Down in the workshop last night, I needed to clean up a few remaining scraps before digging back into the blue quilt work. Since I had my camera and the scraps, I thought I would do a quick, visual explanation of chain piecing and Leader-Enders, which I previously had tried to explain. Some people mentioned they had no idea what I was talking about, so I thought a couple pictures would do the trick. I grabbed some scrap muslin and got to stitching and shooting!
Say you want to sew two pieces of fabric together. This is what that looks like:
Two pieces of fabric, stitched together. Very simple, yes? See the thread tails hanging on either side? When sewing you have to leave long tails of thread so that it doesn’t pull out of the needle when you begin sewing again. There are few things more frustrating than the simple trimming of a thread tail too short and having to rethread your machine when it slips out of the needle eye! So, you have the tail you left on from the last time (at the lead or beginning) and you have a tail of thread from when you pulled it out of the machine and cut it free. Sure, the second, end tail can be trimmed right next to the last stitch, but you get the picture here. There are about five inches of wasted thread that you now have to keep out of the feed dogs, pull to the side, trim and throw away. Seems like wasteful work, doesn’t it? How can we get around it? You still have to make sure the thread won’t pull back out through the needle and you want to have it in a controlled place where it won’t tangle itself in the next thing to be stitched or caught in the presser foot.
How about this:
We still have the tail from before, but now we have only a tiny bit of thread between each fabric combination. Now you only have to trim the starting bit of tail off and snip the little chain between the pieces. This is chain piecing. Instead of pulling each piece off the machine and cutting it free, you simply feed one piece in after another, with only a shy space betwixt. Simple and clever. Good stuff.
Now, how to get rid of that leading tail of thread there?
Easy, leave a piece under the foot! Cut the thread chain off behind it and leave the end piece under for the next time. Now that end piece of fabric is doing the work of holding the thread safely and you have no long tails to fuss with. Not only is this a wonderful convenience, this is a Leader Ender. That spot of fabric will lead off your next work (until you cut it free) and an Ender, too, since it was the last bit from your previous work. Where this gets exciting is when you plan the Leader Ender instead of just grabbing up whatever scrap of fabric you were about to trash. You want that piece to have stitches, why not make it useful? Plan out a quilt or some small project. Cut the pieces for it and keep them in a stack or box to the side of your machine. Then, every time you are working on your real or focus project and need a Leader Ender between your focus pieces (to get the benefits of chain piecing), they are at your fingertips. Using this method, you are saving thread and making a quilt (or other project) all at the same time. It is almost like the Leader Ender project makes itself while you’re doing other things.
This is how you would see it. You’d leave a Leader Ender under the foot from the last time you sewed – at this moment it is an Ender because it was at the end. You’d come in and work on your project, in this picture it is a blue scrap – representative of the blue quilt I should be working on right now. When you’ve used up all your ready pieces of focus project, you slip another Leader Ender at the end of the chain and leave it under the presser foot. Your cut free pieces look like this. You snip off the Leader Ender (which is a Leader now, as it led your sewing today) and put in an the Leader Ender project box, and carry on with your focus project. Get the idea? This is how the wonky blue cabin quilt came in to being; I was using the blue scraps from the baby quilts (real project) as Leader Enders (although I didn’t know they had a name at the time) and *pouf* quilt blocks appeared.
You might be thinking by now, “that is all fine, but what next?”
Eventually, you will end up with a stack of Leader Ender bits put together. You will have to invest a small amount of time with them to prepare them for the next stage. These pieces you see above need a quick press and to have their seams opened.
Then you would pair them up with whatever pieces come next in your pattern or free-formed Leader Ender project and place them in that same basket, ready to slip in when they are needed. Let’s see, I’ve got some black broadcloth over here, let’s use that as part of our Leader Ender project.
Yes, like so. You’d pair and stack and they’d wait for you to sew. You know, I have a scrap of blue over here …
Yeah, that works. Maybe …
Yep, that works, too. This looks decent. Hang on …
Mmhmm, good stripe. Now, let’s add a little more of that black broadcloth around it.
And some edges.
Oh yeah. That looks like a placemat, doesn’t it. You know, I have some leftover batting over there …
Now we’re sandwiched.
Maybe a zig zag down the center to cover up the black thread we’ve used on the white muslin. That’s nice.
Some quick echo quilting lines zipped back and forth. Now I can self-bind it. Wait, remember what I said I wanted to try last time, about using different colored corners on a self bind? I have a small bit of blue here …
Yep, just enough to put on the corners. Now let’s see if I can bind this by machine.
Yep, that worked a charm. Okay, placemat done. Wait I didn’t come down here to work on a placemat, did I? I was going to clean up and work on the blue quilt so I can be ready for workshop building in the warm weather.
What am I up to?
Explaining Leader Enders in chain piecing.
See what I mean about Leader Ender projects practically making themselves?
So now what do I do with this? I know, let’s have a little gift bag giveaway here. It will be a reward for folks who made it through that lengthy post. I’ve got some goodies in a bag and this placemat can be the main piece for it. Leave a comment on this post by April 15th at 2100 MDT. Tax Day deadlines all the way. In your comment, tell me if you found that explanation above helpful; if you think you get the idea of chain piecing and Leader Enders or now. I’ll throw every unique user to enter a comment into the random pull and mail or hand out to whoever wins it. Good luck!
The Standard Fine Print:
You must be a registered user for this blog – because that is how you can make comments! You may have only one entry into this contest. You must either live in a place I commonly drive to or past or be willing to submit a mailing address to me to receive the gift bag if you win. I’m happy to mail the prize anywhere in the world where it is legal to do so. The gift bag contains items I’ve gathered or created (as seen above) which may be desirable, useful, useless, offensive, sublime, or merely silly to you; I make no guarantees to the value, usability or likability of the prize, although they have been historically well received.
Read all about previous contests and giveaways, and prize and gift bags by clicking this link here.