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February 15, 2023

Leaders and enders are one of those things in quilting that everyone seems to do, but no one seems to talk about. A leader/ender is that little piece of scrap fabric that you use to start and end a line of chain piecing. 

Leaders and Enders - Running Stitch Quilts

 

I usually have a few of these laying next to my machine. I like to have several on hand because sometimes I forget to clip the leader and it gets lost in a sea of chain piecing, or they fall on the floor behind my machine and bending over to pick it up isn’t worth the effort. Either way, I never start piecing without them!

 

Leaders and Enders - Running Stitch Quilts

 

Pros of leaders and enders: 

  • Helps prevent the corners of the fabric from getting pulled down into the bobbin area by the feed dogs. 
  • Prevents thread nest from forming behind the fabric 
  • Helps ensure a straight ¼” seam, especially at the beginning and end when the fabric might pull to the side a little 
  • Can save thread over time by minimizing the long tails of thread that are left by pulling fabric out from under the machine to clip

 

Instead of using a piece of scrap fabric, I also like to use it as an opportunity to piece a second quilt or project. I made these three projects (a pillow, a pouch, and a journal cover) by using the leader/ender method to sew the leftover triangles together from each of the Hurrication quilts I’ve made. You can read more about those projects here!

 

With the projects above, I had two stacks next to my machine (one for background triangles and one for the prints) ready to go. That seemed to be the easiest way to stay organized and also to remember to use these versus my scrap leader. 

  

 

 

This is also the method I used to make my Scrappy Valley quilt (if you haven't gotten your free copy yet, you can do so here!). I had a stack of yellow squares and a stack of pink strips and I sewed them together as leaders and enders until I ran out of yellow squares. Then I pressed the entire batch, cut a new set of strips to the right size, and repeated the process until I had a set of complete blocks. 


The key to using leaders and enders to make a second quilt is to have a plan and to stay organized. You might need to set your current project aside for a day to cut more fabric or plan your blocks out. But once all the blocks you need are done, it’s fun to take a day and put that quilt top together!