This is a post describing how round robins work, or rather, how our round robin worked, complete with pictures.
If you missed a while on the blog or were redirected here from elsewhere, I was included in a multi-group internet friends (twilter-twitter quilter friend) round robin quilt exchange.
One fantastic lady, Daisy of Lazy Daisy Quilts decided to put together a round robin quilt exchange and asked for signups from interested people back at the beginning of 2014.
Basic Definition of a Round Robin quilt exchange:
Round Robin quilts are long-term projects in which each person works on other peoples’ projects during the time of the round robin, passing along a quilt idea, fabric, and a rapidly growing partial quilt top to each participant until the quilt ends back in the original quilter’s possession.
For me, it all started off with a pattern from electric quilt, a fabric choice & then a block.
Here’s the first question I am asked when talking about the round robin: How does it work?
Generally, a round robin quilt (as our group did it) is an agreement between friends or strangers and friends to work on a quilt of someone else’s with the understanding that they will work on yours in return.
My role in the round robin:
- I made the center of the quilt. I decided what colors to be used & original quilt direction.
- I selected fabrics for the quilt to use in the quilt.
- I provide some kind of guidelines or suggestions to the others in the group for working on the quilt.
- I send the quilt onto the next person in the list (in the mail or in person). I am always sending to the same next person.
- I receive someone else’s quilt in the mail, with their center (or more), their fabrics, their instructions. I am always receiving a quilt from the same previous person.
- I work through an appropriate design to add a border to the outside of the quilt. Using math, graph paper, books or websites for inspiration, sometimes electronic quilt blocks or suggestion from Electric Quilt 7 (EQ7).
- I follow general guidelines by the round robin coordinator for each round to help spur imagination or direct the appropriate design. Not to be used religiously with all quilts in all situations, but to help stretch each quilter, and attempt to provide harmony with the finished project.
- I finish my section of the new border, sometimes making changes due to size restrictions, or fabric shortages which happens because we’re not always great at figuring out in advance what fabrics others would be appealing to the general design or just underestimation. Sometimes this step also requires purchasing fabric of our own.
- I write down something interesting in the process in the quilt journal. (optional) I write my name on a label provided by the original quilter (optional, but fantastically helpful in the end).
- I send the quilt top with my new border to the same next person in line.
- Receive the new quilt, repeat steps 5-10 until the original quilt comes back. I have a full quilt top and a full label and journal.
The coordinator has a lot of decisions to make before getting the round robin started.
The round robin coordinator’s role:
- They decide the groups (if more than 6 want to be part of the round robin) 5-6 people seem to be a good match for this round robin.
- They create a deadline for each border swap.
- The estimate the approximate amount of each type of fabric needed to make the quilt work, suggest the amount of background fabric, focus fabric, and other fabric to be used in making of a quilt top.
- The estimate the sizes of each of the borders to be proportional to the space on the quilt.
- They create general guidelines to help direct the future quiltmakers down a path to help create a good quilt and/or to ask people to work out of their own comfort zones.
- They coordinate the addresses and order of each person to do the round robin.
- They answer general questions, help figure out if deadlines need adjusted.
- They type up all the info and get it to the participants. Follow up if needed in some areas. Perhaps some handholding or drama-gathering if needed in some groups.
- Remind us it’s all fun.
As you can see above, we had 6 different quilts with 6 different personalities and styles.
How does the passing of the quilts work?
Because we had a round that we passed quilts on to each other, and each person was in a different order, we were able to affect each quilt at a different stage of its development.
- The first two quilts each of us received, we were only beginning to shape the look and feel of the quilt to follow.
- The next round brought the middle into focus, the meat of the quilt,
- The last two rounds were on the finishing side of the round, these were larger & took up more time & fabric.
Our round went like this:
Daisy passes to me, I pass to Diane, Diane pass to Laura, Laura pass to Tami, Tami pass to Tina, Tina pass to Daisy.
And each of us had our own version of that. The drawing above shows how the quilts were passed around.
My role in the round robin Group A, and the quilts as I saw them in the order I worked on them
Round 1 – Daisy
Since Daisy’s was the first round robin quilt I saw, it was the first one I worked on, and thus the smallest round to do.
This is a collage of the completed quilt of Daisy’s (on the left), the block as I received it, and the block as I finished it.
Once completed, I wrote in the journal, and on the label, then sent it in the mail to Diane.
Once Daisy was finished with the next quilt – Tina’s quilt, she sent it in the mail to me. As you will see I was always receiving from Daisy and sending to Diane. So I really only had to have 1 address.
Round 2 – Tina
Tina’s quilt only had her center and Daisy’s first border. The sky was the limit here.
The picture above is Tina’s finished quilt on the left. Top right is the original block, middle right is the quilt top as I received it, bottom right is the quilt top I sent out.
Round 3 – Tami
At the “halfway point” everyone was working on the opposite person’s quilt. I was working on Tami’s quilt when she was working on mine.
The picture above is Tami’s finished quilt on the left. Top right is the original block, middle right is the quilt top as I received it, bottom right is the quilt top I sent out.
Round 4 – Laura
Laura’s quilt was based on neutral fabrics. Greys and browns dominated the landscape of this quilt top with dramatic golds and blue hues thrown in for a smidge of color
The picture above is Laura’s finished quilt on the left. Top right is the original block, middle right is the quilt top as I received it, bottom right is the quilt top I sent out.
Round 5 – Diane
Diane’s quilt was mostly done. I was trying to figure out an appropriate finish for her quilt.
The picture above is Diane’s finished quilt on the left. Which is also the portion that I worked on and sent out to her. Top right is the original block, bottom right is the quilt top as I received it.
More notes about Round Robin Quilts & observations
Since it was a center-focused round robin where we added further borders to the outside of an already ‘finished’ project, so the projects usually take on a medallion feeling.
Each quilter has to essentially be a “border designer”, and has to be willing to either ‘do the math’ or make a program (like EQ7) do the math for them.
I used inspiration from either drawing graph paper, or Electric Quilt 7, or a book on borders, or pinterest pictures, or various books on techniques. Sometimes I tried several different versions of the quilt, but once I kept seeing one version in my mind more than 1 day, that is the variation I went with.
There is an option to do rows instead of medallion rounds, which would be the same amount of work on the last one as on the first one. This would work in a similar way, but are usually called “Row Robin” quilts instead.
The first round we received, we had a shortened timeframe, but we had less size to finish before sending it off. This was stressful for me, but I did get the quilt done by or close to the deadline most of the time.
Each swap we had different goals, different color pallets, different visions to try to work into the quilts. It is truly a good way to sew out of the comfort zone.
And since the twilters who were interested in this swap were all over the US, the boxes got some post office traveling time around the country.
Some of the early quilts I worked on, I was completely surprised with at the end.
We got to learn about each person as reading through the journal entries of the original quiltmaker, in addition to things other people said in the journal. I was inspired by things in the journal in addition to other blocks and items I saw elsewhere. Many times the journal dictated the “tone” of the quilt more than anything!
Math was very helpful in the round robin. Having the original dimensions of each quilt, then trying to figure out how to put blocks together with appropriate spacers was challenging, but a heck of a lot of fun.
It helped me to use a program like EQ7 to help with the math and to visually see if the blocks I were doing were too big or not big enough or if I needed to add spacers.
Often times, I used my moleskin graph paper the most as it was the perfect thing to visually count other parts of the quilt.
Another note was to not try to overshadow the other people’s work. Since I try to do “big bold complicated” this was a constant worry for me, and something that at times reigned me in, and other times I probably ignored. Looking back, I ended up adding a darker border many times to the quilts I received. I don’t know if/what that says about me.
The most important part is to leave a part of yourself in the quilt that you’re working on. Being true to who I am is very important to me, even if I don’t always know what that looks like. So even during the “potential overshadows” I may/maynot have done, I still made quilts that were pleasing to me, that were something that I could do as well as I could.
That’s what matters & that is what’s special about these quilts.
In summary (visual)
The quilts as I worked on them, the center block, what I did to them, and their final product.
Yay for round robins with friends!