The top you see above is part of a round robin project with my small group.
Round robins are a fun way to push your creative boundaries. You work with styles and colors that might be a little uncomfortable for you. You get back your project and see that others have made choices you’d never make. You have to leave a little of your possessiveness behind, because you don’t have a lot of control over the outcome of any of the quilts you work on.
For those who’ve never done one, here are some basics: Each person begins a quilt. Depending on the format of the RR, this might be with a block or a strip. At the first meeting (or exchange) the pieces are shown and passed. The person receiving adds to the quilt top. At each subsequent meeting, the top gets passed to someone else, for as many rounds are defined by the rules. Ultimately the person who began the top gets it back to finish with quilting and binding.
There are all kinds of elaborate rule sets that can be used, and certainly having rules helps group members understand the parameters and expectations.
My small group has nine members. Only three had done round robins before. So people would be less intimidated, we constructed a very loose rule set. That encouraged participation but didn’t lock people into something too uncomfortable.
1) Create a block to be used as the center of your quilt. Minimum size 10″ per side, maximum size 16″ per side. It CAN be rectangular! It can be pieced, appliqued, painted, a pretty panel, whatever you want as long as it fits in that size.
To the first meeting with your block, also bring any scraps, fat quarters, etc., that you would be glad to have included in future rounds. Those who work on your quilt CAN use those pieces or ignore them completely, their choice. Also include a note, if you wish, to specify any preferences, such as “do not use any cat fabric” or “you can use black if it works.” But again, your preferences may be ignored. Part of the pleasure here is giving up control. Really.
2) Border 1. We’ll exchange blocks at the first meeting. There will be 4 borders added to the center block. The FIRST border may turn your block on point and add a border of up to 3″ wide. OR if not turned on point, the first border may be up to 4″ wide.
3) Border 2. Add a border up to 5″ wide. Consider using different borders top/bottom different from left/right, or top/right different from bottom/left. Example: you might want to use 4-patches across the top and bottom, while using flying geese left and right. PLAIN unpieced borders are okay for one or more, too!
4) Border 3. Add a border up to 5″ wide. Consider using applique or curves to break up linearity.
5) Border 4. Add a border up to 5″ wide. This is the last added border. Consider how this border finishes the work.
As you can see, this is more like suggestions than rules. Size limits were put in simply to keep the finished tops a manageable size. Also, we emphasized having fun rather than following rules. After some expressed anxiety about keeping up, we reminded them it isn’t a competition, but a friendship exchange. And we warned everyone many times that they had given up control!
Still, I think everyone was pleased with their finished tops.
In September we’ll present our finished quilts.
This photo is from a RR I worked in a couple of years ago. The top shown here isn’t finished — the group member flaked out on us before the project was done, and we never heard from her again. I’m glad I got a photo of it this far done!
This was the center she brought to the project. I did the first border with cats and tipped shooflies. Another did the clever mouse and yarn, including the black and white stripes on right and top, and another member did the blue, purple, and yellow framing. I really wanted to see the finished product!
Round robins afford a huge amount of flexibility, if your group chooses to allow it. Both groups I’ve worked in did for style. The first group had stricter rules, and perhaps more confident participants. But both have developed some amazing projects that were fun to work on and will be fun to enjoy when done.