is easy to stitch together. I carried it another step further and put the pieces together to make a 9-patch rather than having another box full of 2-inch patches to put together – SOME DAY.
Before I begin to sew, I put two 2-inch squares right-sides-together and stitch them. Then, without breaking thread, I sew the seam on my current project. At the end of this seam, I insert another two squares and stitch them together. I cut the thread on the first set of 2-inch squares, add another square to make a row and this becomes my “leader” or “ender” as needed. I keep the rows for one block on the ironing board beside me until a 9-patch is completed – then it goes into a basket and I start another set of patches.
I used this technique on a recent mini-quilt project and when I had finished the quilt, I had made 19 five-inch blocks They are all in coordinating colors so they can be put together easily as needed for a pillow backing, small quilt or wall hanging backing, gift bags, etc.
Now, I’m so accustomed to putting 2-inch scraps together as I’m sewing that I use the process for any project, including making clothes. No more birds’ nests at the beginning of the seam, no more wasted thread and a minimum amount of needle-threading – plus, I’ve used up some scraps and have nice blocks on hand to use with other projects.
I was able to use some of the blocks recently to make a lining for a small bag I made to give to some friends with jars of pickles and blackberry jam. I used 1-1/2 inch sashing between the 5-inch blocks. The lining is pretty enough to make the bag reversible.
For the outside of the bag, I used two orphan blocks.
All I had to do was add straps and facing around the top to make a nice little gift bag.
I also have strips cut 1-1/4 inches wide which I like to use for log cabin blocks and pieces cut in 1-1/2 inch squares. I make sure my basket is full of scrap leaders and enders before I begin any project.
P.S. My friends liked the bag and the home-canned goods.