Saturday, May 14, 2016

"Bonus Quilting", or "The Genius That is Leaders-Enders"

A while after I had started quilting, I started noticing that when I began sewing my piecing, usually when there was a seam at the start, the machine would "eat" my fabric and would bunch it all up and create all kinds of bird nest stuff on the back.  So not cool.  

In my internet travels, I learned about using a "Startie-Stoppie".  This was a scrap piece of fabric which you start sewing with, the "Startie".  Once that fabric goes through, you then chain piece your actual quilt top fabric afterward, and then run another scrap through, stopping your needle in the fabric until you're ready to sew again, the "Stoppie".  This means that any fabric-eating would happen for the scrap fabric, and not for your top fabric, because the thread was already properly tensioned for sewing once it got through the scrap. It also means that you could see any thread tension problems on the scrap before it hit your real project.  Lastly, it saves thread because you are only clipping the length between the chain-pieced pieces, not long tails. WIN-WIN-WIN!!

So I was happily Startie-Stoppie'ing along, clogging up scrap fabrics with thread and tossing them out when they were full.  Until I read THIS LIFE-CHANGING POST by that genius we all know and love, Lori Holt :-).  Go read it now...I'll wait :-)

OMG, right?!?  So basically, instead of using scrap fabric for your Startie-Stoppies, you plan ahead and actually piece another quilt between your main quilt project(s)!!!  Lori mentions fellow genius Bonnie Hunter's book on this subject called "Leaders and Enders", so check out Bonnie's blog "Quiltville" and click on her free patterns, and tutorials and everything else wonderful over there!  She is the queen of scrappy quilting.  I got her book, and it's brilliant!   

So, I planned a super-simple sampler quilt to try out this idea.  I busted out my Sizzix Big Kick machine, my 2 1/2" HST die, and cut up pieces of fabric I got from a Moda Scrap Bag.

This fabric is "Farmhouse" by Fig Tree & Co., and I paired it with Kona "Bone".  Nothing is simpler than HST's, right?  So I settled on a "Shoo-Fly", a 9-patch, a "Friendship Star", and a whirly-gig design that I don't the name of :-).  I think I'll just sew them all together diagonally (like in my colored lay-out in the pic below), but that's subject to change!

I keep all of my Bonus Quilt materials close-by and handy in a little basket next to my sewing machine.  I've been sewing them since December 2015, and they've helped me through 3 quilt tops now, as well as between the borders of my current "Bloom" blocks:

I didn't think to take pics until the heart baby quilt, so here's the Bonus Quilt in action:
Main quilt fabric
And as easy as that, I am now almost done with all of my blocks:

I'm still not 100% sure on the final layout, but I'll have fun playing around with options.  I bought some "Farmhouse" yardage to use as a border, so I'm excited to see how this one ends up.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this method obviously takes longer than just grabbing random scrap fabric for Startie-Stoppies because you're actually having to pre-plan, and you have to pay attention when actually making up your blocks.  But I think that little bit of extra effort to get a super-awesome bonus quilt is soooo worth it, don't you?

I've also heard of quilters working on multiple sections of their quilt top simultaneously with this method.  For example, if planning a 4-patch border, they would do those squares as Leaders-Enders, so when the main quilt top was done, the border would be done, or close to done, at the same time.  Quilters are so brilliant!

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