Now that the three bees that I was in have come to an end, I thought it would be helpful for those wavering and wondering about joining a bee to provide you with my experiences. Plus, I've never really posted all the bee blocks I have worked on the past 16 month here, just on Flickr.
What is a bee?
It's an online group of sewists/quilters (I have no idea what the correct terminology is) who usually exchange quilt blocks every month. How long and in what way is normally determined by the Bee Mama when the group is set up and the permutations are endless. It could be for six months, a year; could involve making one or two blocks a month; could involve you using your own fabric; using fabric that is sent to you by other members of the bee; could be making bee blocks to a very set of specific instructions, could be you are asked to make what you want; could be you are making bee blocks for charity quilts.
How do I get into a bee?
I was asked if I would like to join the first bee I was in - Fresh Modern Bee II. I liked it so much I joined two more. Simply String because I've always been fascinated by the spectacular quilts you can make from tiny scraps of fabric and then I joined A Twist On Tradition because it was taking traditional blocks and bringing them bang up to date with modern fabric choices. These latter two bees I found here on Flickr where people are regularly looking for people to join bees that are starting. They are at all sorts of levels too. I think some look for evidence of activity in you Flickr photo stream. Others may well just look for a pulse.
There is a quilting bee website with quite a bit of info on it too, although I don't think there has been a new post since February of this year.
What you can make.
I had my first month in the Simply Strings bee, sent three paper heart shaped templates and asked my fellow bee members to use the fabric I provided but also to add in a strip or two of their own so I wouldn't recognise all my own fabric. A fairly conservative request and on reflection, not much room for individual creativity.
I then appliqued the blocks to the back and front of a quilt and ended up with this for the front...
...and this for the back.
Meanwhile, I made these blocks for everyone else in Simply Strings
Oops, sorry...forgot this one too:
Next up was A Twist On Tradition.
By this stage, I wanted to offer a bit more leeway to my fellow bee quilters, so I asked for two 12 1/2" (unfinished) blocks that could only use a 4 x 4 half-square triangle pattern. One block was to be red and white and the other black and white and again, I provided the fabrics.
I got some really lovely blocks back, all spot on measurement wise and I put them together to make this
I decided to add a border all the way around to bring the quilt together. Before, I felt it just looked like a bunch of random bee blocks but with a border it seemed to make it more cohesive.
And in return, I made these bee blocks in A Twist On Tradition.
And finally, I was Miss July in the Fresh Modern Bee II. By this stage I'd seen how creative people could be so gave everyone free rein to 'do what makes you happy.' This is the only bee quilt I haven't finished yet as I was waiting on some blocks so this is where I'm at.
This one is going to take some time to put together because I need to make some extra bits so it all, like a jigsaw, slots together.
And for my fellow Fresh Modern Bee II ladies I made:
What did I learn?
- a whole host of different block and style and colour ideas
- that no two Ziplock bags are the same; each month brought several different style plastic bags and if I ever give up quilting I may take up the more sedentary pleasure of collecting Ziplock bags
- that there are some very creative people out there who are very giving of their skills
- that unfortunately it's not just pastry that is flaky. I've experienced a Bee Mama setting the bee up and then promptly disappearing into the ether, never to be heard of again. Bee members also disappear, sometimes after their month is done, yours is yet to happen and you've already sent them the fabric. Communication to them goes unanswered, even when you ask them to just send the fabric back because you've long since accepted that no block will be forthcoming.
- That finished bee quilts are a long time coming!
I have, by and large, thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being in all three bees. If they go well they are to be recommended as a great way of 'meeting' fellow quilters and experimenting with new ideas, colours and fabrics that may be outside of your comfort zone. I've picked up a whole host of new ideas and new ways of block construction and I am grateful to each and everyone for the time they took to make my bee blocks.
Thank you everyone.