Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spiders, and Leaders and Enders

I think leaders and enders is a fairly commonly-used term among quilters.

Bonnie Hunter of is credited for coining the term that's used to explain how to piece together fabrics, using a quarter-inch seam, in between other sewing. She even wrote books about it! Adventures with Leaders and Enders, and More Adventures with Leaders and Enders.

The idea is that while you're sewing at the machine, you don't let any unsewn thread go to waste, or let it get caught in a thread nest on the underside of fabric.

If there's always a piece of fabric in the sewing machine, those threads don't make trouble. Back in the 1980s I learned to sew over a scrap of fabric, over and over again, to ensure all the threads were engaged. It's called a "thread spider" because of the way it looks. (Internet photo.)

Bonnie taught us that instead of wasting thread on a spider that didn't serve any purpose, we should be piecing another quilt!

  • leaders - the little bit of piecing you start with before sewing the primary project you're working on, and 
  • enders - the little bit of piecing you shove in at the end of your primary project. 
Doesn't knowing you can make a "free" quilt make you feel frugal?! 

Since beginning to sew leaders and enders in October 2011, between my own scraps and those of friends, I've been well-supplied. Most quilters don't keep fabric bits smaller than 2" X 2". My size limit is 1-1/2" X 1-1/2", so it's no surprise that friends are happy to pass their smallest scraps to me.

Thus far, I've made more than 200 16-patch blocks that measure 4-1/2" X 4-1/2" unfinished. Last year I gave 115 of them to Big Cypress Quilters who turned them into quilts for Project Linus. This is one of the tops that was sewn by two quilters who donated the finished quilt.

Now I've accumulated another 80-plus 16-patches and have been wondering how I'll use them.

Then I read this blog post with a picture of a little quilt called "Palmateer Point," learned it was made with 2" squares, and decided to work-up the design with my 1-1/2" squares.

So I took some of my 16-patches,

and some 4-patches that hadn't yet been sewn into 16-patches,

used the Magic 8 Method Craftsy tutorial to make 2-1/2" unfinished half-square triangles using Kona White and Sunflower Grunge by Basic Grey,

and put together this 8-1/2" high X 20-1/2" wide sample. I like it!

Perhaps once this row is complete - I'm aiming for 60" wide - I'll change the half-square triangle colors. Maybe white with orange. 👍 You know I like bright!

And, don't you agree that it's good to get in the habit of sewing leaders and enders? I'm looking forward to the long-term piecing this will take, in between other sewing projects.

And I have been sewing! I'm just not able to share the new project I'm excited about. It's for the Central Florida MQG Challenge which is due November 13. As always, each quilter's challenge piece is to be kept on the down-low so members can blindly choose their favorite at our November meeting. For this challenge, the only guideline is to choose a colors or an element from a non-quilting magazine - between pages 48-52 - that inspires a quilt, of any size!

Also, five of us have been working on the next QuiltCon Charity Quilt that we're sending to Pasadena, California in February 2018. That big quilt deserves a blog post of it's own. Linda


  1. I love your small pieces. I've even done 1" squares and never knew I could do such a thing until I tried it. I was doing leaders and enders before I knew there was a name for it. I'm sure there are people still who haven't heard of the term so thank you for sharing.

  2. Your thoroughly modern version of Palmateer Point is going to make such a sunny bright quilt. I love the yellow HST's, they really tie everything together.

  3. I've been seeing this Palmateer pattern around the web and I really like it! GREAT use of your leader/ender pieces. I have been trying to get into the habit of using the leader/ender method but keep forgetting to put the "ender" on. :)

  4. Oh, Linda, I LOVE it! I always have a leader ended project going, but never one as pretty as that!

  5. Your new leaders and enders quilt is looking so jazzy it might just be the impetus I need to start doing this myself! After having good intentions for many years, but only accumulating these tiny scraps in an overflowing box (yes, I'm a hoarder), I'm putting it on my list of resolutions for my fresh start after my wrist is healed.

  6. So wait--your 16-patch blocks measure 4 1/2" square? Yikes--those patches are beyond tiny. Love all your projects here. I was just cutting up some scraps into blocks today and wondered what I should do with them. Your post is timely, that's for sure!

  7. I love your projects and your enthusiasm for leaders and enders. I l ove sewing this way also. Sometimes if I am in a rush, I will stick a bunch of scrap (made from old bed sheets that I sometimes use to make garment pattern trial) but i do have a couple of projects going and it is really fun because depending on your excitement level (haha) you can work in as many projects as your brain can handle.
    I like your photos, all, very inspiring

  8. I like it, too! This is an excellent habit, but one that I have not adopted yet for some reason. Still use the spider. But really, why not stitch actual patches?? Must reconsider my methods. I love the Linus quilt the group made, too. Bonnie will be at the Ocala Country Road Quilters in February for a lecture ($5 for visitors) and a class the following day. So perhaps I will begin this practice. If you'd like the dates, let me know. Can't think of them off hand, but you might like to drive up for her lecture.

  9. I've read and seen plenty of projects for leaders and enders but have never tried it. Your project is off to a great start. I love that your you HSTs are low contrast so your scrappy piecing will still take front and center.
    I totally understand about not being able to share a top secret challenge! :)

  10. I love sewing with leaders and enders! Great project you are working on!



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