What is a Quilting Bee?
Quilting bees are all about getting together with like-minded quilters and relaxing over sewing. Learn all about them!
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If you quilt or sew, then you have probably heard or read the term, "quilting bee." But what is a quilting bee? A quilting bee is a get-together for people who sew and quilt to work on their individual or group projects with like-minded individuals.
Quilting bees are great social events for learning new skills and techniques, discussing related events, and chatting with peers about anything. It's a relaxing and fun environment for crafters.
Quilting bees originated during the nineteenth century and gained much popularity during that time and continued in popularity long after.
A "bee" is another word for a party or social function and in this case, it's a quilting party, thus it was named "quilting bee." But it's much more than just a party. Below, we will go over quilting bee history, modern quilting bees, and quilting bee ideas.
Quilting Bee History
According to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, quilting bees were only one of the "work parties" colonial women participated in within their community:
"Women of the late 18th century, "the colonial era," shared the work of quiltmaking out of necessity and pleasure. Research in women’s diaries and household inventories has shown that women shared textile work. Work parties of the period included barn raisings, harvestings, and huskings in addition to quilt parties."
Because quilting has always been important for the home and staying warm as well as a relaxing hobby, these quilting bees had many benefits, which is why they have continued to be popular within quilting communities.
Learn more about the origins of quilting with our page A Brief History of Quilting in America
Modern Quilting Bees
Though the excitement died down for a while, modern quilters still enjoy quilting bees, though it may not be exactly like the traditional quilting bees of the mid-nineteenth century.
The News & Observer says that social media played a big role in the resurgence of quilting bees:
"Eventually, this new generation of quilters wanted to meet in person, craving the social atmosphere people enjoy at face-to-face quilting bees. So in 2009, the Modern Quilt Guild was formed and held its first annual meeting, QuiltCon, in 2013."
Technology helps quilters meet online but many still want to share in their quilting experiences and join together, whether it be weekly, monthly, or yearly and these events range from small and local to large and nationwide. Even though these get-togethers are technically quilting bees, many other names are used. Jana from My Favorite Quilt Shop says,
"The term "Quilting Bee" has some very old sentiments and is dated terminology...it is my opinion today's quilters have updated the term by saying "quilting guild" or "quilting retreat" or "quilting party". In years past, a quilting bee was a group of quilters getting together to work on the same quilt, usually tying or hand quilting to speed up the process of completing a quilt. More current quilters have individual projects and if a quilt needs to be done fast - today's quilter will either hire a long arm quilter to do the quilting or when available they will either ask a friend who owns a long arm or rent a long arm.
Quilting retreats/parties can be quite fun. The quilters like to share ideas and show off their projects, sometimes even swap fabric or learn about new gadgets. Most important they enjoy getting away from home and all the interruptions and distractions that come with being at home.
Ultimately, most quilters are very social people and enjoy sharing their knowledge, gossip and projects/works of art."
No matter what it's called, quilting always inspires those who love it to share their quilting adventures with like-minded people. You may even have a local quilting guild you can join if you're interested!
Find even more traditional quilt pattern ideas in our downloadable collection, "American Quilting Traditions: 11 Free Quilt Designs, Quilt Blocks, and More Americana" eBook
Quilting Bee Ideas
Most quilting bees involve quilters working on their own individual projects, chatting while everyone works on their quilt. However, there are always variations on the theme.
Some quilting guilds and bees use the time together to brainstorm new ideas, work on communal projects, or discuss and learn new techniques.
Both hand sewing and machine sewing are used in quilting bees. Lugging a big sewing machine around is less than ideal but portable sewing machines make it possible to bring your work to the bee.
Here are some ideas for you to bring to your next quilting bee. Check with your local quilting guild or craft store to see if there are bees in your area:
- Scrappy Preemie Quilt
- Oak Leaf Applique Block and Maple Leaf Applique Block
- June's Garden Quilt Pattern
- Checkered Garden Quilt Tutorial
- Log Cabin Quilt Block
Have you ever attended a quilting bee?
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