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SHOP TALK: Using Leftover Scraps
by April Henry

Welcome back to Shop Talk here at The Featherweight Shop! We love our local chit chat with staff, gathering around the dinette table so-to-speak (because that is what we have!) and sharing with one another. In these segments, we exchange patterns, recipes, organizational ideas, history quips, crafty projects, and smiles about learning an old-fashioned way of doing things. Shop Talk is the fun tidbits of news!


What paint is to the painter, fabric is to the quilter.  Every single fabric print is like a new color to the quilter's palette, with each one being unique for making many, many quilts.  But, what do you do with the leftover scraps after making a quilt?  You know, the fabric pieces that have really special colors and prints and are not too small yet to throw away?  

Well, how about making, what I like to call, a "Background Quilt"?  It's a quilt you make "in the background" while sewing another quilt.  For example, after sewing my pineapple quilt, I had over 1000 triangle pieces of various sizes leftover that were already facing right side to right side, ready to sew together.  Using these triangle pairs as a leader and ender while chain-piecing another quilt now allows me a stress-free quilt to be made in the background.  

Leaders & Enders when sewing on a Singer FeatherweightI had quite a few triangle pieces leftover after sewing this quilt!
500+ prints and 500+ yellow solid

The quilt design above is called Scrap Apple, and since the quilt was made, the pattern has been revamped and reprinted in a larger block size and included in Lori Holt's fabulous book, Scrappiness is Happiness!

It's a fantastic pattern and the book is phenomenal!

What's a leader and ender?  A "Leader and Ender" is a term given to the pieces sewn at the beginning and ending of sewing a seam.  These are most commonly used when sewing a collection of seams, as in chain-piecing.  Leaders and enders serve three purposes:

  1. They help keep your thread pulled back and under the presser foot
  2. They help prevent thread jams because the thread tails are held taut.  This means they are less likely to get pulled under to form a knot in the seam or jam the thread behind the bobbin case and hook assembly.
  3. They conserve thread because there are no long thread tails.

 Leaders & Enders when sewing on a Singer Featherweight

This is a generous stack of leftover triangles from the Pineapple Quilt.

Leaders & Enders when sewing on a Singer Featherweight

After chain-piecing several quilt pieces together, I end the chain by sewing a pair of leftover triangles, leaving the sewn triangles under the presser foot.

Leaders & Enders when sewing on a Singer Featherweight

Snip the little chain piece behind the sewn triangle and now the machine is ready to lead a new series of chain-piecing.  This end piece will actually be the leader when I sew again.

Repeat this process until all triangles are sewn.  You can either use the triangle pieces to begin sewing a "foreground quilt" or continue piecing them using the leaders and enders concept until the background quilt is all finished!  I haven't decided yet what quilt design or pattern I will make with these, but I will show progress from time to time so you can see how this Background Quilt is coming along.... with hardly any effort or extra time!

Leaders & Enders when sewing on a Singer Featherweight

Leaders & Enders when sewing on a Singer Featherweight