Have you ever joined a quilting bee? Whether they take place online or in person, bees offer a great way to exchange blocks with other quilters and make a quilting project in record time. But that's hardly the only benefit of swapping quilt blocks.
Here's what I love most about quilting bees:
Members of a quilting bee often find that they are encouraged to make quilt blocks outside of their comfort zone, allowing them to build their skills and try new techniques. When I designed the Baseball Curves quilt (seen above) for my book Modern Bee — 13 Quilts to Make with Friends, I knew that sewing 36 of the curves blocks would get tedious. So I enlisted the help of my quilting bee, asking each member to sew three blocks of a particular color. Although some of the group was hesitant about piecing curves, they all did an amazing job and I don’t think I would have tackled this quilt pattern without their helping hands! The group dynamic is something special that I have really come to appreciate about swapping quilt blocks with others.
Swapping quilt blocks is also a motivating factor for many quilters. With a set deadline to complete one or more quilt blocks each month, bees offer accountability for those who’d like to stay active in their quilting, but often find that life gets in the way. I’ve found that sewing with the charity bee keeps me on my toes by providing regular deadlines. This Fractured Star Block (seen above) is one I made in June to mail to one of the other quilters in my bee. Since it was a busy summer, it was the only sewing I was able to finish in months. I found the practice of sitting down at my machine to be so refreshing, and yet I probably wouldn’t have sewn anything that month had it not been for my upcoming deadline!
Aside from learning together and finding purpose in deadlines, quilters can form strong friendships from sewing in a bee. The community that comes from a collaborative project can have a dynamic effect -- I’ve seen quilters work together on charity quilts, designing beautiful projects to raise funds for a nonprofit organization. Steph Jacobson held a “do. Good Stitches” quilting bee to make a modern, disappearing 9-patch quilt to donate to the Project Linus charity, which makes blankets for critically ill children. She says, “This is the largest quilt I have ever quilted. I love how it turned out and would like to thank the ladies of the WISH circle for making such beautiful blocks.”
Swapping quilt blocks as part of a bee is a way to connect with the past and honor traditions. Quilters have been sewing together in large gatherings for more than a century, and many of the traditional quilt patterns we know and love today originated in these quilting circles.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own quilts, why not treat yourself to a new Craftsy class? Instructor Joanna Figueroa’s Lollipops Quilt (seen above) is just one of four quilt projects featured in her course Simple Fresh Quilts, along with Spools, Wheels and Lifesavers. The patterns are all perfect for swapping quilt blocks with a bee. And, who knows? You just might meet some students in your next Craftsy course who’d like to form a quilting bee and exchange quilt blocks by mail!