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!


  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.

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

  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. :)

  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!

  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!

  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 :)

  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!

  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.

  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!

  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!

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


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