Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Top Spin {a la Leaders and Enders} + Ten Tips Tuesday

Do you ever see a new quilt pattern and think for a second and then immediately decide that you have to make it? It happens to me once in a while and it happened over the summer with Melissa Corry's Top Spin pattern on Moda Bake Shop.

I decided to convert this into a leaders and enders project. For those of you unfamiliar with leaders and enders, Bonnie Hunter has written multiple books based around leaders and enders projects, and has a good explanation of the process on her blog.

To start off, I pulled a three yard cut of a floral hydrangea and leaf print that has been languishing in my stash as my inspiration/backing fabric. I pulled out all of my green, pink, and purple scraps from my color-sorted scrap boxes and cut as many squares in the various sizes as I could. This pattern calls for 6", 5", and 4" colored squares.

Here's what I was able to cut from one pass through my scrap boxes as well as my inspiration fabric:


While what I've started off with won't get me anywhere close to a full quilt, it's at least a starting point for this quilt. For now my plan is to start sewing all of the half square triangle units with what I have cut, start assembling blocks with the units I have, and then keep repeating the process until I get the size quilt that I want. I'm planning to make a baby sized or throw quilt rather than a bed sized quilt.

Here's the large and medium sized HSTs that I have sewn and trimmed so far:


Here are some of my tips thus far on the leaders and enders (L&E) process and "controlled scrappy" quilts:

  • Your choice of L&E project really makes an impact on how easy it is to work L&E into your normal sewing. For me, I'm just making HSTs, and having my squares pre-paired next to my sewing machine has made it much faster and easier. 
  • I'm still finding myself falling into the habit of cutting my threads as normal sometimes, but any little bit of thread saving does help. It's becoming more and more natural.
  • I'm actually not sewing both sides of my HSTs at once -- I do one side at a time so I am not going through units quite as fast.
  • For a scrappy quilt, it has become obvious what colors I need to add in each size. I have a ton of purple in all three sizes, a fair amount of pink in each size, and a lot of green in the smallest size, while having none/hardly any in the large and medium sizes. I will likely comb through my larger scraps and cut a lot more green and some additional pink squares.
  • This is most certainly what I would call a "controlled scrappy" quilt in that it has a specific color scheme and there were pinks, purples, and greens that I chose not to use in this quilt. I haven't decided yet if I will cut into my inspiration fabric or not -- I have three yards of it, but that could cover nearly all of the back and the binding for a small quilt.
  • While cutting all of my squares, I pulled out one color at a time from my scrap boxes and then sorted out any pieces that were too small or the wrong color. With what was left, I ironed each piece and laid it out on my cutting board to get an idea of the size and tried to maximize how many squares I could cut. Typically, this involved cutting 6 inch squares, then 5 inch squares, then finally 4 inch squares. 
  • Sometimes I could cut just 4 inch squares from a piece, some pieces I cut multiple 6 inch squares. I didn't try to cut an equal number of squares in each size, I just tried to maximize how many squares total I was cutting and minimizing waste.
  • I find it is almost always helpful to cut a fresh edge when pulling things from your scrap bin. Even if it is a 1/16th of an inch, a nice fresh edge is always easier to align with your ruler.
  • Recently, I started a "scrap bag" where I put all of my small scraps -- including things under 2 inches wide, the last small piece of a particular fabric, etc. Having this separate from my scrap bins has made it quick and easy for anything that calls for strings or small scraps. (It is literally a gallon sized kitchen bag, totally not glamorous!)
  • I usually sew with cone thread but I usually have a "bobbin cone" so I don't have to unthread and rethread my needle and machine. I do my best to fill a few bobbins at a time so I don't need to stop mid-project. When sewing scrappy, I often use off-white thread.
Have you worked with leaders and enders before? Do you have any tips for me? 


Sharing at Tips and Tutorials TuesdayLet's Bee Social, and Scraptastic Tuesday!

11 comments:

  1. Great tips for scrappy sewing. One other thing I do with leader/enders is cut 3-inch high scraps in random widths to use as scrappy borders. Love your colors.

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  2. Excellent post! I accomplish sew much when doing leader/ender projects.

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  3. Great tips and thanks so much for linking up, Alison. I have yet to really do a L&E project, so I don't have anything I can add. I do like all the tips you have and I am hoping you can save that yardage for backing and binding. :)

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  4. Good Morning, Alison! Although, I am familiar with Bonnie's Leaders and Enders process, I have never tried it. Although, I did create a storage system for my scraps, after reading Bonnies post about her process and why she finds it important. I had planned on using the pre-cut squares as L&E but did not. I have been thinking about it a lot lately and after reading your post and a few others, I do believe today is the day to begin. Thank You for sharing your tips, they will help me right away. Have a fantastic creative day!

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  5. Thank you for the link to that project! It's the perfect solution for a mountain of HSTs in various sizes I've been accumulating for years. I didn't know what to do with them, because there's nothing to unify them ... until now! Thank you so much!

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  6. I love the leader/ender concept and it has changed how I do everything in my sewing room. I think being organized is the key. I always have a pile of pieces sitting to the right of my machine for one of my leader/enders and always have something under my needle when I start and stop sewing for the day :)

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  7. I feel like I work with L&Es about half the time. I'm making a postage size scrap quilt with mine, and it's really slow going, mostly because it involves a lot of cutting, and I'm trying not to replicate fabrics too much. But I do enjoy it! And I think yours will turn out fun, woo!

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  8. I couldn't sew without useing L&E these days. I've done it for so long, it's hard to make myself sew without the process. You've got some great tips.

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  9. I have tried L & E but I tend to forget to use them, I have an auto cutter on my DSM and I am in the habit of using it. But I should get our my sqs. for 4 patches and try again!

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  10. Well said, Alison -- after 30 plus years of chain-stitching and using "sew-offs" can't imagine stitching without them! And it saves a huge amount of thread -- by my calculations perhaps as much 25% of a spool of thread plus there is barely any clean-up of renegade thread tails necessary!

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  11. Brilliant organisation - you will soon have your blocks finished I think. Thanks for linking up to #scraptastictuesday! !

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