I’ve participated in four round robins, three of which were by mail with people I only knew from an online quilting group. The other was through my local quilting guild. Two of those were donated to charity and the other two are so gorgeous that I haven’t started quilting them yet. I just look at ’em and drool. Here’s what I’ve learned.
First, let’s talk about the quilt you’ll be getting back. In a round robin, you make the center and others add borders to it. You can also include a note about the quilt: what the theme is, where it’ll end up, the colors and styles you like, what to please NOT do, etc. For example, here’s the center of “Calm Energy.” When I sent the project off, I included a letter about it. I knew the title already, that it was for a man (so please no pink, but the purple that is in the center is okay), and it has a lighthouse theme. I was able to be super specific about the intent of this project. Here’s the center I sent:
And here’s the quilt top that came back to me. I call this an amazing success.
If you don’t know quite that much about what you want to get back, that’s okay. Again, just be specific about what you know you want. I knew, for this next quilt, that I wanted it to have great contrast and only be red, white, and black. I also knew that I didn’t necessarily want it to be patriotic. I said that, sent the center, and got this back:
Okay. Here’s the other part of the round robin. And really, it’s the part you’ll be spending most of your time on. You make your center and send it off to make the rounds through other quilters’ hands and hearts but don’t really get to see it again for several months. So let it go! While it’s gone, you’ll be working on others’ centers. This can be very fun and stretching.
The red/white/black quilt was in a group of six. So I worked on five other quilters’ projects, one border at a time. I learned a lot about when symmetry’s important (or not), new border techniques, when a quilt needs some rest (two busy prints next to each-other look a mess), and how to work on something that isn’t my style.
As in-awe of these two quilts as I am, I think the real reason to do a round-robin isn’t for the quilt you get back. It’s for the experience of connecting with other quilters as you work on their projects. It’s an intimate thing, adding your art to someone else’s. I’m a big believer in collaborative projects.