Round Robin Quilts Are Just Medallions…

… made by multiple people, rather than just one.

Okay, that isn’t necessarily true. Round robin quilts don’t have to be in medallion form. Sometimes they’re done as strip quilts, and there are other creative variations I’ve seen, too. But usually they are organized in the medallion format, with a central block surrounded by a series of borders.

Lately there have been a lot of views at this blog about round robins, so it seems there is a lot of interest. Perhaps the new year has spurred the beginning of group projects. Indeed, my small quilt group will be starting a new round robin next month. This time we’ll undertake mini medallions!

I posted before about round robin rules my small group used last year. Every group may have different rules to accommodate the skills and preferences of the members. But they all face similar challenges. How do you take what someone else has done, and create a border to support and enhance that work?

If you’re working within a round robin, you probably have some rules. (My sister and I didn’t make any, though, for the quilts we made together.) First and foremost, stick to the rules so you don’t disappoint the other members of your group.

Today I’ll talk about technical challenges.


Many technical problems begin with accuracy. Accurate piecing is important, so your units fit and the next participant starts with a good base. If you need to brush up on your accuracy, check here.

Not everyone does accurate piecing, or your group rules may lead to odd sizes. You might receive a piece with difficult dimensions. Maybe a spacer strip is needed to take it to an easier size for your work. This post has many solutions for border size problems. You’ll see how to create spacer or frame strips, and spacer blocks. You can make lemonade out of lemons!

[Design note: If you create a frame to re-size either the previous work or for your own, you can choose the effect. Should the frame show or disappear? A negative frame, made in a color very similar to an adjacent color, will visually disappear. A positive frame, made in a contrasting color, creates an accent.]

Do you need to trim instead of add? Did your predecessor leave the whole piece a half inch too big, messing with the proportions you need to use? Many times you can get away with trimming evenly from opposite sides, or all from one side if it’s obvious that’s where the problem is. Trimming more than half an inch, though, can mutilate the look. So consider your choices carefully.

It can help to deliberately UNmatch seams. If two adjacent borders are on the same scale, say with patches 4″ wide, the seams better match up. If you’ve had to trim, adjust, or ease, they might not. But if one border has 4″ pieces and the next has 5″ pieces, the seams won’t match up and won’t even look like they’re supposed to. Fudging is easier.

Another technical challenge is how to create a rectangular quilt when a “typical” medallion is symmetrical and square. Or perhaps the center block in your round robin is rectangular, and you want to move the dimensions to square. Both are addressed here, under the Track 2 information. In addition, I discussed sizing issues for a queen-sized quilt here.

A final challenge is making unpieced borders fit. Whether it is an interior border or the last one, if the border is too big, it will ripple and wave. If it is too small, it may pinch the center. The first tip I can give you is, whenever possible, cut your border strips along the selvage. It will be less stretchy and easier to manage. And for a great explanation on fitting, see Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville tips.

Of course, technical issues and design issues are related. If you have a technical problem, the solution needs to work in a design sense, and vice versa. Hopefully these tips and links will help you as you deal with the challenges of your round robin project. Do your best work, and have fun!

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