In Favour of Round Robins

Peggy White © 2007

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It must be some seven years now since I participated in my first crazy quilt round robin.

I had just become interested in crazy quilting and had joined Southern Cross Crazies, a Yahoo e-mail list created specifically for Australians and New Zealanders.

Existing members were talking about starting a round robin. Although I had never done anything like this before, I was willing to give it a "go." You were allowed to include any article of your choice which you would like to have embellished.

There were to be six members in the group and the articles were circulated by snail mail to different addresses in Australia.

The first item that I received for embellishment was a large circular piece that was intended to be a drawstring bag upon completion. It was quite a large piece but I was not too daunted and feverishly covered copious amounts of the block with feather stitch done in rayon threads.

Some of the other items included front pieces for crazy quilt vests but the ones I really liked were the crazy quilt blocks for needle books and this was what I circulated myself.

I had some small samples pieces of silk fabrics in my stash and so I took varying shades of pink and made them into a block measuring 5.5 x 10 inches. I backed the block with quilters muslin to give it stability and away it went. The resulting block is still a treasure in my collection and the embellishments still give me pleasure to this day.

Included in the additions to my block were samples of tatting, cross stitch, beading and various styles of embroidery. Someone even went to the bother of embroidering my name.

The use of a needle book size block for a round robin very much appeals to me:-

  1. Making the block initially is easily achievable as it is a relatively small project;
  2. The other members of the group can add to the block without its being too great a challenge in terms of covering space;
  3. When a round robin is conducted where posting is involved, a small project like this is relatively inexpensive to post.

This round robin greatly motivated me to follow up and co-ordinate more round robins. I found them to be great way to encourage newcomers into the world of crazy quilting, and it also gave me the opportunity to continue to participate in further round robins myself.

Membership of six seems to work quite well for a round robin group, and the following guidelines have worked quite well for me:

  1. Each member makes a block in colours of her own choosing.
  2. If desired, an edging of approximately two inches wide can be tacked around the border of the block to allow for those who like to use embroidery hoops when stitching.
  3. A small notebook or note card can be included, giving a list of the names and addresses of all participants, any special requests you may wish to make regarding colours or types of embellishments for your block and space enough for each member to make comments about the additions they make to the blocks.
  4. The coordinator needs to distribute a list of all the members and their addresses.
  5. The members' list is numbered and blocks flow according to the numbers. If you are Number 1 on the list, you send your block on to Number 2. Number 2 in turn sends her block to Number 3, and so on.
  6. A time line needs to be set for moving the blocks along, e.g. two weeks, four weeks (for a needlebook block I suggest two weeks as sufficient timing).
  7. The coordinator needs to make herself available for questions or problems that may arise.

Problems are generally minimal, but sometimes "real life" can take over a person’s intentions to participate. If members are required to drop out, you may need to take over that role yourself or call on someone else you know to fill in this spot.

Most round robins I have coordinated have been through the internet, and I have always found that other members are willing to step in should this be required.

For a time I was a member of a local craft group who participated in a myriad of crafts but not crazy quilting. I made the suggestion of a round robin. Because they did not understand how to make the blocks, I made them for the group. Then these blocks were circulated among those who wished to participate.

Because we met at a home on a weekly basis, it was easy to move the blocks from one person to the next at each meeting. In this instance, we did not even bother with notebooks. We just used a list of names.

These ladies, who were not crazy quilters, took to the project with great enthusiasm. Some went on to make several more blocks for themselves after seeing how lovely the results could be.

Generally speaking I like to use what I call fancy or after five fabrics for these blocks but I had been given a batch of quilting cotton leftovers by a group member and made their blocks from cotton fabrics. I found that I really enjoyed stitching through the cotton and this has now become a favourite medium for me in crazy quilting.

This apricot block was not from a round robin but just another example of what can be done with a needle book block.

After not participating in round robins for a while, I recently saw the call go out on Southern Cross Crazies for interested parties, and I decided it was about time I had a go again. I was not disappointed.

Autumn colours are a favourite choice for me, but I know they present a challenge for others.

The ladies in my group took up the challenge.  I was just as excited with the outcome of this block as the pink block that came home to me some seven years ago. My appreciative thanks to all who contributed to make this block what it is now.

If you belong to a local craft group and have never participated in a round robin project before, why not give something like this a go – you and your friends may be pleasantly surprised with what you can achieve.

Any further queries, you can e-mail me at

Peggy has been interested in crazy quilting for a number of years and has held classes to teach this craft. She maintains her own website and sells her craft items on eBay under the membership name of kalikokottage. Peggy has four adult sons who live in Australia and the United States whilst she lives with her mother and young Burmilla cat in Taupo, New Zealand.

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