Saturday, July 03, 2021

July 2021 Leader & Ender Challenge: FISH SCHOOL!

Hey Quiltvillians!

Are you ready for something FUN??

It's time to kick off this year's Leader & Ender challenge - a fun little unit I'm calling FISH SCHOOL!

Why?  Because put on point they resemble schools of swimming fish - but there is SO MUCH MORE that this little unit offers - let me tell you!

Click HERE for Printer Friendly PDF.

This Challenge will also have a permanent home under the Free Patterns Tab at the top of the blog.

This year's focus for me is the 2'' strip bin!

2'' strips - you are going DOWN!

Over the past several years I tackled down the 1 1/2'' scrap strip drawer during our Checkerboard Rails, Shoo Fly Shoo, and Easy Breezy challenges.

When choosing our challenges, I look first at what needs to go, and then start playing with ideas to put these things to good use.

I want units without too many pieces, that can be cut ahead in small sets (held together with wonder clips is great!) and placed by my machine for quick access.  

For this unit to amount to anything - I need to train myself to USE them in between the lines of chain piecing other things instead of just ending my thread or using a throw away scrap to sew on and off of.

And this applies to folks who have thread cutters on your machines too.  Those cutter blades aren't cheap or easy to replace, and the beginning of your continuing seam will be STRAIGHTER if you have a leader/ender under your presser foot holding place in your machine before you start the next line of piecing. The leader/ender anchors the piecing as you go from one unit to the next, to the next, to the next and so forth.

It all starts with 3 half-square triangle units.

Guess who was helping yesterday as I did step out photos!


My goal is to use my 2'' strips, and I am using my Essential Triangle Tool to cut them in already matched pairs - ready to sew- by having the neutral and colored strips right sides together.

My Fish School blocks measure 3 1/2'' unfinished and will finish at 3'' when I sew them into the quilt.

You want to go bigger?  Go with whatever size you like.  You want to use a different method to make your half square triangles? GO FOR IT.  Those of you with Accuquilt? Make whatever size triangles you want using your scraps in the way that helps you make a dent with them.

To cut with the Essential Triangle Tool:

Place the colored 2'' strip right sides together with the neutral 2'' strip.  Square off one end and turn the end to your left if you are a right handed cutter.  Lefties will cut from the right end, in mirror image of the righties.

Place the 1 1/2'' finished RED LINE for half-square triangles at the upper left corner as shown - placing the line ON the fabric, not above the fabric on the mat.

Pivot the ruler with each cut - 

Keep that red line ON the fabric as you see here.

If you leave your line off the fabric, on the mat, your triangles will come out one line-width too small.

Each Fish School block takes THREE half-square triangles, but since I am making a zillion of these I am going to cut 2 sets from this strip set just to use it up.

My goal is to use THE WHOLE STRIP, not put a shorter strip back in the bin - right?

Two sets of three triangle pairs -

And two scrap corner squares from the 2'' squares bin!

LOADS of variety in my scraps - I love playing with them!

How you leader/ender is up to you.  It's about finding your own rhythm.  I'll show you how to make the block in the traditional way, but you decide how many pieces to feed through your machine at a time as Leaders & Enders.

Stitch the triangle pairs with a slightly scant 1/4'' seam.  Press seams toward the colored fabric. Trim dog ears (ALWAYS!) and measure.  They should measure 2'' square on the ruler.  Trim as needed.

If they are too small, your seam is too wide.  Narrow it down a bit until you find the seam allowance that gives you the unit size that you need.

Double-Split 4-Patch!

These guys go together like this!

I *AM* Using them as leader/ender here!

Or is it that hourglass unit leader/endering the Fish School block?

Join units into rows.  

Pressing on the back side.

Press the bottom row toward the solid square.  Press the top row in the opposite direction so that center seams will nest. Snip the chaining thread in between the two rows if there is one.

(Of course you can press EVERYTHING open all the time if you wish - up to you.)

When pressed this way, the top seam will point UP toward the needle.  This will help you wiggle those two nested seams close together, and the action of the feed dogs will work with you to keep those nested.


Hold the Fish School block wrong side up in this position.  Top and bottom seams will already be heading in the right direction.  With your thumbs, hold the right side seam allowance DOWN, and give the left side seam allowance a little lift.  This allows a couple of stitches in the seam allowance to release in the center of the block unit which eliminates some bulk.

Notice that all seams on this one rotate in a clockwise manner.

If you are joining your fish school blocks to each other, without other units being added - all seams will nest from block to block to block without seams fighting, as long as you assemble them all the same, and all of the seams on the back of the unit spin the same direction.

These will nest to each other because of the spinning seams on the back.

My first 12!

Some of these fabrics are SO OLD - I am happy they are finding a place to land.

Is this a school of fish yet?

I will keep adding to these while working on other projects - stitching them as Leaders & Enders in between other things.  My bin of scraps will go down bit by bit - and I will love pairing the fabrics with each other - 

But remember the other bells and whistles that this unit brings with it?  

What if you are not thrilled about fish?

Twist and turn them for many other layouts!

Because the seams are spun on the back, these will nest together just fine this way!

Or this way!

And even this way!

And here are a few other ideas I came up with:

4 Fish School blocks -

4 Neutral sashes and a colored center!

4 neutral rectangles -
4 flying geese (matching)
and a colored center square.

4 Fish School blocks -
4 neutral squares -
4 grey squares -
and a colored center.

There are so many things you can do with these little units.  Have fun with them.  Play with them. Experiment with them.  Give the odd scraps in your stash a chance to shine.

Not crazy about ALL scrappy everything?  Since it is Independence Day weekend here in the USA, I started thinking of a whole mess of red/white/blue blocks for a patriotic variation.

Choose a color theme.  You don't have to do all scrappy.  Let your imagination run wild!

If you are new here, or haven't been here in a while and came running to see what this year's Leader & Ender Challenge is all about - WELCOME!  I'm happy to see you back!

We are drawing for the winner of Kim Diehl's Gift-Away!

Our winner will receive a signed copy of Simple Whatnots II along with my Quilter’s Tech Set  and  a box of Quilty Pencils for all of the notes you are going to make.  And "for good measure" (HA!) My 2 1/2'' x 6 1/2'' Quiltville Ruler by Creative Grids.

We had 6850 entries!  WOW!

Who is entry 4870?

Congrats Cheryl!

Cheryl, please reply to the email I sent to the address you provided with your entry and I'll get those goodies right out to you!

And THIS is still going on!

The Rivanna + Bitcoin Bundle Gift-Away includes both PDF patterns and a beautiful selection of blue and neutral Fat Quarters from Mary Koval of Mary’s Quilt Shop in Bedford, PA!

Enter to win HERE.

Drawing to happen Monday 7/5/21.

Rivanna, Bitcoin and the Rivanna+Bitcoin bundle are all sale priced (No coupon needed) through Monday, 7/5/2021.

And to Celebrate our long Independence Day Weekend - You will ALSO find the following patterns marked 25% off in the digital patterns section of the Quiltville Store for a very short time!

Prices are already marked 25% off - and the sale is good through Monday, July 5th. The price reverts back to $12.00 each on July 6th, so hurry!

Quiltville Quote of the Day -

Laughter is so good for the soul! And last night our temps dipped into the 40s.....blissful sleep!
Still not sleeping on my back, but one of these mornings I'll wake up and find that I can and I did.
Have a wonderful long holiday weekend USA friends and family!



  1. Thanks for another great leader & ender project. I love that this one has so many layouts! Can't wait to see finished quilts... in due time :-)

  2. thank you Bonnie for Leader and Ender challenges! They spark our imaginations and get the sewing machine whirring!I am off to cut...lets see..which one will I pick??

  3. Thanks, Bonnie, for the new L/E! Looks like Lola was definitely in charge. ;) I ordered the Courthouse PDF pattern 2 days ago and am having so much fun with it.

  4. Thank you Bonnie for this free pattern. Your creativity is endless

  5. Thank you... this block is sooo cute!

  6. Looks like a fun block. I'll have to give it a try. Happy 4th and keep on healing.

  7. This is your best leader and ender block yet! I love it! Thank you so much, Bonnie, for your great generosity and all you do for us.

  8. Gracias por este proyecto, me encanta! Y lo voy a comenzar, tengo sus reglas y les daré buen uso.
    Me alegro que ya esté mejor. Saludos desde España

  9. Bonnie, thank you so much for such a simple "enders and leaders" fun pattern. You are so creative!!

  10. What a great leader and ender block, love all the options you have shown too. Great way to use the toilet paper fabric , I was wondering where you would use it :0) I have so many scraps Yikes I'll have to live forever to use them all up!!! thank you Bonnie for the inspiration once again!

  11. PERFECT L/E I have a tub of hst cut with accuquilt when destashing. JUST need to decide what size or maybe mix them up.

  12. Ooooooh! What fun! Thank you, Bonnie!!!!

  13. I have a bunch of small half-square triangles without a home--perhaps they should go to fish school! :)

  14. I am in love with this leader/ender challenge!!! I have always wanted to do a kids quilt with fish blocks. Will definitely be participating in this one.

  15. Such great ideas - thanks so much!

  16. Thank you and I love all the options for settings. Going to get started on them today. Happy 4th

  17. This is inspiring! Thank you!

  18. Thanks for L/E. Mine will be with 2.5 inch HST and block. I usually make my HST with 3.5 in squares, sew, then trim. That's what works for me. I'm still sewing last years L/E's as I cut so many. Thanks so much.

  19. Fantastic idea. Thank you. Can't wait to start on these blocks.

  20. What a great block to use up all those leftover triangles and HST blocks that I have in my Bonnie Hunter spare parts box (cuz I always make too many)! Thanks so much for all you do.

  21. This is definitely on my to-do list! It spoke to me the instant I saw it. Thank you so much for the pattern.

  22. Just in time!! Finishing up the 2019 (shoo fly) and 2020 Easy Breezy (only discovered your challenges after Unity Medallion last spring) I really like the little scrappy ones that slowly turn into a pile. Well done Bonnie

  23. I love this years leader and Ender project, so many possibilities to use up those 2” strips I’ve been collecting. Thanks Bonnie!

  24. Thank you for a great block and all the options. Pat

  25. I love this. I have so many HSTs of various sizes from the part you cut off from snowballs or when making flying geese. Do we sign up somewhere for this?

  26. Thanks for doing FISH this year! I've loved this block forever and never gotten to it!!! NOW it's the L&E block and there is not excuse. Happy July!

  27. I always enjoy your leaders and enders projects. It's a great experience and nice way to get rid of certain size scraps a little at a time lol. These fish are great!! I can't wait to see some quilts out of them!!

  28. Love the toilet paper fabric!!!!! Do you remember where it came from???? And is it my imagination or what that your color palette has gotten brighter???? Love it!!!!

    1. Found the TP fabric!!!! Etsy store.


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