There's a trick to sewing your seams nicely when you quilt, something I didn't know about until a few years ago. What is this trick? Leaders and Enders. Come again? Little scraps of fabric that you start and end your blocks with.
The first few and last few stitches of your block, right where the thread is cut from the machine, always unravel. So you typically lose one to two full stitches...they just unwind. What's the big deal? That 1/8" to 1/4" snippet is now loose and the two pieces of fabric are no longer tightly secured to each other. This can cause your seam allowance to no longer be accurate..that little bit opens up and now your seam allowance is off the tiniest bit. Using a leader will help prevent unraveling as well us any bunching that sometimes occurs on your first block.
Using leaders and enders is so simple. You simply need a small scrap of fabric. The size I prefer is about 1 inch by 1.5 inches. Bigger and you're just wasting thread and time, smaller and it's difficult to get in and cut your block away from the ender.
The leader is the scrap that you use before you sew your block. Sew the leader. Once the leader is past your needle, put your block in place and sew. You will have about a 1/2" link of thread between the two. After your block is past your needle, sew the ender...the scrap you sew after you've sewn your block.
Now cut your block away from the ender. Just leave the ender there, attached to your machine and all of a sudden it has become the leader for your next block. You can just start sewing and repeat this process again and again. If you are chain piecing, which means sewing many blocks that you already have prepped, one after another, with a continuous line of thread then that is the same idea as using L & E's and so you wouldn't need to use leaders and enders, except at the very beginning and end of that chain, as your blocks themselves become the leaders and enders. Use this technique if you are sewing one block at a time.
This is what your block will look like with the leader and ender still attached. I keep my L & E's by my machine so they're within grabbing distance, and when I misplace one, or I throw one away...then I just cut another scrap to make a new one. This process of using leaders and enders will make a big difference in the quality of your blocks.
Thanks for reading!
Part 1: The Basics
Part 2: Measuring and What Kind of fabric to buy
Part 3: How to pick your fabric
Part 4: How to cut your fabric without losing a finger
Part 5: Let's start cutting fabric to measure
Part 6: How to Pin Properly
Part 7: How to press your blocks