Lessons: Round Robin Books Review

The Quilting Party, Artist Unknown, c. 1840-1850.

I’ve recently provided reviews on almost all the medallion books there are, as well as five books on quilt borders. Before I finish with reviews, I want to include four books I own on collaborative quilting. Two specifically consider round robins, while two are a little different.

Round Robin Quilts by Pat Magaret and Donna Slusser, 1994
It’s surprising how much great information is packed in this older book. It covers round robins as a friendship or small group project. Besides the familiar medallion format, the book suggests a handful of variations. Considerable space is spent discussing options for group rules, including having no rules at all. Photos are abundant of real projects, and while not all the individual projects are inspiring, they give a sense of the possibilities. Besides group dynamics and projects, the authors also cover both design and construction in depth. In fact, the design discussion here includes elements (line, shape, color, value, texture, and space) as well as principles (unity, emphasis, balance, scale, and rhythm.) It is clear, easy to read, and is written with a friendly tone, befitting the projects. I honestly don’t remember where I got this book, but I’m glad to have it. It is one of the best two medallion books I own, along with Sally Collins’ Borders, Bindings & Edges, reviewed here.

Round Robin Renaissance by M’liss Rae Hawley, 2006
As the title says, the focus here is on round robin (group) projects more generally, including medallion quilts, row quilts, samplers, and others. The section on medallions is small and provides two patterns with very specific sizing for elements. The other types of projects seem to be similarly rigid. More disconcerting, though, is the section on behavior by participants. Hawley recommends substantial paperwork be passed with projects, fully-specified fabrics, same-brand rulers to ensure consistency of sizing from all participants… She has a list of rules for how to be a “perfect team member,” and even recommends wording for when you need to tell another member that their work isn’t up to your standards. Honestly, it is just odd. If any group suggested I participate in such a constricted and obsessive way, I would certainly decline. If you want that much control over your quilt, make it yourself! (I just donated this book Monday at my guild meeting.)

Freddy & Gwen Collaborate Again by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, 2009
Following up on their prior book Collaborative Quilting, Marston and Moran play with bright colors, bold designs, and liberated piecing. The range of formats includes block, strip, and medallion quilts. They show how to create the various parts used in multiple quilts, and then include a gallery referencing which parts were used.

The point of the book isn’t actually to advocate for working in pairs or groups. It doesn’t discuss the logistics of collaboration, or the benefits or pitfalls. However, the influence of both designers is visible in the joyful results. In my opinion, that speaks for itself. This book is just fun to look at, which is why I bought it and why I still own it.

Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig, 2001
Of all the books in my personal library, this is one I would reach for if I could only keep ten books. It isn’t about medallions, it isn’t about round robins. It’s about solving problems. Problems that are common for group quilts include blocks that are sized differently, unusual numbers of blocks, and oddly colored blocks. Craig addresses all these issues with creativity and practicality.

For a more complete review, see my post on the best book I don’t own. (I own it now!)

Do you have a favorite book (or other resource) on collaborative quilting? Certainly these just touch on the subject. Block swaps, bees, friendship and album quilts, remembrance quilts, political quilts… There are many ways to work together in quilting. Do you have stories to tell about working with others on quilts? I could tell you stories… 

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10 thoughts on “Lessons: Round Robin Books Review

  1. katechiconi

    For my first time round, the story isn’t finished yet. I suspect many of the blocks our group has laboured to create will sit in a WIP pile for some time, which is why I’m so thrilled when members finish and proudly display their quilts in the F2F gallery. But it’s been enough fun, enough satisfaction, enough learning, and enough pleasure to run this block swap that I’m happily going round for a second go! I’m pretty sure I’d be unable to participate in anything too restrictive, since I don’t enjoy working with fabrics or overall designs I really dislike, but I probably wouldn’t mind specific blocks being requested. Hence my solution: Run your own, and keep the rules few and simple.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’ve had good, bad, and ugly experiences in group projects. And in fact, just plain weird! The project with my local small group is about as good as it gets, but not completely hitch-free either. We’ve gone no-rules this time! 😉

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      1. katechiconi

        There are members who haven’t enjoyed it as much as others, and who aren’t returning for a second round. For some, the lack of rules or exact control over colour is the problem. Others find the necessary accuracy tricky, still others have come to find it a burden. But I’m happy to report that many have found it a delight, an opportunity to build skills, work with colours and combinations they’d never have considered but now like, and a good exercise in focus in a sewing life otherwise surrounded by UFOs and WIPs! It has been a little demanding to run, and I didn’t realise how much prodding and diplomacy would be needed, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and will carry on with it as long as people still want to play.

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        1. Melanie McNeil Post author

          The accuracy (of others) used to bother me a lot, but I just roll with it now. When making a group block quilt, I’ve found that framing around all the blocks with the same fabric as the sashing will allow equalizing the sizes, and the framing completely disappears and no one is the wiser. That is a Sharyn Craig trick.

          For round robin medallions I figure I’ll just do the best I can, trim prior work if I need to, or frame it if I need to build it out, or make a border that just isn’t dependent on sizing very much. And then I assume that most of those adjustments will disappear in the total look. It works better than fretting a lot about sizing, as I used to do.

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  2. Cjhaab

    Another great book which I think could be well adapted to group collaboration is Quilt Challenge: “What If” Ideas for Color and Design (July 14, 2009) by Pamela Mostek and Sharyn Craig. They discuss working with blocks passed on by a group member or members, as well as how they each responded to various challenges, and showing lots of resulting quilts by other friends who followed the same challenges. The challenges include parameters such as block pattern, color palettes, using a focus print, or other “rules” and the authors encourage your group to make up their own set of design challenges.

    While not really “round robin” method, I like this book very much for sparking inspiration that such great quilts can result from a group responding to and communicating within the creative atmosphere of an inspiring challenge. Frankly, this book has a fairly uninspiring cover illustration (unique among quilt books which usually have the best or only attractive photo on the cover) so if you pick it up, I hope you are pleasantly surprised by the contents.

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  3. tierneycreates

    Thanks for the book reviews. My fellow local SAQA members, Wendy Hill and Pat Pease have a book Creative Quilt Challenges where they talk about passing a piece back and forth without talking/discussing, that is a cool challenge. Oh I have met Freddy Moran a couple of times and any book by her (and Gwen Marston) is awesome!

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