What NOT to do when organizing a group quilt

We were recently nominated to be chairs for the raffle quilt committee of our local guild, The Empire Quilters Guild.  The guild makes a group raffle quilt each year to raise money for the quilt show they hold every other year.

Last year they used Tula Pink’s 100 Modern Quilt Blocks, and almost everyone that wanted to participate was able to, and the final quilt was wonderful.  Ivete and I made a few blocks and helped a little with the final layout, but the majority of the organization and work was done by others.

This time, it was up to us and our fellow committee members to come up with a design, choose and cut fabric, print patterns, make kits and then hand them out to guild members. After a few months, we collected the blocks, (or the kits of people that weren’t able to finish), lay out and piece the top, baste, quilt, and bind it.   Unfortunately we only received a fraction of the finished blocks that we were hoping for, and several guild members felt terrible they weren’t up to the challenge of what we had asked.  Luckily after some alterations of the final design (and a lot of work) we were able to make a great quilt (pictured above), and members were happy and proud of what we put together in the end.

But we could have saved ourselves and our guild members a lot of grief if we had followed a few simple guidelines. As a reminder to ourselves for next time, and to help others that may be organizing a group quilt project, we came up with some notes for what NOT to do.

5 Tips for Organizing a Group Quilt

1 – Don’t use a complicated pattern or technique.  While there are a lot of really talented quilters in our guild, there are also some that are relatively new to quilting, or haven’t had the chance to expand their skills yet.  To get the most participation when working on a group quilt, you have to keep the skill level in line with your least-skilled members, not the average.  In hindsight, it should have been a clue that while making the sample block of our foundation paper pieced design, another planner and I both made mistakes.

2 – Don’t assume your directions make sense – have a novice read them over to make sure they understand.   We only proof-read the directions among ourselves, but we already knew what we were trying to say.  Someone not involved in the committee and with only a basic knowledge of quilting would have been able to give us valuable insights into writing clearer instructions, therefor giving us better end results.

3 – Don’t choose a pattern where it makes a difference if points/corners match.  You’re just asking for trouble.  A design with sashing, or an alternate grid of some kind will be much more forgiving than a straight up grid with points and corners that need to match.  We thought we were accounting for this by using a paper-pieced pattern, but that wasn’t the case, and several points were pretty far from matching.

4 – Don’t use materials you’re not used to.  Our pattern used the foundation paper-piecing technique, which we printed on foundation and distributed to members in kits.  We decided to use a material that was more like a non-woven interfacing than paper, thinking that we would be able to leave the foundation in and not spend time ripping it out.  However, none of us had actually used the type of foundation before, and it ended up making things even harder.  It was much too stiff to leave in, and it was a lot harder to rip out than regular paper.  The pattern also became stretched or skewed in some cases, possibly while going through the printer.  So even for those that followed the pattern exactly, the pieces didn’t necessarily match up.  This definitely didn’t help our points-matching problem.

5 – Don’t use fancy color names.  We realized after the fact that what we were referring to as “Jade” and “Teal” could understandably be interpreted as the opposite of what we intended.  It would have been a lot more clear if we had used the names Green and Blue.

I hope this helps with your next group project!

11 thoughts on “What NOT to do when organizing a group quilt

  1. Fran says:

    Wow. If you hadn’t told me all the troubles you had I’d have never know. The quilt is beautiful! Kudos for pulling it all together.

  2. Helen says:

    I couldn’t agree more with all of this advice! I think it is especially important to stay at a level for the least experienced person in the group. Quilting can become very frustrating if you are trying to do something that you are not ready for, experience-wise.

  3. Petra says:

    Thanks so much for this advice – this is such a lucky coincidence for me to read your post as I want to make the patterns for our charity quilt this weekend and send them out on Monday – your points really help me to arrange the block patterns in a much better way than I would have done without reading your “What not do…..”!!!

  4. Aleeda says:

    The quilt is indeed stunning. Your tips are very much on point. We at Empire Quilters Guild shall learn from these tips for our next raffle quilt!

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