Creative Embroidery, Round Robin 2: The Virginians

Creative Embroidery, Round Robin 2: The Virginians

Posted by Christen Brown on Mar 10th 2023

Round Robin Beginnings 

I have a new book coming out at the end of March of this year, Creative Embroidery, Mixing the Old with The New. The emphasis of the book is to create something new from your vintage and new stash of fabrics, hankies, table linens, doilies, laces, appliqués, trims, ribbons, threads, buttons, beads, notions, and more.


To help me promote the book, I asked a few good friends to participate in a Round Robin block exchange. So, what is a Round Robin, and how did this project get started?

I asked each artist to create a 10”- 12” pieced square, in any type of fabric or color combination. The block construction could be contemporary, classic, or vintage; and constructed as a crazy-pieced, strip-pieced, patched, or a whole-cloth base. The base could also include doilies, laces, or ribbons. Once the block was created, each person then gathered the threads and embellishments that they also wanted to include on their block. Then the block travelled on to the next participant in the group, and then to the next, and then back to the owner.

Introductions Please! 

Let me introduce you to the participants of this Round Robin Group. Artist, teacher, and author Diane Herbort, and artist and teacher Chris Vinh of Stitchesnquilts, team with their longtime friend, artist Nancy Karst. Diane and Chris have taught for, and all the ladies shop at their favorite craft store, Artistic Artifacts, where many of the fabulous fibers used in these blocks came from.

Diane Herbort

Black and White and Crazy All Over 

Round 1: Diane


Looking at my collection of black and white fabrics patterned with dots and stripes, I had a vision of a crazy quilt with bright, colorful flowers. I pieced in some old lace, as well as vintage rickrack trim, vintage cotton, and rayon trims, that I had been collecting over the years. The appliquéd vase is embellished with strips of the tapes used to make Battenberg-style lace.

I embroidered vines coming out of the vase, using the stem stitch, and added lazy daisy leaves worked in perle cotton and silk embroidery ribbon. I embroidered a bouquet of lazy daisy stitch flowers using perle cotton and silk embroidery ribbon. I stitched orange “china stencil” buttons, assorted pink and orange plastic buttons, and black snaps onto the vines.

Round 2: Chris


It was fun to add more color to Diane’s black and white fabrics. Using the colors of the center flowers, I added embellishment around the block. Diane had some fun yellow beads that I used along with silk ribbons and a variety of threads. These are the stitches that I used: couched stitch, feather stitch double and variations, blanket stitch and variations, cross stitch (to couch a trim in place), chain stitch, fly stitch with French knot stitch, French knot stitch, single bead stitch. I also tied bows of silk ribbon into the “china stencil” buttons, and French knots stitched with silk embroidery ribbon into pink plastic buttons.

I did find it a bit intimidating to work on someone else’s piece but enjoyed the process and looked forward to seeing what was added next.

Round 3: Nancy


I concur with Chris that it is a bit intimidating to continue another stitcher’s work. I loved the playfulness of Diane’s and Chris’s color and stitch choices. I decided that I wanted to embellish one section with a vignette using the woven rose stitch, ribbon stitch, French knot stitch, and single bead stitch, working in vines stitched with the feather stitch. In other areas I embellished the fabrics with the French knot stitch, single bead stitch, fly stitch, chain stitch, buttonhole stitch, straight stitch, and the running stitch.

One of the big questions I ask myself when working on a crazy quilt is “When do I stop stitching?”

Final Notes from Diane 


I was really pleased with the stitching and embellishing that Chris and Nancy did and how they used embroidery and beads to add to and elaborate on the prints of the fabrics. My final additions were to add some silk ribbon embroidery on the upper left and a few 3-D groupings of beads to accent the vase of flowers. It was easy to entrust my vague idea to two talented friends and just see where they would go with it. I plan to add pieced borders, making it into a slightly larger, more substantial quilt.

Nancy Karst 

Indigo Mandala

Round 1: Nancy


I began with a handkerchief with a delicate crochet edging. I first added an indigo-dyed doily and topped that with a vintage yo-yo and button. I stitched around the center dyed doily and vintage yo-yo with the blanket stitch. I stitched vintage peach silk-covered snaps and single seed beads, onto the center doily. I added rust-colored bird shaped beads, green silk-covered snaps, and tiny buttons to the outer edge of the blanket stitch. I used the vase stencil from the Embroidery Stencils Darling Motif Collection, by C&T Publishing to make four wool vases for the corners. The vases are sewn down with the blanket stitch, and are filled with embroidered “greenery”, worked with the stem and feather stitches.

Round 2: Diane


Nancy had mentioned the idea of thinking of her piece as a “mandala”. So, I explored options for extending the center out towards the edges. I embroidered a straight line of chain stitches and added buttons and lazy daisy stitches. Curving vines seemed like they would be nice to fill in the other spaces. I embroidered these with the stem stitch and lazy daisy stitch.

The stitches that Nancy had used in the vases, seemed too delicate in color and thickness to add to, so I added additional stitches. Stitching the first feather stitch vine in perle cotton was a little scary but it really was the right choice. After that, I could have fun adding some embroidered lazy daisy and lazy daisy square tip stitch leaves, lazy daisy and buttonhole circle stitch flowers, French knot, and single bead stitch details. I also included glass, plastic, and wood buttons; Czech glass flower beads, and gold seed beads; and more of the vintage peach silk covered snaps.

The vases didn’t look “filled” yet, to me. And the vines look a little bare. So, it was time to pass this along to Chris.

Round 3: Chris


Again, I was a bit intimidated to add to this piece which Nancy and Diane had already embellished. I knew from the start that I wanted to add some cross stitches to the edge and using a variegated 12 weight Sulky thread. The wool vases needed a bit of something to perk them up, so two of them got my favorite stitch, French knots, and two got little silk covered snaps that Nancy had included in her treasures.

I worked the lazy daisy stitch with silk embroidery ribbon and added French knot stitches and beads to brighten up the vintage print of the yo-yo. I finished off with lots of French knot stitches along the vines and branches around the block.

Time to pass it along and see how Nancy finishes her block!

Final Notes from Nancy


Wow! Diane and Chris made the piece zing, adding touches I love. Their beautiful stitching added a gentle swirl to keep the eye moving around the center doily. Chris’s delicate French knots are a joy to behold. Diane’s flowing stem stitches with gentle curves look like they are happily vining their way to the edges of the piece. 

To finish, I fused a piece of wool felt to the back using Misty Fuse, to give the linen handkerchief more stability. I left the beautiful crochet edges of the handkerchief open, in honor of the woman who made it. 

Chris Vinh

With a Little Help by Friends 

Round 1: Chris 


At the time we started the round robin, I was testing a Wonky Log Cabin ruler for Jean Ann Wright and decided to use a fabric bundle of overdyed kimono silk. I pieced the block and added a layer of fusible interfacing to keep the edges from fraying. I collected a variety of Painters Threads and fibers, along with a rust dyed crochet lace doily and ephemera from my stash to get started. I hand-stitched a decorative looped braid, and embroidered the blanket stitch, feather stitch, and cretan stitch, on a few seams. I added a grouping of buttons with ribbons tied into the center.

Round 2: Nancy


I began by embellishing the doily, emphasizing the floral qualities. I wanted to use the gimp Chris had provided but could not easily stitch through the crochet with the heavy gimp cord. Weaving the green gimp over and under the petals was my solution. I used a fern stitch on the inner petals and a long straight stitch on the outer leaves. Then embellished it with small green beads.

I stitched silk embroidery ribbon over a nearby seam. While it was dimensional, it was too straight. So, I wove gimp under the ribbon and created loops on either side of the ribbon and

embroidered this section with beads. On the other side of the block, I sewed three large tubular wrapped beads with two metal buttons between them. I embroidered the blanket stitch around each button and added straight stitches coming out of the holes in the button. I

hand-stitched a meandering line of the decorative looped braid, couched a straight seam with another trim, and lastly embroidered the feather stitch on two seams.

Then, I passed the block on to Diane.

Round 3: Diane


I wanted to accentuate and focus on the flowers in the Japanese silks. The large yellow flower embroidered with the stem stitch, has a lazy daisy stitch flower worked into the center. I sprinkled a grouping of smaller lazy daisy stitch flowers, amongst the copper buttons, adding in fly stitch vines. The center of each flower is a single bead with a copper iridescent finish.

I stitched these same beads to the section of silk ribbon with gimp that Nancy had added. I decided to add a bit more color to the big yarn-wrapped beads by wrapping each bead with a silk thread and tied a piece of silk ribbon and a bead in the center of each one. I embroidered a feather stitch curving it over and under the decorative looped braid.

Chris had included a big pearlized green flower that had no holes. To hold it in place, I stitched over it twice and discovered that the stitching made a star! I went over it with thread one more time, adding a bead at the intersections. The stem stitch vine, lazy daisy stitch leaves, and silk ribbon embroidered “berries” echoes the curving lines just above it.

Final Notes from Chris

I was thrilled when I received my block back, to see what Nancy and Diane had added! They incorporated the buttons and fabric beads handmade by friends as well as highlighting the details of the silk fabrics with the hand dyed ribbons and threads that I had selected from Painters Threads. I’m not sure there is anything I could add at this point! I will most likely finish this as a small quilt and layer onto a solid color quilt to be framed.

A Final Note from Diane: 

One thing that was nice about this round robin was that we had chosen and sent along pretty much all the items that we wanted to include on our block. I think EVERYONE ended up having something additional added by one or both, of the other participants, but we did check with the "originator" of the piece each time. I think we will all agree that they were good additions that helped the design. It was fun and a stretch for each of us, whether to work with fabrics or colors that we might not have chosen ourselves, or to respond to what the artists before us had done. 

Christen’s Final Notes

I want to express my sincere gratitude, and to thank each one of my friends, Diane, Nancy, and Chris for participating in this Round Robin adventure! I love each block, they are all so different, and are truly unique heirloom works of art. My deepest appreciation is sent out to each of you!

Shop Creative Embroidery, Mixing the Old with the New 


Christen Brown teaches embroidery, quilting, crazy quilting, ribbonwork, mixed media, and beadwork in her best-selling books. With a degree in fashion design, she has shown her work in galleries and fashion shows internationally. She lives in Escondido, California.