Tag Archives: Collaborative quilting

Playing in the Leaves

If you’re a Northerner, you might remember playing in the leaves when you were a kid. There’s still great satisfaction in raking the yard and pulling pillowy piles of leaves together, the kinds of piles a child could disappear in. Watch this video to see the fun to be had in the leaf pile.

I’m not doing that. A) it isn’t Fall yet, and B) I’d probably break myself trying to breakdance like that!

But I am playing a little bit, both inspired and motivated by my sister. Recently she asked if I wanted to make 15″ blocks with her. My first reaction was that the blocks were too big and I didn’t know if I could make blocks that size! My second reaction was that we could make blocks that big, as well as some that are 6″, 9″, and 12″, and then make ungridded quilts of multiple block sizes. She bought in to that idea, and we started to make a plan.

I’ve always loved quilts with multiple block sizes. However, aside from dozens of medallion quilts, Stars for Nora is the only other multi-sized block quilt I’ve made.

Stars

Stars for Nora. 42″ square. August 2016. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The quilts that caught Sister’s fancy were made from maple leaf blocks. Have you ever made them? I made my first maple leaf blocks for a round robin quilt, in 2007, the first year I was in quilt guild. The maple leaves and setting triangles were already assembled when it came to me. I added the squares on point and outer border that you see here.

I didn’t make the 6″ maple leaf blocks in the center. But I was so sure the quilt needed more of them that I made another dozen to send on to the next quilter. (I don’t have a photo of the finished quilt. It was fabulous, and my blocks got used as I hoped.) I also made several to keep for myself. Those maple leaves became placemats for both my sister and me.

Together, she and I also made this table runner. The blocks were mine and she did the setting, and she quilted it. I use it in autumn in my dining room.

And if that wasn’t enough, we also made a quilt for our brother and his wife, in 2012.

It makes me laugh to realize that all the maple leaf quilts I’ve made have been projects with other people. Playing in the leaves is more fun when you have company.

We’re making maple leaf quilts. We had to hash out some parameters for colors, backgrounds, and level of scrappiness. We’ll each make four 15″ blocks, four 12″ blocks, and eight each of 9″ and 6″. Spacers will be required to fit them together, as in Nora’s star quilt above. Later in the Fall she and I will get together and assemble parts into blocks into tops.

This project certainly wasn’t my top priority. I have five unquilted tops with backs, ready to go when I am. I have another several projects already started. I’m inspired to begin a guild challenge project for next July, something I’ll talk about in a different post. (Kerry Sanger, I may be bouncing thoughts off you for that one!) No, this wasn’t my top priority. But it’s got me excited. Inspiration (thank you, Sister!) has dragged Motivation and Energy our of the corners, and chased Focus down to join the group.

Here are my first two 15″ blocks.

Sister and I have different taste in fabric, though it overlaps quite a bit. If I had to guess, she probably hasn’t bought any 1800s repros for a decade. I still find some useful for both “old-fashioned” quilts as well as more contemporary uses. She likes busy background fabrics, and that’s harder for me. The overlap in what we like should make her blocks meld well with mine.

I’m looking forward to fun playing in the leaves.

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… 

The Astronomical Star Challenge Quilts

You may remember that astronaut Karen Nyberg invited all of us to join her in making a quilt.

The resulting quilts were displayed at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Now blogger Cindy Campbell has graced us all with photos of the quilts made with those blocks. In total, 28 quilts were made in a 8×10 block format, using 2,240 blocks. Hundreds more were submitted and not set into quilts, because they arrived late or were mis-sized.

Did you submit a block? Check Cindy’s post for photos of all 28 quilts. Big thanks to Cindy for posting these photos.

The Astronomical Star Challenge

Astronaut Karen Nyberg has invited all of us to join her in making a quilt! From NASA’s press release in October:

International Space Station Expedition 37 Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg of NASA, a lifelong lover of sewing, is inviting fellow crafters to join her in stitching together a global community space quilt.

Nyberg, who is in the final weeks of her mission aboard the orbiting laboratory, recently shared a star-themed quilt block she was able to complete during her limited free time in space. She is now inviting quilters from the public to create their own star-themed quilt blocks to help celebrate her mission and passion for the quilting arts.

“Now that I’ve tried my hand sewing in space, I can say one thing with certainty: it’s tricky,” Nyberg said in a video sent down from the space station. “This is what I’ve made. It’s far from being a masterpiece, but it was made in space. I’m inviting all of you to create your own star-themed quilt block. We’ll be combining them with my block to create a quilt for next year’s 40th anniversary International Quilt Festival in Houston. I can’t wait to see what we make together.”

Details are at quilts.com and summarized here:

I’m in! How about you? Please feel free to share the link or reblog.

Round Robin Challenges


My friend Janet made this beautiful block. She is in my small quilt group. As you may remember, last year my group did a round robin project. This year we are again, but we’re doing mini-medallions. The finished quilts must be no larger than 18″ to meet the rules of our larger guild’s annual challenge.

Because of the small size, only four people will work on each quilt. Each owner began their quilt with a center block. After that, three people will add borders, with the total width of the added border no more than 2″. I’ve added the first border to Janet’s. Her appliqué is lovely and traditional. I wanted to honor it to highlight her work, but also setting the piece up for later borders.

While it would be natural to continue with the reds, greens, and creams, I thought about some color problems I’ve had with my own medallion quilts. More than once I’ve backed myself into a corner by using too few colors in the center. I was afraid if I stuck with those, it would be hard for later borders to broaden the spectrum. While sometimes a quilt is intended to have few colors, this one doesn’t need to.

My first thought for a new color was cheddar. In the early 1800s, chrome yellows and cheddar oranges often were use to accent red and green appliqué quilts.

To see more about my process, click here