Step-by-Step Round Robin

Jo Newsham © 2008

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I belong to a small, international “Yahoo” group of Crazy Quilters. Most of them have taken Sharon B’s Encrusted Crazy Quilting class. Toward the end of last year we started discussing doing a round robin, but with a twist. So after an email to Sharon to check that using her format as a guideline was OK (she is always so obliging), we set the “steps”:

Step 1 – Add lace and trim to the seams if you like. Embroider all seams with a basic, stitched seam treatment. Minimal silk ribbon embroidery and beading permitted.

Step 2 - Add further stitching to the basic seam treatments- layering of seam treatments. Keep silk ribbon embroidery and beading minimal again.

Step 3 – Addition of stand alone motifs. Embroidered, SRE, etc. Some "ready made" motifs OK, but hand done preferred. Addition of SRE to stitched seam treatments - leaves, flowers etc.

Step 4 – Beads and buttons, added to seams; create trails or clusters.

My block:

1. Ati 2.Lorenza 3.Emiko 4.Helina

To start with we gave ourselves six weeks to work on the blocks, but found that our stitching actually moved along quite quickly, so returned to the monthly format.

Each “step’” came with its own challenges:

Step 1, we were all concerned about not doing enough, or conversely, doing too much!! It is such a foreign concept for seasoned Round Robiners to not “complete” their work before sending it on. There were lots of photos flying around and questions being asked about appropriate quantity.

Something I personally found difficult with Step 1 (Helina’s landscape block), was that I had a vision for the block, and I had to decide how much I would ‘steer’ the block in that direction. How much stitching would be overstepping the bounds of that particular step? It was also a challenge to imagine where motifs would/could go, and to leave spots for them. I wondered if I should stitch some paper where I thought motifs should be placed. I didn’t. I decided it was part of the challenge!

Helina’s block:

1. Jo 2. Ati 3. Lorenza 4. Emiko

Step 2 brought for me, many of the same issues as step 1. How much do I do? Where is the most obvious place for motifs? Are there any gaps to fill? And, of course, Emiko’s own personal style, which is very quiet, with subtle colorings; a definite challenge for me! I did have to relent a little this round and add just a touch SRE to one of the seams.

Emiko’s block:

1. Helina 2. Jo 3. Ati 4. Lorenza

Step 3 was my favourite to do on this round robin. I loved the rich colors of Lorenza’s block, and having the “motif” step was perfect with all the open spaces to choose from. I changed the orientation of the block on this step. It seems we all had varying opinions on which way was up on this block, as the pictures show. Lorenza had not dictated a top, and it changed each round.

I added several motifs, leaving just one spot for Ati to fill with buttons if she chose (I know button clusters are not a favourite for her). I was also struggling again with the handing on of “incomplete” work, and I had to bead my fan motif.

The fun thing with this step was that the blocks started to look ‘done’. The addition of motifs and SRE really make a block. I also realized that the way I had pieced my block made this step challenging for the others.

Lorenza’s block:

1. Emiko 2. Helina 3. Jo 4. Ati

Step 4 was another new set of challenges for me. Helina had left lots of spaces on the block for beads and button clusters, however, remember, Ati is not fond of button clusters. As this was the last step for this block, I felt I had license to go wild. Finally I got to complete my work, and send on something I know I am 100% happy with! An extra motif got added, beads were stitched on every seam treatment, and trails were added, and just a couple of small button clusters, to remain faithful to the step requirements. Unfortunately , the more I added, the more out of control this block became!! I posted a detailed explanation of how I changed this block here: Ati did, however, get a block I was happy to send on.

Ati’s block:

1. Lorenza 2. Emiko 3. Helina 4. Jo

Overall, this was a fantastic round robin to be a part of. Along with it being challenging at every step, it was incredibly rewarding to see how each block developed with each step.

The downfall of this RR format would be the fact that you can’t complete your vision of the block, or add that “perfect motif” if it is not the motif step, for example. It was difficult to save space for motif placement, a challenge you don’t have when doing Sharon’s Encrusted Crazy Quilting class, as you have planned and executed the block yourself. (This RR format does not replace the info you get from Sharon’s class, we used it as a guideline to the steps only.)

The benefits of the RR format: receiving home a block that has every little spot filled; fabulous for encrusters!! Each step challenged you to just consider that one element of the block. Seeing (and hearing) the thought processes of each person at each step was interesting, and you knew that overall, the amount of work done on each block balances itself out, so the end result was reasonably equal for all.

You also end up with a block that looks cohesive, as if it has been stitched by one person, as every stitcher had the opportunity to add to the overall block, rather than the usual section a stitcher would complete.

So, if you are out there and would like to try something a little different and challenging, do give this format a go.

Many thanks go to my stitching buddies, Ati, Lorenza, Emiko, and Helina for stitching with me, posting great pics of each step, and for allowing me to write this article.

Lorenza’s thoughts

“It was my first experience in this kind of RR, I found it very interesting as everyone could work on the whole block, not only in a section like in my previous RR, more you have to go on with that some else already started so it’s really a challenge, the first step was easy as you have to work on the seams, not so easy the second and the third steps : the bigger problem for me was to leave enough place for next steps, sometimes when you start to embellish you cannot stop . No problems with the last step: you have to complete the block without thinking to the next one. It was the first time that I worked on a crazy landscape (Helina’s block), so I enjoyed so much the new experience. I think that the 5 blocks are all great”.

Ati’s thoughts 

This Step by Step RR was great for me. I mostly find it very difficult to do a quarter of a block and do work when there are already are beads and buttons on it. Also on a 'normal' RR you get sometimes very different 'corners' on a block because of the different styles the workers have. In this RR that was not possible, you had to work allover the block! In the format we did this RR it was very logical to do the steps. The only difficult thing for me was; did I do enough? I have enjoyed this RR very much and am looking forward to do the next one :)

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