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Quilting Bee's - Quilting & Sewing Events 101 Blog Series

Today is day one of Quilting & Sewing Events 101 Series here at Pile O' Fabric. And I will be talking about Quilting Bee's! If you are just joining me for this series you can read about the details here.

Quilting Bee's 101

What is a Quilting Bee?
Quilting Bee's originally started as a social event where a group of quilters would come together and work as a team to complete a quilting project. Commonly, the quilt would be for a special event, such as a wedding gift, charity, etc. This was an easy way to complete quilts quickly, but also, to teach, learn and meet new friends. In the end, they would have a completed quilt made with love by all the quilter’s hands.

What is a Virtual Quilting Bee?
A Virtual Quilting Bee functions much like the traditional, but allows quilters from all over the world to collaborate and socialize together using online tools such as Flickr.

1.May do.Good Stitches for Bliss Circle, 2. Scraptacularity tutorial by Completely Cauchy, 3. MAY, 4. do. Good Stitches May Stripes for Harmony circle, 5. F+F = AMSB May Block #2, 6. Granny Square block #9 in purple/yellow

How does a Virtual Quilting Bee work?
There are many different types of Bees. The most popular, the basic bee, has 12 members and lasts over a span of one year. The bee host (also known as Bee Mama or Papa), is responsible for creating a schedule that will assign each member a month. When it is your assigned month you will choose what blocks your bee members will make for you. Usually you can choose a quilt pattern from the web, use your own design, whatever you like just as long as it fits the format of the particular bee. You will give the instructions and fabric requirements to the members and each participant will make one or more blocks depending on your request. You will also be given the option to have the members use fabric from their own stash, or you can provide the fabric for them and mail it (this depends on the rules of the specific bee). Everyone will have one month to complete their blocks and mail them to you. This process gets repeated 11 more times every month until each bee member has all of their blocks to create their completed quilt.

The 3x6 Bee
There are many different variations of the basic traditional bee. There are bees which only last for a quarter. These are called “3x6 Bees” and each hive has 6 members. These bees typically have a theme (stars, solids, sampler, wonky, etc). At the start of a new quarter each member chooses a themed group to join. Your group will make introductions on a Flickr group and you will each share a mosaic of your quilting and block "style". Along with this you will provide your members your preferred color scheme, including the background color for the blocks. Once everyone has shared, you can get to work creating one block for each member (6 blocks total). You will choose one block pattern to make within your hive’s theme. For example, if you are in the stars themed hive, you will make 6 star blocks using the same star pattern. The color of each block is according to each member’s chosen color scheme. So, in total, you’ll create 6 blocks (one for each member) in 6 colors (that your members choose) using 1 pattern (that you choose according to the hive theme).

3X6 2nd Quarter Paper Piecing Hive 4
3X6 2nd Quarter Paper Piecing Hive 4 by janesfabrics

In the end, each member will have 6 blocks in their chosen color scheme, but they will vary in pattern (this is called a sampler quilt). You can make a small quilt top with them or continue to join each quarter until you have enough blocks for a full quilt. A 3x6 Bee is a great way to get your feet wet in the Quilt Bee Community. Usually 3x6 Bees allow anyone a new quilter or seasoned professional. Here are some reasons this is a great way to start

  • Your only committing to 3 months and 6 blocks
  • You choose which blocks you will make, so you don't have to worry about being requested to make something too difficult

Charity Bees
There are also Charity Bees. One of the most popular modern charity bee’s is do.Good Stitches, started by Rachel Hauser at Stitched in Color. This is an invitation-only modern quilting charity bee, but all you have to do is submit a form requesting to join and they will check you out. As soon as they have enough prospects to create a new group they will contact you. They provide quilts for over 13 charities! I just recently joined the year-round Wish at do.Good Stitches group which will be making Quilts for Project Linus. You can choose whether to be a Stitcher, who just makes blocks every month, or a Quilter who will not only make blocks, but plan and finish quilts twice a year. I chose to be a quilter, because I love the whole quilting process start to finish!

1.layout - almost all the blocks together, 2. Annular Eclipse, 3. Polaroids by Love circle, 4. 4 x 5 Modern Quilt Bee - Blocks received Q 3, 4 and 1

So how can I join a Quilting Bee?
There are a lot of online lists and resources to find bees, but the most popular place is Flickr. Here are links to a few places to start!

Quilting Bee Blocks
Quilting Bee Block's Flickr Group

All you need to do is go to the I Want In! thread at Quilting Bee Blocks Flickr Group. This thread will have updates from Bee Mama's or Papa's looking for new bee members, if you don't see something recent or something you like just post to the thread that you are interested in joining a bee. You should receive an email from people looking for bee members pretty quickly. Before you join make sure you have read the bee rules and know exactly what you are committing yourself too.

Join the Fun! Do be shy :)
As a new quilter and sewer I know it can be a little intimidating to think you will be making blocks for other people. Even if you are not meeting the quilters in person, virtual bees can still feel a little scary. What if I can't make the block the way they have planned? What if my block doesn't turn out as nice as the others? Both those questions have crossed my mind. But, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. You may be a paper-piecing ninja, and not so great at HSTs, but your other members may have never paper pieced at all. Just make sure you communicate your apprehensions with the members of your bee and I guarantee they will work with you. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and go for it! Most bees will specify if beginners are welcome, or if you must have a specific experience, so just search for one that fits your situation. If you’re a beginner I suggest you try a 3x6 bee to get your feet wet. You will learn a ton, become a better quilter, and meet new friends!

Quilting Bee Disclaimer
Quilting Bees are extremely addicting! Don't go crazy and bite off more than you can chew :) When you join a bee, you are committing yourself to making blocks, and if you don't finish them someone is going to lose out and that is not fair. Most Bee Mama's and Papa's understand that life happens and can try to work with you if your blocks will be late one month, but if this becomes a habit you may be asked to leave a bee.

What to expect when joining a Bee?
I started planning this post series a few weeks ago, and I have been keeping an eye out for extra resources to share to help you learn more about quilting bees. Yesterday, I happened to see that Lynne at Lily's Quilts posted about this topic. She did an awesome job explaining what bees are, especially what to expect when you join a Quilting Bee. Check it out here!

Want to start your own Bee?
Want to learn the ins and outs of becoming a Bee Mama or Papa?Rachel at Stitched in Color has a full post all about doing exactly that here! Quilting Bee Blocks also has a great resource about setting up your online bee here.

Stay tuned for the fun series of Quilting and Sewing Events 101, there will be some awesome giveaways, guest bloggers and more!
I'd love it if you would share this series with a friend! Take a button if you would like :)

Pile O' Fabric


Alyssa Lichner

Alyssa Lichner

Creator of Pile O' Fabric

Alyssa Lichner is a graphic designer turned avid sewist. She writes modern quilting tutorials and shares techniques and inspiration on her blog, Pile O’ Fabric. Alyssa has a passion for exploring different techniques and applying them to modern designs. She is thankful to have the opportunity to share these techniques, through her tutorials, patterns, and classes with quilters around the world. She always encourages her readers and students to challenge themselves to try new things and to approach quilting with a fearless attitude.