Ask Jo: Leaders and Enders

Every so often blog readers ask questions that I think other readers might want to know the answers to.  I answer them here on the blog.  Today is one of those days.

I recently got a question from Marilyn.  She asked:  “Please tell me what leaders and enders are.”

Oh Marilyn..Do I ever have a treat for you…Honestly when I learned about leaders and enders a whole new world of sewing opened up for me.  Leaders and Enders are the brain child of Bonnie Hunter.  I first learned about them from reading this post from Bonnie’s site.

Here’s how I’ve been using idea lately.  I’m working on Rick Rack Nines.  It’s a Bonnie Hunter quilt from her book Adventures with Leaders and Enders.  I have this bucket of units that I’ve sewn together.  My intent is to make them into nine patches.


I am also working on sewing together some pick snowball rows together.


As I’m finishing the row I just grab two of the units that I’m sewing together for Rick Rack Nines and chain piece them on after the pink snowballs.  This was I don’t have to stop and clip threads or lift the presser foot.  I just grab a couple of these units and keep sewing…Now the newly created unit is an “ender”.  It ended what I was sewing.


Now I clipped the pink snowballs off and want to add another row.  I leave the newly sewn “ender” there and start up my chain piecing with the snowball rows.  The “ender” is not “leading”.


I sew the snowball row on.  Then when I get to the end I clip off my unit and sew on the next segment.


I sew on the next snowball row and there on the end is my finished block.


That’s one block done for my quilt.  I love this process.  It’s kind of like sewing two projects at once.  Typically I have a main project that I’m sewing on (or two) and I have a bucket of something that I’m gradually sewing together as a leader and ender.  I love the process.  There is MUCH less thread that’s wasted…There are fewer threads that need to be trimmed later.  Another project makes progress while I am sewing on the main project.  I especially like this process when I’m sewing a project I am not excited about.  Then I make sure the “leader and ender” project is something I love.  I’ll admit that seeing the progress on my loved “leader and ender” project pushes me to work on the not so loved project.

Bonnie Hunter has written two books based on this idea.  Adventures with Leaders and Enders and also More Adventures with Leaders and Enders.

I’ve NEVER done a whole quilt this way.  Typically what happens is that at about half way through my “leader and ender” project just takes over and jumps into the main project.  I get too excited about it and am not patient enough to work slowly on it.

The Rick Rack Nines has been a “leader and ender” for a long time.  I likely started working on it about two years ago.  It now is to the point that I think it’s ready to jump into center stage.  I can always tell a project is getting to that stage when I start “cheating”.  I start running ten segments through the machine at the end of my main project.  That has been happening a lot with this project lately.

Like I said at the beginning, I love this process and has very much changed the way I sew.  I LOVE it.

5 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Leaders and Enders”

  1. I love sewing this way! It’s like making a quilt while I’m not watching! I made my grandsons graduation quilt this way and used many fabrics from quilts I’d made for his family. That way he will always have his family with him.

  2. Susie at ProsperityStuff

    Great description of leaders & enders! I was delighted to discover the concept a few years ago. Like you, I’ve started several quilts this way, then finished the quilts the “regular” way, excited to “suddenly” be halfway done!

  3. This method an the scrap user’s system also re-engerized my passion for quilting. I had become overwhelmed by projects and stash and scraps. I am more productive now and working to get scraps under control. I have made several scrappy quilts and will continue to work the system. Love seeing a pattern in a magazine and not have to cut scraps for it.

  4. Pardon me if this is a silly question, but wouldn’t this method work with pieces from the actual project you are working on?

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