Wednesday, April 21, 2021


 Over the years, I have participated in more than a few Round Robin and Block Swap projects. Recently, when I featured this quilt, begun in 2004 in a Round Robin project, and completed in 2011, several of the Sunday Sew and Sews expressed interest in starting a Round Robin:

A-Round With My Friends

Round Robins became a "thing" about 20 years ago. It involves getting a group of interested quilters together and setting the rules and timeframe. Each person makes a center block of their choice. They select a theme or fabric colors/styles, and each person in the group works on each quilt for some specific amount of time. Each person adds the next "round", or border, to the top they are given. The project boxes are passed to each person in turn--each quilt gets bigger each time a "round" is added.  When the project is over, the owner gets their quilt top back, to do with as they please.

Here is the info I sent to the 15 Sunday Sew and Sews--8 decided to PLAY:

  1. Strictly optional—only play if you really want to and are prepared to keep to the schedule
  2. Group size would be 5-6 people, we might have two groups depending on how many want to play. The group will have a list of each person in their group—selected at random
  3. Each person starts by making the center block of their choice, 12”-16”, you decide
  4. Each person puts together a small fabric palette of fabrics they like, perhaps a few from their center, these will be added to by the participants
  5. Each person writes a note with their “kit”, what they hope to see, what they like or don’t like—I remember Janet saying she just didn’t like pinwheels
  6. Each person puts their Kit—center, fabrics, note—in a tote of some kind—to pass to others in the group
  7. We will start at the June 6 Sunday Sew and Sews gathering
  8. You pass your kit to the person below you on the list. You receive a kit from the person above you on the list
  9. Each person has one month to add a round to the quilt—bringing the Kit back to the July meeting to  pass to the next person on the list—you may add a few fabrics to the kit but don't have to
  10. We will have two months to complete the final round—as by now the quilt has grown and it’s much larger than when it started
  11. It would be most fun to not share the quilt’s progress with the “owner”—she will only see it at the final reveal party--NOTE: we decided NOT to keep the progress a secret
  12. You are free to ask for help/suggestions from anyone else in the group
We ended up with 8 total participants so we have two groups of 4 people each. If the group is much larger than 5, the quilts start to get pretty big as each round is added.

I thought I might be in two groups if we had an odd number so I made two center blocks:

14" block inspired by an antique quilt at the Shelburne Museum

12" Bullseye block from pattern by Becky Goldsmith

an extra 14" block made when I realized I had cut out two of them

My project Kit box. The fabrics can be used on this project only--no one can keep any of the fabrics that come in the boxes. They can add to the box or simply use the fabrics as suggestions for what kind of fabric and/or colors to use. The middle block above, the Bullseye, is the one I will put in my box:

Some Round Robin groups have lots more rules--like exactly what to make for each round: Half Square Triangles, then Flying Geese, then Star blocks, etc. Some have almost no rules--do what you want, when you want, no timeframe, get done whenever you can. 

For a new group, I suggest some specific rules, especially timeframes, and that your best work is expected. I trust this group completely so didn't need to stress that. It is important that those who choose to play really want to--it is a commitment of time and effort to participate.

Block Swaps are different and can be easier. Here is a detailed blog I wrote about that process:
 Swap Blocks for Confident Quilters  Choose units that don't rely on perfect 1/4 seam allowances, like half square triangles, or very easy blocks. Search "Block Swap" above to find several other posts on these swaps.

My Advice if you decide to organize a Round Robin OR a Block Swap:

1. Choose the participants carefully, those who will keep to the timeline and do their best work
2. Set clear rules, many or few, and be sure everyone understands the rules
3. Set a reasonable amount of time for completion
4. The organizer needs to keep on top of the passing of the quilts or swapping of blocks, to be sure it happens timely--especially if the swapping will happen by mail

Perhaps this gives you an idea for how to work with a group of friends on such a project. The process is a great learning experience for everyone and the finished quilts are usually better than if only one person made the entire quilt. 

In the featured quilt above, I loved it so much when I got it back from the two friends in that Round Robin, I knew it deserved to be bigger.  I added the needle-turned hand applique borders and spent two years, off and on, doing the detailed hand quilting. This quilt won Best of Show in 2011, was a semi-finalist in Paducah in 2012 and was included as one of the best 500 Traditional Quilts in the 2014 book by that name, and was featured in the Special Exhibit at Houston 2014 of some of the quilts from that book. 

Let's quilt.



  1. Great information to start a round robin or block swap. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun. Beautiful quilt blocks, too.

  3. I was going to say someone really loves applique because that border is really striking and really MAKES the quilt POP, and it turns out that someone is YOU! Great finish. You did not say the finished size. That is something I always like to know.

    1. Yes, that needle turn applique, adapted from Nancy Pearson patterns, took a couple years. The quilt is 67" square.