In classes, I always share as much as possible from my 30-plus years of quiltmaking knowledge. In this class I've mentioned "leaders and enders" a couple times. If you aren't familiar with the term, leaders and enders are simply a way - while you're working on a project - to, in-between sewing together project pieces, you feed pre-cut scraps into your sewing machine to reduce or completely eliminate the need to clip threads. All credit for this term and method is given to quilter Bonnie Hunter.
For several years now, I've been using leaders and enters as I sew other items. That means that no matter what project I'm working on, when I've completed a seam, I feed a pair of 1-1/2" X 1-1/2" fabric scraps (right sides together) into the machine... to "hold" the thread until I'm ready to sew again.
For me, 1-1/2" X 1-1/2" squares are the optimum size - small and manageable. But I admire and respect those quilters who choose to make their leaders and enders 2-1/2" X 2-1/2" or some other small size. Perhaps I can blame my preference for these small squares on my German heritage and upbringing. I'm being frugal, you know.
In this photo you can see my sewing progression. I begin with a 1-1/2" X 1-1/2" square. I then sew two of them together to make a pair, or "twosie." Next I sew twosies together to make a "foursie," then two foursies are sewn together to make an "eightsie." Lastly, I sew together two pairs of eightsies to make a 16-patch block. Each completed block measures 4-1/2" X 4-1/2".
I began sewing these leaders and enders on October 24, 2011. I know this because I wrote the date on a small piece of paper and dropped it into my scrap basket.
I swear that since I began sewing these, the basket has never reduced in fullness! No doubt because I am always cutting my smallest leftover scraps as I go along... continually adding to this basket.
These are the 16-patch blocks I've made, and I have 151 of them sewn right now. The big question is what to do with them!
I've thought about numerous layouts - sashed, or on point with sashing. But those designs are too traditional and expected. I'm looking for a modern layout... something that's unexpected. Though I haven't hit on it yet, I'm in no hurry.
I hope that if nothing else, this post serves to point out that even the smallest bits of fabric have value. Make a habit of dicing all your leftover bits from project-cutting, and sew them together as leaders and enders. As my friend Carla says, "It's like making a free quilt!" Linda