A Round Robin is when a group of stitchers work on each others stitching projects. Every project is stitched on then passed along to the next person to stitch until it arrives back to its owner.
Round Robins can be a lot of fun and sometimes what you get back can be a total surprise! Back in 2004-2005, I sent this one around for my first round robin with the theme "Fantasy" and I had no idea what I would get back. I loved all the different designs people chose!
Round Robins are also a matter of trust. To send your project pattern or kit out in the world, trusting the mail system, trusting the other stitchers to treat your project well and send them home again is a leap of faith. In the same round robin in 2005, one member just dropped out and could not be contacted. At the time, she had two of the members' projects with her and both were lost.
The very first thing to think about when wondering whether to join a round robin is commitment. How much time can you commit to stitching on someone else’s project. Do you think your work and home life will remain stable for the duration of the project? Do you know of any periods of peak intensity when you will be too busy or tired to stitch or any holidays coming up when you wont be home? Pick your round robin to coincide with your periods of stability.
For me June to October has often been a nice steady time. No major holidays here in Australia, cooler Winter months tucked up with a needle, no overworked postal system to lose parcels and work was often steady during those months.
Next work out how much time each month you are prepared to put into a round robin. You need to consider time to collect and return the parcel to the post office. Do you have time away from work for errands or do you need to fit it in your lunch break. Do you only leave the house once a fortnight?
You need to consider how to keep these projects super clean; to keep them away from dust, pet hair and cigarette smoke. I live with three cats, so I clean the area around where I stitch before I start each session. I put the project away every time I leave my chair. I leave time at the end of the project to use a pair of tweezers to remove the stray cat hairs that have still ended up on the project. Everyone has different levels of cleanliness and allergies so treat these projects well.
Most of the round robins I've been in has been around 10 hours of stitching, one week of stitching (however much YOU usually stitch in a week) or to complete a section (stitching time is irrelevant).
I used to spend a couple of hours each night stitching before bed, so for me one week's stitching was ten hours. I am a slow stitcher; I use a qsnap and stitch one-handed, so I double the time taken for each stitch as I move my dominant hand over and under the snap to use the needle. I would also factor in a Saturday morning to clean the cat hair and stand in queue at the Post Office. So I could ignore all other stitching and dedicate one week to the Round Robin only.
Next work out whether you want a local or international group. An international group is a good way to connect with some your Internet friends but it also international postage increases both the cost and travel time for each project in the round robin.
A local group is easier for meeting up or helping out if someone has an unexpected issue.
So, as an example: I could work on Round Robins from June to October, I could dedicate one week in the month to the Round Robin and I would like an international group. So in my case, the following would be a good plan:
First week of June - Stitch on your own project then send it out.
Four weeks for international post.
6 July - Stitch on the next participant's project for a week then send it out. Four weeks for international post.
10 August - Stitch on the next participant's project for a week then send it out. Four weeks for international post.
14 September -Stitch on the next participant's project for a week then send it out. Four weeks for international post.
19 October - all projects should arrive home.
That timing means if I want an international group, between June - October 2015, I should be looking for a four-person group.
Selecting a Round Robin
Round robins can be in formal groups created via newsgroups, forums, facebook groups, etc. A simple search of "Cross Stitch Round Robins" in Google or a Facebook search will get you started. These groups may want to get to know you before letting you join a round robin. Be prepared to be be friendly and share a bit about yourself. Remember they need to trust you enough to share their precious projects with you too!
Also check out the group timings and rules and see if they are a good match for your timings and needs. Be ready to look around until you find a group that feels comfortable to you. I really enjoyed the formal group I was in as I got to meet new people, some of whom became good friends and I stitched on a lot of projects that I wouldn't have considered before, including learning how to stitch on an afghan and a primitive sampler.
The other option is to create an informal group with some of your friends. These have been some of the best groups I have stitched with, chatting together, helping to select projects, friendly discussions and group bonding. This can also lead to issues if you invite some friends and not others, or if the group doesn't work out. You can be really good friends with someone, but they can have wildly differing expectations from a Round Robin. Constantly talking among yourself is key for keeping everything running smoothly. Do you have time to add in all that extra administration and sending reminders, acting as a mediator if two participants have a falling out?
Selecting a Project
Often Round Robin groups will have themes. I love some of the Miriabilia round robins I see where the first person stitches a framework and the others stitch the portrait or headshot of their favourite Mirabilia queen or mermaid in the space provided.
One of my personal favourites was the Gemstone Dragons I participated in. The designs were free from Dragon Dreams at the time, and everybody chose a dragon that suited them, either their birth month or their favourite colour.
Another style of Round Robin is when you send around a single piece project. One friends group had a theme of "Un-Finished Objects (UFOs) where we pulled out some old projects we want to finish but had just lost all motivation on. I sent around this old design on Aida and everyone stitched a little section to help it get closer to the finish.
There are a couple of unexpected issues that you need to consider when selecting a project. For example, does everyone stitch with the top stitch going the same way?
Most right handers stitch with their top stitch running \\\\\\. I was taught by a left hander so my top stitches run //////.
If you are sending around a project such as the Gemstone Dragons where everyone stitches in their own area, the stitch direction is irrelevant. However if you send around a project that is one piece, like Gather Ye Rosebuds, everyone must stitch the same way as the project's owner.
For those projects where we needed to stitch the other way, it was quite difficult. We tried, but then got distracted and slipped back into our own ways and then had to unpick. I got so confused I forgot which way was my way and had to peer closely at each one of my own WIPs for a while afterwards.
But sometimes, challenges give rise to a moment of genius. One person in the group came up with the frankly brilliant idea of turning the project sideways. So if you stitch /// and they need \\\, turn the pattern and the fabric 90 degrees and your stitches will look the same.
Check that everyone in the group has the same level of comfort with fabrics, types of flosses and embellishments. Some people only stitch on Aida, some can't stitch on darker fabrics, some people loathe metallic floss. The point of the round robins is to have fun, not be a chore and spend your time panicking over unfamiliar materials.
Do you send around fabric or a kit? A kit costs more to post (especially in international groups) but everything is included. If you send around a theme (such as the Mirabilia queens) then check that everyone has an appropriate chart in their collection. Otherwise you will need to send around all the charts too. If you expect people to stitch using floss other than DMC, send that around too.
People will love working on Round Robins, but many don't use or cannot afford to buy charts or specialty floss or beads for every person's project.
My favourite Round Robins are when members send around a theme centred on free designs. These allow every member of the group to stitch something to their comfort level. To use DMC only, or to go wild with metallics, bright colours and beads. Of course the other side of this creative freedom is that you might get back a piece that is wildly inconsistent. Three of your people may have stitched with pastel DMC colours while the fourth used vibrant Bright purple and black fuzzy stuff.
The more open you are to people's creativity the more you could be wildly ecstatic or completely disappointed with the results.
Chat with your group, look at what they are proposing to send around, check out some of their completed projects and other Works in Progress (WIPs) and see if their styles match yours.
The more that you want your project stitched with a certain placement of motifs, stitched with particular floss colours and stitch styles, the more you need to include these in your parcel.
One last note, some people send journals around with the project so that everyone can hand write a little entry on their thoughts of the project and how it felt to stitch on it; reflections that the project owner can look back on later. Please consider the size and weight of your journal when considering international postage costs.
The Unexpected Happens
So, you are confident of what you can commit, you have your group, you have your project sorted and its been sent out and everyone is working well. Right up until suddenly there's an issue.
Every round robin I have been in has had issues. Some of these have been quite disastrous, some easily averted. The key thing is to talk, talk and talk again.
Tell the group when you send parcels on, tell the group the day you receive the next parcel. Share photos of your stitching progress.
If something happens and you can't stitch on a project, tell the group and send it on. Feeling shameful that you cannot honour your commitment is momentary compared to lost friendships and banned status if you hang onto someone's project.
And yes I am ashamed to say I have been late sending back round robins twice. Once I moved house and lost which box the project was in so took forever to find it again and send it on. The other time it was a project that I had a great deal of difficulty stitching. It was just all wrong for me. Rather than send it on with an apology, I kept the project vowing to push myself to get it done. My pride lost me friends. Don't be me. Swallow your pride, explain to the group and send it on.
Please be open and honest with your group. If you have difficulties keeping your commitment or you think someone else has, please talk to them, talk to the group. I cannot stress this enough!
One of the "stitch ten hours" groups I was in, someone in the group kept sending pieces on with only a dozen stitches added to them. She never said anything to the group. People after her in the circle felt she wasn't pulling her weight so she was excluded from the next group they formed. They didn't tell her why, she didn't offer any comments on why her contribution was so small. Please people, if you are in a group, whether it be strangers or friends, please talk. Ask questions. Do not assume.
Work out realistic commitments, work with your group to select projects everyone will enjoy, discuss your expectations, keep your commitments and talk with your group. If everyone does that, then Round Robins can be a fabulous time where you get to meet new friends, find closer connections with existing friends, stitch on a few projects you might never have considered before and have a great time doing it.