The Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild’s Inaugural Travelling Quilt Project


By Eleri

One person’s adventure in time and fabric

Back in April 2016, we were all offered an opportunity to join a new Guild bee called The Travelling Quilt Project. Naturally, with my motto of “sure, I’ll give it a go – after all, how hard can it be?”, I stuck up my hand as an interested party.  And, well, long story short, before I knew it, I was one of eight absolutely fantastic individuals setting out on an incredible year-long adventure together.

Now, most of you I am sure would be familiar with the traditional concept of a Round Robin quilt. Our Travelling Quilt Project was based on a very similar structure, with each of us providing a starting block, and then contributing an element to each of the other quilt tops as they came round to us in turn.

Our project borrowed from Sherri Lynn Wood’s concept of taking the “Yes, and…” perspective when sewing collectively. What this means is that the initial starter piece of the quilt (sewn by the eventual owner), is seen as an opening comment in a conversation. When passed to the next person, they consider the piece (and the mood board/ intent provided by the originator) to acknowledge and add to, just like in good conversation.

So, first things first, we each had to come up with a mood board/ intent/ concept for our quilt. We drafted a “brief” for our fellow Travelling Quilt Project Buddies to read so they could understand where we’d started, and could work from there. And of course we each sewed the starting piece for our own travelling quilt.

To help us all manage the project, we had a set of guidelines to ensure harmony and accord amongst the participants, and we had a set of deadlines to make sure we each had an appropriate amount of time to work on each quilt.  We communicated and collaborated on a dedicated private FB page on which we uploaded our quilt inspiration briefs, reminders of deadlines, and any questions we wanted to ask. This meant that anyone could participate, regardless of location, and we ended up with a group of people from all round Victoria.

OK, I think that’s enough of an introduction to the project  –who wants to see some pictures of the starter blocks?! Let’s go!

Andi and Andrea’s starters

Travelling quilt starting blocks 2

Billie and Bron’s starters

Travelling quilt starting blocks 1

Eleri and Kristy’s starters

Travelling quilt starting blocks 3

Louise and Sonia’s starters

Travelling quilt starting blocks 4

Now, what strikes you about the starting pieces of these quilts?

YES!  Every single one is completely different!

I’m not sure whether this was just luck, but we each came up with a completely different colour scheme, style, theme, and inspiration for our quilts.  Not only that, but there was a whole range of techniques too – English Paper Piecing, foundation paper piecing, made fabric, applique, improv, etc. This was fantastic, as it meant that there was no way we were going to get bored of the project – each quilt was going to give us something completely new to think about.

Quite early in the process one of the other participants talked about Sherri Lynn Wood’s series of questions for reflecting on the quilting process. I found these really helpful to consider before and after each round as a way of reflecting on what to do and what I ended up doing (sometimes quite different!) So, here goes

What surprised me?

I found I seemed to have a “process” I followed for each quilt. First I went to my stash and did a fabric pull (this was always a fantastically fun riotous cocktail of mess on my spare bedroom floor, or on the dining room table, meaning tea on laps for days at a time!). Then I looked at the quilt itself. Then I did some research – I looked at the inspiration brief, I trawled the internet for images associated with any inspiration people or themes, I borrowed books, I looked at the relevant Pinterest boards.

And then I sketched. And sketched. And sketched. Life-size blocks, coloured-in blocks and borders and designs on my kids’ Ikea roll of drawing paper (I don’t think they’ve noticed yet…)

And only then did I started making.

Turns out I might be a bit of a planner…

Having said that, a few times I found I started making to my plan, and then I changed tack part-way through the process. In a couple of instances I passed these half-made pieces and they ended up being incorporated by someone else!

What did I discover/ learn?

Oh, so many things!

That making for such a talented group of women was equal parts terrifying and inspiring!

And not to be afraid!

To use colour and colour combinations, fabric choices (especially large prints, for me), and techniques I wouldn’t normally choose.

That solids aren’t boring!

That learning new techniques and trying something new is liberating and freeing and exciting and fun!

Never be scared to just cut the fabric!

To throw the rules and the rulers out of the window if you feel like it.

What was satisfying about the process and/ or outcome?

Definitely learning so many things was an absolute highlight.  But also seeing my vision for each person come together towards the end of each month, and wondering what the next person would do with it was really exhilarating.

What was dissatisfying? If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

Probably my slow starts for the earlier rounds were the most frustrating part for me, as it meant I felt rushed to finish. Being more familiar with the process as we continued meant that I improved my time management for later rounds. I was more confident starting and therefore was less rushed at the end. I think I was surprised how long I took to make up my mind about what to make for each quilt! The process as a whole has definitely made me more confident and more decisive.

Sherri Lynn Wood has one more question, which I’ll get to shortly.


Obviously, the works in progress were all a secret from their final recipient. However, we were encouraged to share sneak peeks of our contribution to each quilt.  So here are a few of the amazing, (infuriating!), tantalising sneak peeks we saw during the year.

Travelling quilt progress 1

Such enticing morsels of sewing, don’t you think?!

Travelling quilt progress 2

Sherri Lynn Wood’s final question is:

Where to from here?

Well, I think I’d have to say I’d absolutely participate in a Travelling Quilt Project again!

And why is that?  Well, I’ve loved the process, and everything I’ve learnt, and of course I love my final flimsy!

But, most of all I’d do it all over again because the best part of the whole project was making friends with such gorgeous ladies from all over Victoria.  Here we are (except for Sonia, who unfortunately wasn’t able to be with us on handover day), all wrapped up in a whole lotta love. Thank you dear friends for an absolutely incredible year xxx

Thanks everyone or reading, and if you start your own Travelling Quilt Project, I wish you all even more fun than we’ve had! If you have any questions about the project, feel free to send us an email.

Keep scrolling to see all the finished flimsies.


Andi’s finished flimsy


Andrea’s finished flimsy


Billie’s finished flimsy


Bron’s finished flimsy


Eleri’s finished flimsy


Kristy’s finished flimsy


Louise’s finished flimsy


Sonia’s finished flimsy


6 thoughts on “The Melbourne Modern Quilt Guild’s Inaugural Travelling Quilt Project

  1. What a challenge! ! First of all having a plan for your quilt, and being able to communicate it yo others, and secondly, being able to follow someone elses plan wow!

  2. Hi Eleri,
    Any chance you could publish your set of guidelines? It might encourage further groups with that little bit of groundwork….

  3. From beginning to end a complete surprising outcome. The initial owners block would’ve given an idea of the color scheme and style but the remaining blocks and layout would be a mystery. The resulting quilts of each person were amazing! I loved them all. I think the Traveling Quilt is a version of the US Friendship Quilt in a way. To keep this short, the finished constructed blocks are returned to the quilt owner, who decides the layout, the backing fabric and binding fabric and finishing of the quilt. Then an official get together to celebrate the reveal of each persons finished quilt.

  4. What a wonderful project! I love how quilting brings people together. These all turned out so differently, they look amazing. Congratulations!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *