Design Process - Round Robin Quilts

Friendship Rose, a Round Robin Quilt, full imageRound robin quilts can be a fun experience for a group of quilters to do together. It will challenge each quilter in their design work, their color choices and creativity.

What follows is my story and what we learned in the process. Margreta, Leslie, Margaret, Robin and Cathy all agreed to give it a go.

The success of a round robin quilt depends on a few factors:

  • well defined rules
  • willingness to do one's best
  • accept the final quilt owner's decision

Well defined rules

Rules need to cover things such as acceptable size of the center block, time frames for exchanging blocks,  type of work to be done at each stage, progression from person to person.

These were our rules:

"Bring a completed center block to our next meeting. The center block is the design of your choice. It may be any size between 12 inches and 18 inches square. (The center block, all borders, cornerstones, or whatever should be carefully squared each step of the project.)

Put your block in a box or bag with any fabrics that you want included in the borders. If you do not include fabrics, the person adding the border will select and supply fabric of her choice. Include a disposable flash camera if you want a record of each step in the creation of your top. Use the small "quilt journal" to include pieces of fabric, make sketches, or to write notes about your work on the project. Leave spaces for the pictures if a camera is included. The quilt top belongs to the person who made the center.

Borders should be between 3 inches and 6 inches wide.

  1. Round 1 -- pieced border, triangles - Leslie added the first border
  2. Round 2 - appliqued border - Robin added the second border
  3. Round 3 - pieced border, rectangles - Margaret added the third border
  4. Round 4 - embellishment or border of your choice - Cathy added the fourth border

Option - in lieu of any one of the four rounds, the block may be turned on point, if appropriate. Triangles are then added to each side of the "diamond" to make it into a square again. Applique or embellish the corners.

Lesson learned - we might have established an overall size that these quilts would not exceed. The quilts varied in size, especially when someone exercised the option to put the block on point.

Willingness to Do One's Best

Each person had two months in which to add a border. Sometimes that time would feel very pressured if our lives were busy. But, we all attempted to do our best. And, we all accepted that each person would do what they could. In other words, don't criticize the work.

Accept the Final Quilt Owner's Decision

Sometimes the final quilt owner will want to add more embellishments or add an additional border. If the piece doesn't lay flat, the final quilt owner may take it apart and add something to fix it. While my quilt didn't have this problem, we did have one quilt in the group that wasn't flat. The owner of the quilt took it apart, added a spacer, and reassembled it. With my quilt, Cathy did the final pinwheel cornerstone border. She offered to make a few three dimensional embellishments, which I did like and used in the final quilt. Since the quilt belongs to the owner, accept his or her decision about what to do with the quilt top.

Below are all the round robin quilts:

Small quilt group's 5 finished round robin quilts

My quilt was quilted by my cousin, Kim Tjoelker.

Detailed photo of Kim's grapes quiltingDetailed photo of Kim's vine and leaf quilting

Other resources
  • "Round Robin Quilts: Friendship Quilts of the '90s and Beyond" by Patricia Maixner Magaret and Donna Ingram Slusser. Published by That Patchwork Place, Inc., 1994 (book is out of print, but can be purchased used)
  • "Friendships in Bloom: Round Robin Quilts" by Marjorie Nelson (and Rebecca Nelson-Zerfas. Published by Kansas City Star Books, 2003.
  • "M'liss Rae Hawley's Round Robin Renaissance" by M'Liss Rae Hawley. Published by C&T Publishing, 2006.

I have posted additional information, based on other people's inquiries on this topic on my blog. Feel free to read more there and, if you have more questions, please leave me a comment.