One of the tips that I use that makes it possible to get my projects completed quickly is to use Startie-Stoppies. Startie-Stoppies are pairs of layered fabric that are used at the beginning and end of my sewing (pictured below), basically scrap fabric attached at the end of sewing which then becomes the beginning for the next section allowing continuous chain piecing. They eliminate a lot of frustrating situations that often happen when sewing and help me stay organized, efficient with my time and materials, and overall successful without much effort and at no cost. To give an example of how effective this habit is: In Saskatchewan, I spent some time with Jodie Barrows the designer of Square in a Square. We were discussing Startie-Stoppies – she calls them runners. She shared a story about a student of hers that had been the head seamstress for Harrah’s shows in Las Vegas and Reno. As head seamstress, she had many workers under her direction who were taught from the beginning to use these. It was so important that, if she found their machine without one, it was an automatic loss of their job! Now that is important and says a lot about how they improve efficiency and effectiveness of anyone interfacing with a sewing machine.
Over the years since I made this a habit, I have realized that there are many uses for startie-stoppies. Here is a list I came up with for all the reasons why you should use startie-stoppies:
1.) This is a good pre-test that my machine is sewing correctly before I start on my project fabric.
2.) There is rarely a need to lift the presser foot. I just keep sewing...onto the Startie-Stoppie. I clip the work off of the back of the Startie-Stoppie.
3.) On featherweight & similar machines, there is no need to hand-turn the wheel to put the needle in the correct position.
4.) I don't have my needle coming unthreaded, if I didn't pull the threads long enough because I was trying to save thread.
5.) I don't spend time trimming threads because they are not there.
6.) Because the long threads are not there, I don't have them coming through to the front of the quilt, which would create more work at the end.
7.) I don’t have to buy thread as often.
8.) I get to use all of my fabric, even the little bits that would be thrown in the trash. I recycle and reuse my scraps!
9.) I use them to stay organized when piecing rows. There is a Startie at the beginning, my piecing in the middle - in order, and nothing at the end. So if I walk away from the project, I always know where I left off and can easily pick it up again. So I’m spending my time sewing, not trying to figure out where I was. Another way to look at this, I can sew when I only have 10-15 minutes, make progress, and continue later knowing I’m sewing in the right direction.
10.) I use them in between sections to keep them separated. Using a different color than my project makes it easier to distinguish rows/sections.
11.) At times, I have numbered my Startie-Stoppies to keep track of rows, replacing the paper and pin method.
12. Instead of scraps, I can use pre-cut fabrics and make two quilts at once. Rarely am I this organized but Bonnie Hunter has written a book about it, "Adventures with Leaders and Enders".
13. I do not get “bird’s nests” at the beginning because I did not hold the thread tight. (If you are really frusterated by bird's nests, you could call it “bobbin vomit”, as one member did on the www.QuiltingBoard.com forum.)
14. When starting to sew, I have both of my hands controlling my work, rather than having to hold the threads.
15. My bobbins last longer. Enough said!
16. My machine does not get jammed from the threads wrapping around the bobbin case. I remember when I was first learning to sew, this happened invariably at the end of the project. I now realize that I would not grab the threads (because I knew it sometimes worked without holding them) and because I was in a hurry I hit the pedal too hard which pulled the threads down so quickly it caused the machine to jam. I rarely got to sew on my mom's Elna because when this happened she would have to send it in to get it fixed. If I had only learned about Startie-Stoppies back then!
17. I do not have any threads getting caught in the vacuum cleaner head.
18. Thread tails do not show through light fabrics because they are not there.
19. When sewing with my Janome 6600, I use the automatic cutter and then sew onto the Startie-Stoppie, which pushes the work out the back. The first stitch (which isn’t my favorite) is collected on the Startie-Stoppie rather than being in my project.
20. My machine does not “eat” fabrics when I start at a point or bias edge. This is very helpful as I am often working with this type of seam in my 60 degree designs.
21. The machine feed dogs do not wear down the bottom of the presser foot, which puts plastic or metal bits down into the gears causing unnecessary wear. My repair guy, Bob Juenemann at Make It Sew, pointed this benefit out to me when I told him about this concept. He really liked the idea because it would minimize this common problem.
22. When I am feeding my work in, the new pieces feed in easily because the presser foot is already at the level of what I am sewing. This is why they are made using two layers of fabric. I just talked to a student who said she had tried it and didn’t like it, until she realized it was supposed to be two layers. And when I am sewing on my binding, I use thicker Startie-Stoppies to feed the quilt in easily.
23. When the chain piecing is clipped, the twisted threads from the stitches in between keep the end of the seam from separating as easily.
If you have the opportunity to teach anyone sewing/quilting, be sure to teach them to use Startie-Stoppies from the very beginning. They will enjoy their sewing even more (no matter what level of machine they are working with) and find sewing to be a creative outlet throughout their life.
If you come up with another reason why to use these, let us know and we'll add them to our list.