Thursday, November 16, 2017

Filler Projects

Do you have filler projects? I know most of us work on more than one quilt at a time, but I mean projects that just fill in the space (or time) in between “real” projects.

For instance, I have a bag of “hexies” in my car in case I get stuck somewhere (no, not at a traffic light – although I have thought of it from time to time) with no escape.

My mother was a wonderful seamstress and made most of our clothes. Because she had a large industrial machine for making canvas bags for a local company, I didn’t learn to use a domestic machine until I joined 4-H. Although it was my neighbor (Arzetta Poole) who taught me how to hand piece and applique, it was my 4-H leader (Lois Dodge) who taught me how to use a machine.

Mrs. Dodge was a true Yankee and a very “tidy” person. I learned right from the start to always run a scrap piece through my machine to save thread and to keep the floor clean! It didn’t take me long to figure out that what I was wasting was time and fabric scraps. So, I started cutting out quilt pieces to leave by my machine and I would run one or two of them through instead of just a scrap piece. Now I call them my “feeder” blocks. Bonnie Hunter calls these “leaders and enders” and  has written some wonderful pattern books on the subject.

During the 9 months I was piecing my Dear Jane blocks I made 120 - 3” nine patch blocks as a feeder project. These are now being bound for another potholder quilt and I have a bag of these that I use as filler work. 
Since I am using the same background for all the little circle blocks, I load up the hoop with 4 at a time and just cut them apart and bind them after they are quilted.
These are easier than my Dear Jane blocks as the backings are all the same too. 
I have a nice tidy box full of things to do when I am too tired to think of anything else!

Currently at my machine, I have 1 ½” squares from my friend Cyndi (Busy Thimble) that I will use as 4 patches in an upcoming quilt.

I really get in a panic if I don’t have one or two feeder projects cut and ready to go. 

Do you?


  1. You know I don't quilt, but I so enjoy looking at your wonderful box of squares! What a great way to use your pieces. :)

  2. whenever I have a leader project I end up wanting to make it right then and there and after a couple weeks it turns into a major project and then I don't have a leader project, while I am working on my birds I thought I should have a new leader project but I'm afraid it will take me over and then I won't get back to my birds LOL - love your box, so neatly organized - i need organization too I can't sew in a mess

  3. Wow--you are doing a potholder quilt with 3" squares? It will be amazing, but I have to admit that what went through my mind when I read that was, "That is a lot of binding!!"
    When I am sewing along and realize I have run out of my leader/enders, I have been known to sit helplessly for a minute or two, as if I don't know what to do. Then I finally gather my wits and get up and find something to serve the purpose. There is usually always something tucked in the sewing room somewhere that can do the job.

  4. LOVE your filler projects, Wendy!
    As to me, I've just started appliqueing "hartjes" (little hearts) on 2"1/2 squares ("Supergoof" pattern - Holland). It's so nice, having Something aside to keep our hands busy in between bigger projects :D

    On another note, I'm in awe with your potholder quilts, for a long time now, and I still Wonder how to proceed. Is there an existing tutorial, somewhere ?

    THANKS for the inspiration !
    In stitches,

  5. I'm at that point right now at home that there are no leader/ender projects prepped, sadly. That won't be the case for very long though!

  6. What a wonderful and delightful post today! I don't like having idle hands either so there are several project laying around the house for me to work on if I'm not downstairs in the sewing studio. I have a container full of triangles cut from binding which I used to "lead" and after reading your post, I'm thinking maybe I should sew two triangles together to make some wonky HST now. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Years ago a guild I belong to did 4” pumpkin seed blocks to exchange. I like the hand work so much I kept making them. I now have 120 blocks and am still making them. When I made my clamshell quilt, I saved the 1/4 circle pieces that you cut off of either side of the clam. I used those to sew together as fillers. I trimmed them into circles and am appliquing them to little squares. Between the circles and pumpkin seeds I figure I have the beginning makings for a medallion quilt. Those would make great borders.
    I love all your little filler projects. Idle hands are the devils workshop.

  8. I have a question that's a bit off-topic. What are the characteristics of a "true Yankee"? I have an endless fascination with learning the different characteristics of the inhabitants of each state - their unique food, patterns of speech and lifestyle. I've never been to Maine but I imagine how hardy Mainers must be because of the weather but I think you were referring to being frugal. Are their other traits?

  9. Also I agree with Nadine. I'd love to try making a potholder quilt also. I wish you had a video course on Craftsy or Craft University. Have you ever thought about that?

  10. I love the backing fabric in your hoop - I think I might have some of that fabric.

  11. Love your "filler" projects. I usually have something going, but right now I don't! And when I was stitching today, I felt guilt! Hahaha. I need to do some planning. What size are your hexies?

  12. I've got to take the time to organize an inbetween project. I feel motivated, thanks.

  13. My DJ blocks for me ! And I still have 47 to do !
    I love your hexies Wendy !!

  14. I have a quilt friend in Illinois who knits at stop lights and trains. lol
    Thanks for the great photos of the potholder project. I love seeing how you do it! you are a wonder of produciton

  15. Hi Wendy,
    Like you, I have a fear of being stuck somewhere without something - anything, really - to work on. I keep a hexie project for our rving. I tend to view my projects as intensive or not intensive. Sometimes you need a break from the intensive ones. As usual, I love all your projects and your perfect workmanship.

  16. I have a handquilting project at home, nothing much for my car or appointments.

  17. I think my applique works as filler most of the time. And yes, I definitely get panicked when there is nothing all prepped and ready for hand work! So far I haven't done any hexies, but I keep looking at them and dreaming a little. I'm sure they'll show up sometime in the future!

  18. You're working on some great filler projects! I've never have been able to sew in the car or anywhere else other than my sewing room, family room chair, or on the sofa at the cabin. And sometimes that's a problem. I sew blocks early in the morning and quilt in the evening to keep the momentum going.