Group Row Quilt: Mission (Im)Possible

Make a row quilt with a group of friends

Make a row quilt in a day? Nothing’s impossible when quilters are your fast friends!

When associate editor Anissa Arnold faced a short-notice assignment to design and sew a quilt for McCall’s Quilting, she turned to her quilt group, The UFOers of Denver, Colorado. Their mission: to complete a quilt top in a day.

To meet the challenge, Anissa needed to come up with a simple yet striking design. She found a crisp palette in the Holiday Tweets collection by Andover Fabrics that included a multi-border print, and the idea of a row quilt began to form, resulting in A Bitty Christmas.

The Holiday Tweets collection from Andover features a fun multi-border stripe print.

The Holiday Tweets collection from Andover features a fun multi-border stripe print.

The number of pieced rows in the pattern was based on the number of participants Anissa enlisted to stitch them. Anissa cut all of the patches and placed them in plastic bags on a Friday night. When the group members arrived Saturday morning, each one selected a bag and began sewing.

Making the Quilt Row by Row

“Everyone knows I really like to foundation paper piece, so they made sure I got the trees,” says Ginger Hildred of Arvada, Colorado. “The blocks went together faster than I anticipated so when one participant didn’t show up, I went ahead and pieced the flying geese blocks as well.”

Ginger Hildred of the UFOers of Denver shows the foundation-pieced trees she made for A Bitty Christmas.

Ginger Hildred of the UFOers of Denver shows the foundation-pieced trees she made for A Bitty Christmas.

“When Anissa called and said, “’Hey, will you do this?’, of course, I said yes!” recalls Judy Barry of Morrison, Colorado. “It was very well organized. All we had to do was sew the pieces together.” Claudia Kniffin of Littleton, Colorado, adds, “Anissa is so good at organization and design. The top is really cute—I liked it. While Anissa had everything pre-cut, there were a couple of things that had to be redone. Thankfully, she brought along some extra fabric. It was really fun doing this project together.”

Claudia Kniffin of the UFOers of Denver with the star blocks she made for A Bitty Christmas.

Claudia Kniffin of the UFOers of Denver with the star blocks she made for A Bitty Christmas.

Working Together to Make the Quilt

Doing things together is nothing new for The UFOers. “The matriarch of the group, Rita Hildred, and her friend started quilting and began the group in the early 1990s, and it grew not into a guild but into a bee that eats and sews,” says Anissa. “I would say the average quilting experience of the members is 25 years.” Rita, the matriarch and oldest member of the group passed away in 2017 at the age of 93; the youngest member is her great-granddaughter, Rachel, 13, who joined the group when she was 6 years old.

“Rachel attempted her first quilt at age 6 and needed lots of help from the group as she got easily distracted,” recalls her grandmother Judy. “She always attended our fall retreat weekend, and this year she completed two table runners from start to finish on her own.”

“It’s been fun watching the core group through the years,” adds Claudia. “Some were just young kids and now they are grown up. Our group has expanded over the years to include mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends.”

Judy Barry of the UFOers of Denver with the checkerboard row she made for A Bitty Christmas.

Judy Barry of the UFOers of Denver with the checkerboard row she made for A Bitty Christmas.

One Big Quilting Family

“There are seven of us who are related, and we adopted the rest of the group members,” says Ginger. “It just feels like a large family. We trust each other to bring in new people who will be a good fit. Our newest member is in her thirties and primarily sews clothing. If you enjoy your craft, you are welcome to join us. We all have different backgrounds and skills that foster creativity. We bring problems to quilting day, and someone always has a magic solution.”

“What makes this group special is the encouragement, sharing, and inspiration—it’s just really fun. I try to never miss it,” said Claudia. “The group is very generous with supplies, ideas, and encouragement. It is truly an enjoyable and talented group of ladies.”

Sandy Crawford of the UFOers of Denver shows the pinwheels she made for A Bitty Christmas.

Sandy Crawford of the UFOers of Denver shows the pinwheels she made for A Bitty Christmas.

In addition to Anissa and middle school student Rachel, the group consists of several professional home decorators, health care professionals, retirees, teachers, moms, a police officer, and an artistic painter. “These are strong, independently minded women who are very interesting and helpful,” explained Anissa. “They are like sisters to me. One even helped me find a place to live when I moved back to Colorado. That’s why I knew I could count on them to help me with this no-notice quilting project.”

Finishing the Quilt in a Day Spent Working Together

The UFOers lived up to Anissa’s expectations and finished the row piecing in that one Saturday; Anissa pieced the top together the next day. She showcased the border print between two strips of the striped fabric and placed these units between the six pieced rows. By turning the border print vertically, Anissa created interesting side borders. She then took the completed top to her mother, Jackie Arnold of Colorado Springs, Colorado, a professional longarm quilter.

A Bitty Christmas, designed by Anissa Arnold, made by the UFOers of Denver, Colorado

A Bitty Christmas, designed by Anissa Arnold, made by the UFOers of Denver, Colorado

The entire quilt was literally completed in a weekend. “It was fun to have everyone dive in and help each other to meet the deadline. I designed this quilt to not overtake people’s lives or projects,” Anissa says. “We enjoy challenges,” Ginger adds. “If McCall’s Quilting offers, we will gladly do it again. This was simply another fun group project.” Sounds like mission accomplished!


This feature is included in the November/December 2018 issue of McCall’s Quilting.

Kick off your holiday season by making your own version of A Bitty Christmas!

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