Friday, January 14, 2011

Three Secrets to Making Free Quilts

*To begin the new year with one of my favorite quilting hints, I'm republishing this post from last spring for anyone who needs a refresher or has not heard about using leader/enders to make Free Quilts. 


FREE!  What word grabs your attention more than that one!  What if I told you that I often make Free Quilts? Yep, it's true. They don't cost me extra money OR time.  Wanna see one?
Here you go........................

I just finished sewing the blocks together on this one and am getting the backing and binding ready so that I can get it finished up.  This little Green Zebra is my latest creation for the orphanage in Rwanda.  Friday, my friend ,Susan ,and I spent a happy day chatting and sewing  for our 30 little friends in Africa. My quilt cost me nothing.  If you would like, I'll be glad to share my Three Secrets to Making Free Quilts. Listen closely!

SECRET #1: Save your scraps.  Don't throw them out.  When you finish making that gorgeous quilt for which you happily shopped for the perfect fabric, take a few minutes to cut the scraps into squares and strips.  I generally cut both 2" and 2.5" squares and throw them into containers for each.  I also cut 3 sizes of strips from the leftovers and save them in plastic containers.  The sizes I cut are 1.5", 2", and 2.5". These fabrics are the main ingredients for your free quilts.

Once you catch the habit of cutting up and organizing your scraps you will realize how easy it is to use them to quickly piece some fun scrappy quilts.                       




There is no magic to my strip and square sizes.  They just seem to work for me, but you could cut up smaller or larger pieces.








SECRET #2: Use chain piecing when you sew patches and blocks together when making a quilt.  Chain piecing involves feeding the fabric pieces one after the other while sewing, without raising the pressure foot.  This technique saves time and thread plus prevents that irritating glob of thread that sometimes forms when you first start sewing two pieces of fabric together. (You know what I mean, I know you do!)




You can make your "chain" as long or short as you want. After chaining the pieces together it is easy snip them apart with scissors.  I sometimes take the whole chain to the ironing board and press the seams before cutting them apart.





SECRET #3: I saved the best for last.  This one is worth it's weight in gold and is the key to making the Free Quilts without adding any extra time.  If you use this secret, you can make one or more extra quilts every year without adding any more sewing time. I am currently working on my 3rd Free Quilt this year and it is only the first week of May!
Are you still reading?.....Here it is: Use leaders and enders when you quilt.  Always.
Always. Always.

I used to just sew across scraps of fabric over and over until they were thick with thread and then throw them away and start over with another scrap.  Then Bonnie Hunter from Quiltville suggested actually sewing 2 pieces of fabric together as a leader/ender and using those pieces to later make another quilt.  I decided to try it and that's how I got started cutting up my scraps.  Using leaders and enders is like continuously chain piecing.  There is aways (well, almost always) fabric left under my pressure foot like the picture above.


An "ender" is simply fabric that you sew over at the end of each chain. The needle stays in the fabric ender and the blocks behind it are snipped off and used.  The ender then becomes a "leader" as you begin sewing together the next series of blocks or whatever you are sewing. At the end of the chain you would again sew over an "ender" and leave it under the pressure foot. This technique is repeated over and over as you make a quilt.
Leader/Enders can be whole blocks you are creating, if you want.




Eventually, you will have a pile of blocks sewn together like this.  You could sew them together to make 4-patches or add another square to each and make 3 in a line to be sewn into 9-patch blocks.  My current leader/ender project involves using rectangles as the leader/ender to make coins for a coin quilt.  Essentially, I am always making two quilts at once.  I don't feel that it adds any extra time because I would be using a leader/ender anyway instead of always having to trim away the thread ends if I only sewed one block at a time.  Here are some of the blocks I have made using this technique.


As you can see, I often sort through my squares and am intentional about which ones I use for leaders and enders.  If I need more squares in a certain color range, I dig into those strips from Secret #1.


Fabric is expensive. I'm addicted to it, as I've admitted before, so I want to use it wisely.
By utilizing these Secrets, I am able to create fun, colorful quilts to bless others and to satisfy my love of creating.

With a little advance planning you, too, will be ready with blocks to create a gift for the neighbor who just had a baby or perhaps a cuddly quilt for a child on the other side of the world who need to know that someone, somewhere cares. Give it a try! You're gonna love it, I promise!

If you decide to join me in making some Free Quilts, send me a picture of your project.  I'd love to see it!  I leave you with one last picture of one of my favorite Leader/Ender Free Quilts.
It's called Color Box

Doesn't it just make you smile?!

30 comments:

  1. Fantastic! I will use your secrets. Thanks for sharing and good work.

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  2. I love how your "free quilt" turned out. Thank you for sharing your tips. I really like the Leader and Ender one.

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  3. What great tips! Thank you!

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  4. I have *just* discovered Leaders and Enders, and I've used up a stash of 2" squares intended (long ago) for a water colour quilt that's never going to happen. They're going to be a charity quilt soon. Next up: my brights. Thanks for your tips for cutting scraps into strips and squares. I'm still trying to figure out which sizes will work best for me.

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  5. What a great post, Carla! I promise to organize my scraps, I promise to organize my scraps...if I can get a free quilt that looks as great as yours, I PROMISE to organize my scraps! :-) Thanks for the super tips!

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  6. You have my attention! Your free quilt looks great... certainly not free. ;)

    This makes me actually want to organize my scraps!

    Jennifer :)

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  7. I also organize my scraps and find that I use them frequently!! Thanks for all those great tips! Your FREE quilts are super!!!

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  8. Stopped by after seeing your blog mentioned in quilt home newsletter!! Fun tips!! Thanks!!
    Blessings,

    KT

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  9. found you from the quilt home newletter, congrats! I do this too! steps 1, 2, 3. Just never got around doing a post on it. Now I don't have to I can just refer over to you. I cut my squares into 1.5" squares and make a 16 patch block. I don't cut the big pieces, save those for small projects, but the little bits, oh yes. I don't have enought for a quilt yet, maybe a dolly one. I plan to use a Kona cotton white for sashing/borders. The other thing I do is put the lengthwise(no stretch) grain together to sew first, then the crosswise(has a little more give) grain so I can match the seams, I know a little AR, but I like my work to look the best it can LOL

    What a way to bless your friends in Africa.

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  10. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your tips and for your thoughtfulness for the children who will surely love the quilts!

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  11. Who knew?!?! Certainly not me...but now that I do I'm going to get going on my first leader/ender project! Thanks so much - you have inspired me! xo, Nan

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  12. Your post is great, and after just one weekend of sewing I already have my first block made out of leaders and enders!

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  13. Like you, I've taken inspiration from Bonnie and am saving my scraps. You have made some lovely and colorful quilt from yours - truly inspirational!!
    I need to be better organized about doing leaders and enders, too...
    ; )

    Marit

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  14. I remember this, and it's so good to get a refresher! Quilts are looking great! Are you staying warm??

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  15. Your quilts are always sooo pretty!!

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  16. Wow, I love your color box quilt. This is an awesome post to read and learn a lot from. Thank you.

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  17. AWESOME post! I am so excited and inspired! THANK YOU!!!!!

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  18. Carla, I am happy to report that I'm working on my first Leaders and Enders quilt. I took your Ten Minute Tip to heart! As soon as I saw your Color Box quilt, I hacked into my scraps and got organized. Now that we've settled in Cali, I'm working them into my sewing. It's coming along!! Thanks for sharing this.

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  19. Carla, great post! Great tip. Also, can anyone join your quilt4hope? I think it's a great cause and I love making quilts; so it would be perfect. Please let me know.

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  20. Hello! This is brilliant. I, like you, have been using leaders and enders for quite some time, but I always used the scraps and just sewed through one layer. I have scraps set aside waiting for the time to complete into 9 patch blocks. Thanks to you, I just found the time. And the only thing as great as free quilts is found time. :-)

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  21. I love your colour box quilt.

    I wasn't even sure what leaders/enders were; now I see they can be very practical!

    I'm sewing string quilts from scraps at the moment but I guess that deosn't stop me using leaders and enders, does it?

    I save my "scraps" as strings (under 6", 6"-15" and over 15"), pieces, crumbs and triangles. Pre-cutting squares is another great idea! Thank you!

    PS I came in from Amy's blog.

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  22. if i can post a comment in atom feed, can i also receive the blog in atom feed? that's my preference.

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  23. Indeed it does make me smile : )

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  24. I've heard of leaders and enders but wasn't quite sure how it worked. Thank you for your wonderful explanation.

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  25. I am sold on this idea. Shall immediately put it to practice.:)

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  26. Thanks for then tips! I love the color box quilt. Do you share any tutorial for this? :)

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  27. I love the green and white striped fabric used in your Free Quilt. It is a cheery, fun looking fabric. Very nicely done! Great tips also! Sew Silly Paula from Topeka, KS

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  28. I love the green and white striped fabric used in your Free Quilt. It is a cheery, fun looking fabric. Very nicely done! Great tips also! Sew Silly Paula from Topeka, KS

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  29. I love the idea of cutting scraps BEFORE adding them to the bins. I can see how scraps are much more usable that way. Great ideas - thanks for sharing!

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