It seems like I would have posted about this before, but if I did I'm doing a better job this time 🤣 Most quilters will be familiar with the first couple of parts of this tip, but of course I add my own twist!
Here we go: most quilters know about chain piecing, where after each seam, you immediately butt the next piece up to that one and stitch. This saves tons of time and thread, and maybe more importantly, bobbin winding! 😅 It also eliminates the need to hold down your threads at the beginning of every seam to prevent the needle from coming unthreaded...
You may even be familiar with well known quilter Bonnie Hunter's 'leaders and enders' technique. It's the same as chain piecing, except when you get to the end of your batch, stitch onto a random folded piece of fabric, and leave it under the presser foot so it's ready to go for next time. Again, no thread tails to cut off, saves the 3-5 inches of thread that would have been wasted (and since I often do 5 inch seams, that's 50% of my thread that would otherwise be cut off!), bobbin lasts longer, and you don't have to hold the thread ends to start a seam. It saves so much aggravation!
She then takes it a step further, and says why not keep a pile of squares or pieces from another quilt project by your machine, and stitch two of those together instead of just onto a piece of fabric. Brilliant! I made an entire quilt top this way, which was in progress for years, because I kept forgetting about it, but it's done! Except for cutting the squares before hand, the 4 hand applique blocks, and adding the borders at the end, I never spent any dedicated time on this quilt, the whole thing was done as 'leaders and enders' during maaany other projects. Definitely the way to do the tedious tiny squares border! (The center of this quilt came from a magazine years ago, but I have no idea who to credit😢 )
But here's where I add my twist to this idea. While my above lap quilt used up some dark batik scraps, the majority of this is the background fabric. I have waaaaaaaaay too many scraps to use them that slowly 🤣😅 So, I decided to pull out a bunch of coordinating scraps, usually one color family even, and use this concept to do some improv piecing. This has a couple of extra benefits. One, it uses lots more scraps! And two, and probably more importantly for me, is that there is far less prep work to be done. I just dig through a tub for colors I like, then maaaybe iron them, but that's it. And these can be used for lots of things! They make really great borders for panel quilts, or any quilt, and in that case, you just choose a width you are aiming for, and just keep it a little bigger than that, like 4-5 inches wide, and trim it to size later. But they also make great potholders, journal covers, or even a whole quilt background.
To improv piece, just start stitching fabrics together! They don't even have to be cut straight, as long as you sew straight. You can trim after. No accuracy in seam allowance required. Just don't sew two pieces of the same fabric together. After stitching a few, you can recut, like a chunk off of a strip set, and stitch that to another piece.
I started this batch to use on my 2020 exclusive Teresa Ascone panel, Shadow Patterns. I decided I was not happy with the chunk on the right, pieces were too big, and too similar, so I cut it up and I will stitch it back together a different way.
Here are a couple of other improv pieced quilts I have made. On the iris one, I decided the hot pink fabric was contrasting enough that I did choose more carefully where it landed, but otherwise it's pretty random! On the fireweed blossom quilt, even the dark green border and binding are pieced if you look closely!
I hope you will try the beginners and enders trick, you will be hooked! In addition to saving so much thread, time, aggravation, and bobbin winding, you could end up with a project done in barely noticeable nooks and crannies of time! Maybe I'll do another post with more details on improv piecing, of course I have tricks for that too.
Happy sewing! Beret
And remember, these panels and soooo much more are available here on our website 😊
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Click here to see all of our kits, patterns, and panels 😊
Greetings from a freezing cold Fairbanks! We had three days off from our cold snap, but it's back... The Moonshadows card kit was mostly ready last spring, but I decided to wait until winter since it wasn't very 'springy'. And then almost forgot! It's a good one to try if you like the wall hanging but aren't sure about doing it! Or include it if you made the wall hanging as a gift. 😊
Here is the link:
For local people, I also have several classes scheduled. I will put them here with a link to the classes page. The barn wood painting one is really fun, you can invite your non quilting friends too! And any of these can be done with a private group if you'd like, I can do groups of 3-6 for sewing, up to 10 for painting! Just call or email me to set up a time.
These are all one session classes, if it has more than one date, that is a separate class. If you are interested in these, sign up now, or print this off for a reminder! I will send reminders also. (only the next upcoming session will be live for registration... future ones will go up after the previous one is full or happened.)
Quilt Block painting Monday, Jan 20, 6-8pm $36
Monday, Feb. 17, 6-8 pm
Thurs., March 12, 6-8 pm
Monday, April 6, 6-8 pm
Tuesday, May 12, 6-8 pm
Quilted Greeting card class Saturday, Jan 25, 1-4 pm, $25 plus kit of your choice
Saturday, April 18, 1-4
Wall hanging class Saturday, March 21, 10-4, $35 plus wall hanging kit of your choice
Free motion quilting basics Saturday, Feb. 22, 1-4 pm, $25
Saturday, May 16
I love to pass on my enthusiasm for what I do, I hope to see you in one or more of these! Beret
To see all of our kits and patterns, click the photo below:
Beret Nelson's On The Trail Creations Blog Page
I am a homeschooling mom of three fun kids, who are now old enough that I have a little time to pursue my passion for sewing! After several years of making quilted cards and art quilts, I'm now designing kits and patterns. Some of them have even been in Keepsake Quilting! I teach classes at local quilt shops, and am starting to do more traveling and teaching. I also have many tutorials, including some on YouTube. I am blessed to live in Alaska where I am surrounded by the inspiration provided by the beauty of God's creation!
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