Quilts have often been made collaboratively, especially in America, where the idea of making a quilt in components (called blocks) really took off. This method meant a quilt top could be assembled very quickly, since the production of blocks was effectively parallelised. If you wanted a bigger quilt, you simply enlisted more friends.
Once the component blocks were completed, they were sewn together to make the top, which was then tacked together with the filling and backing layers. Then everyone got together again to quilt the 3 layers into a single unified whole – the finished quilt.
As well as speeding up the making, this block method allows considerable leeway to the individual contributors. In this Friendship quilt, each contributor has chosen their own block design, but they’ve clearly been given a colour scheme to work with, and at least some fabrics have been shared – its leeway, but not complete freedom.
The result is a bedcover that looks coherent, but is still lively and full of interest. An excellent example of balancing tight rules with interpretive latitude.
Those quiltmakers knew a lot about creative collaboration.