Thursday, March 15, 2012

Round Robins and Exchanges - The March SBQ

Our March SBQ was provided by CinDC over at Pencil Crossings again, and it's all about Round Robins and Exchanges.

I like to consider myself a veteran of Round Robins, because I go back to the PRE-internet days. My first RR was back in 1993, making me practically a dinosaur in the world of needlework exchanges.   It's so funny when I look at some of the organizers' letters....I swear some of them were typed with carbon paper! Then we seemed to graduate to pin-fed paper, and finally a bit of word processing.

I'd catch word of someone organizing a RR - in my case, through pen pals - and then I'd drop that person a note in the mail saying I was interested in joining one.  I would give my theme, my preferences, etc.  Then the organizer would get back to you with the particulars.  Just that phase alone could take weeks or months...We'd be grouped together and one person would be chosen as our group leader.  Our mailing dates were set and it was usually expected that you stitched your own block on your own RR for  the first mailing.  This helped set the tone for your piece.

As each RR was passed along, we'd enclose a note card that gave design and thread info and usually a brief "hello" to the owner.  As you can see, I've kept my notes for the past 20 years!

My Round Robin records

So here's my first RR - and I know I've shown you this before.  It's still my favorite.  I was quite the adventurer, using Summer Khaki 18 ct. Aida!  My square is the middle square.

Then this was my second RR, also in 1993.  My theme was Hearts.  Kinda pretty, but a couple of the hearts just aren't.....right.  They're off by color or size or complexity. Or really off center.  (I'm talking to you, square in the lower left corner) Yes, I can be a fussbudget.  I'm the middle square here, too.

In 1994 I joined a 6 person RR, and my theme was Birds.  I think everyone did a super job on this one.  In fact, MY square is the one I like the least here.  That cardinal is way too simple.  Standing alone, it's ok, but not compared to the lovely detailed birds provided by the other stitchers.  This was my only linen RR.
Moving on, in 1995 I joined another 9-person RR, and this time I provided the charts.  Do you recognize this older Told in A Garden?  Something about berries....So I wanted to finish these as two bell pulls to hang side by side.  I stitched the top berries on each bell pull, then the other ladies stitched the rest.  Do you see that the second bell-pull, where bottom isn't finished?  I had one person bow out of the RR, and I thought I'd just finish it myself, but I never did.  I didn't get too upset though, because the slacker was my very own mother.  I ended up stitching most of her RR portions for others, too.  I think I got her in over her head, so it was completely my fault.  But all was well that ended well and I was the only one with an incomplete project.

Anyway, sending the chart worked out well - none of the earlier size or color issues were a problem with this RR. I think it's hard to strike a balance between allowing others to be creative and getting what you really want, you know?  And I know that I made a bad choice or two on the RR's of others.  It was  tough when they had a theme that was totally NOT mystyle and the owner didn't provide charts.  I remember one stitcher had the theme of jungle animals or circus animals or something like that.  And they weren't whimsical - they were realistic.  Remember, this was wasn't as easy as going online and searching for charts.  The best I could find was a toucan and when it was finished....well, I felt like hell about it.  She had stitched grey elephants in her square.  I had this freakin' giant toucan in my square and it was monstrous compared to hers. Like it could swallow those elephants whole in a single bite.  (If you happen to be the owner of that RR and you read my blog, let me publicly apologize to you right here and now!) I think I did well with some of the other challenging themes, like fish and lighthouses.  I guess you can't win 'em all.

And finally, in 1995 I participated in my last RR and I decided to do a band sampler.  I stitched the top saying and the little houses and then I let the girls fly from there.  I think their choices were wonderful.
Does anyone else remember this fabric?  I can't remember its name.  It was a bellpull fabric that Stoney Creek used for several of its designs.  Definitely synthetic.  It was almost pre-finished, but not quite.  Anyway, it was very burlap-y and stitched over one.  This particular piece of fabric is really long - I'm showing it folded in half here.

Back when I was quilting, I used to do some quilt block exchanges and some friendship square exchanges.  Those could be really iffy, though.  You could send along really nice fabrics or well-constructed blocks and then get crap in return.  I didn't do that very often.  It seemed like I was on the crap end of those exchanges way too often.

Anyway, I more or less stopped participating in Round Robins after 1995.  Part of it was that I was spending more time volunteering for kids' programs and I also took my first part-time job after not working for four years.  I kind of lost interest in stitching altogether over those years.  I didn't really pick it up much again until....well, until I discovered stitching bloggers and I started my own blog!

Now I keep my exchange obligations small and limited to people that I know.  It's a luxury I didn't really have in the 90's, so I stitched for people that I didn't know at all and received things from people I didn't know at all.  I think that's why I've never framed or finished these pieces (except the one berry bell pull).  There isn't any emotional connection to them.  They're interesting and all, but not really attached to my heart.

Oh, and one more quick thing before I end this long-winded post.  I was VERY fortunate because I never had a RR go missing.  I'd read about it though....and I'd see very angry posts about MIA stitchers in message boards (the rctn newsgroup always had some RR drama going on).   But losing a RR would have been the end of my exchange stitching days, no doubt.  

So there you have it, all you ever wanted to know about Lee's Pre-Historic Round Robins!


  1. Lee - So enjoyed this "History" post...and guess what, I too have stitched "your" Santa though I did not get creative with his hat as you did. He's a Curtis Boehringer design, right? Thanks for the walk down Stitching Memory Lane.

  2. Oh Lee...that was an awesome walk down your memory lane, thank you for sharing it all with us...and I love each of your RR's.
    I have never done a RR, and though I have thought about it, being a bit of a fussbudget about my own stitching, I might have a hard time, and losing a traveling treasure might break my heart...hats off to all of you fearless adventurers.

  3. That's a lovely and fun personal RR story. I never did a round robin for all the reasons you allude to in this post. But it must have been great fun to get yours back in the end just to see what everyone chose, whether or not you liked their choices and their stitching.

    I didn't even know they did them before internet days. The first I heard of them was in my LNS where I helped a woman find motifs for 3 RR's she had joined on one of those early internet providers like AOL or Comserv (if I have that right).

    So doesn't the original owner stitch the first motif anymore when people do these now?

  4. Fun post. My favorite are the Told in a Garden berries. You're right...there is something about berries. I am drawn to some of the old designs like Prairie Schooler and Told in a Garden, and her other ones, which I can't remember right now. Just not enough time...


  5. My favourite is the Santa design, they work well together and some are very detailed. Interesting to hear your experiences and you're right, the internet has transformed the stitching world in so many ways.

  6. Very interesting to read about your RR experiences. Makes me think of mine which were quite similar just with one difference - in one of the groups I was in a RR disappeared on the way back home to its owner. I was the sender and I had even sent it by registered mail. That was the last RR I took part in.

  7. Wow you really are an RR pioneer! I did some stitching ones and quilting ones years ago but they were all internet-based. Some went okay and some not. I had 2 stitching RR's where there were "issues" with a participant...I've also had to do a lot of rework on some of them which was a pain. I don't do them anymore, and I haven't gotten back into exchanges either. I'm kind of finicky about some things and have been disappointed a few times. I never even was thanked for one of them when I put in a lot of work. I'd rather stitch nice things for myself. I've thought I might do a few exchanges again but only if I "know" the person and feel they are dependable.

  8. That is an amazing amount of RR's and beautiful ones at that.

    I participated in my first ever RR a few years ago and to my knowledge it didn't make it past the first person. I never did get it back. It totally turned me off on RR's.