Friday, 2 December 2011

To bee or not to bee...

...that is the question.

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.

Simply Strings - February 2011

I then appliqued the blocks to the back and front of a quilt and ended up with this for the front...

Simply Strings bee quilt finished

...and this for the back.
Simply strings bee quilt finished

Meanwhile, I made these blocks for everyone else in Simply Strings

Oops, sorry...forgot this one too:

Simply Strings Bee - June 2011

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.

A Twist On Tradition - May 2011

I got some really lovely blocks back, all spot on measurement wise and I put them together to make this
A Twist on Tradition bee quilt finished

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!
In conclusion 
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.


    1. Goodpost Alison- I have not yet been in a bee and am quite interested but perhapsthe sensible thing would be to form a bee of bloggers who already know each other?

    2. What you have achieved through the Bees looks fabulous. I can understand that it would be frustrating sending out fabric and not getting the blocks!

    3. Loving all the different blocks. I am only in one bee and it is the Brit Bee so I was very lucky in joining this and being able to be part of such an amazing group, especially as I was a brand new blogger when I joined. I think it would be hard to top such a supportive group and I am also inclined to think one bee at a time. Cannot believe that you have had bee mamas and members disappear. That is so rude!!

    4. Great post! I was invited to join a bee once but chickened out. I'm just not confident enough that I could take a risk with other peoples fabric and have it work out...and that's before thinking about all the things that could wrong with other people being flaky!

    5. Great information as I have just signed up to my first! We are using scraps of our own fabric so I am excited to see how it turns out!

    6. I'm in one I hope the members don't disappear before I send my block! =( I'd be bummed.

      Thanks for this post.

    7. You really summed up bees very well. Some go great, some don't, and having disappearing bee members is the WORST!

    8. This is a really great post Alison, you've described the ins and outs of bee membership really clearly and I think you've given a fair representation of them, which is always good. As Bee Mama for my lovely group of calendar girls (Brit Bee), I can say that I personally LOVE being in a Bee. You get to know the other people so well, and the twelve of us now consider ourselves firm friends. We're even considering a bee meet up in the new year! I do think its awful that you've had members disappear... worse even that you've had mama's disappear! As susan said, how rude!!!

    9. You received and made wonderful blocks! I have have a great time in the bees I am in.

    10. What a great post - I know I shall be coming back to read this again and the comment about ziplock bags made me laugh! I love the quilts and blocks you've made - gorgeous!

    11. What a great post. I like hearing people's views on them. I was in 3 last year and probably won't commit to 3 in a year, but maybe 1...i was thinking of trying a swap this year instead. I agree with the 'flaky' bit. It's a shame that people just kind of disappear. I guess that is why some bees are by invite only, and they kind of research who you are and how much you blog, etc to make sure you won't flake out. You've made some gorgeous quilts with your bee blocks!

    12. I'm a Brit Bee and I think everyone now knows how we get on!!

    13. Thank you for your interesting post on bee blocks. I've wondered about the pro's and con's of joining and if the end result would be worth the headaches that seem inevitable.:)

    14. Great post! And openly and wholeheartedly sums up ALL there is to know about Bees. I've experience it all (apart from the disappearing mama), but I'm pleased to say I'm a very happy Brit Bee members, nuff said :)

      You've made and received some beautiful blocks :)

    15. Heel uitgebreid beschreven allemaal: alle pros & cons.
      Voor mijn eerste keus Bee word ik geloof ik niet uitgenodigd (heb nog niets gehoord). Maar jij hebt mijn geloof gesterkt en ik zal volharden!!
      There's always a bee that fits meee
      (het is bijna Sinterklaas)
      Thank you


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